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First Released

Calendar Icon 1995

Genre

Genre Icon Rock

Mood

Mood Icon Enlightened

Style

Style Icon Rock/Pop

Theme

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Tempo

Speed Icon Medium

Release Format

Release Format Icon Album

Record Label Release

Speed Icon Columbia

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Sales Icon 0 copies

Album Description
Available in: Country Icon
The Ghost of Tom Joad is the eleventh studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1995 (see 1995 in music). The album was recorded and mixed at Thrill Hill during the spring and summer of 1995. Musically and lyrically reminiscent of Springsteen's 1982 critically acclaimed album Nebraska.
The Ghost of Tom Joad received mostly favorable reviews. Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone called it "Springsteen's best album in ten years," and considered it "among the bravest work that anyone has given us this decade." However, it reached only #11 on the Billboard 200, breaking a string of eight consecutive Top 5 studio albums in the U.S for Springsteen.
The album is mainly backed by acoustic guitar work and the lyrics on many of the tracks are a somber reflection of life in the mid-1990s in America and Mexico. Tom Joad is the protagonist of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Springsteen has commented that he was first inspired by John Ford's film of the novel.
The album's release was followed by Springsteen's solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad Tour, which ran from 1995–1997 and consisted of mostly small venues.
"The Ghost of Tom Joad" recalls the minimalist production and instrumentation of "Nebraska (album)" (although it does include a small backing band on several tracks, where "Nebraska" featured only Springsteen). It also recalls the album's dark stories of desperate and sometimes violent characters fighting for survival in America. The title track serves as the album's centerpiece, expressing the search for resilience during hard times ("The highway is alive tonight/But where its headed everybody knows/I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light/searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad," the chorus goes.) "Youngstown (song)" and "Galveston Bay" recall Springsteen's previous work from "Born in the U.S.A." with references to Factory Life and Vietnam War veterans. On tracks like "Across the Border," and "Sinaloa Cowboys," he sings about the plight of Mexican Immigrants and their search for a better life in the U.S. More than any other songs on the album, "The New Timer" recalls the starkness of "Nebraska." It shares melodic similarities with that album's title track and follows a desperate worker during the Great Depression whose partner is killed by "somebody killing just to kill." The song ends with the austere lines "My Jesus your gracious love and mercy/Tonight I'm sorry could not fill my heart/Like one good rifle/And the name of who I ought to kill." The album concludes with "My Best Was Never Good Enough," which bears no explicit link to the themes on the rest of the album. The song includes Springsteen's take on popular sayings such as: "'Now life's like a box of chocolates,/You never know what you're going to get'/'Stupid is as stupid does and all the rest of that shit,'" (an obvious reference to "Forrest Gump.") However, this song can be seen as the desperate characters from the previous tracks on the album expressing their frustration that their "best was never good enough" (as the song's refrain goes).
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