Bruce Springsteen is releasing a collection of soul covers entitled Only The Strong Survive on November 11. Check out the video right here for “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” which was originally recorded by Frank Wilson.
The album centers around soul classics, both obscure and well-known, released from the Sixties through the Eighties. It gets its title from Jerry Butler’s 1969 tune “Only The Strong Survive.” The disc also includes “Soul Days” by Dobie Gray, “Nightshift” by the Commodores, “I Wish It Would Rain” by the Temptations, and “Somebody We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and the Supremes.
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“I wanted to make an album where I just sang,” Springsteen said in a statement. “And what better music to work with than the great American songbook of the Sixties and Seventies? I’ve taken my inspiration from Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin, Jimmy Ruffin, the Iceman Jerry Butler, Diana Ross, Dobie Gray, and Scott Walker, among many others. I’ve tried to do justice to them all—and to the fabulous writers of this glorious music. My goal is for the modern audience to experience its beauty and joy, just as I have since I first heard it. I hope you love listening to it as much as I loved making it.”
The album features guest vocals by Sam & Dave singer Sam Moore, as well as contributions from The E Street Horns, full string arrangements by Rob Mathes, and backing vocals by Soozie Tyrell, Lisa Lowell, Michelle Moore, Curtis King Jr., Dennis Collins, and Fonzi Thornton. Ron Aniello produced it.
Classic soul covers have been a part of Springsteen’s live repertoire since his earliest days as a live performer, but he’s never played any of these particular songs in a concert setting.
In a video he posted to YouTube, Springsteen explained that he recorded an entire album that he shelved prior to starting work on Only The Strong Survive. “As in the past, never to be deterred, I kept recording,” he says. “On my second try, I found a theme I wanted to explore.”
The theme was an entire record centered around singing. “I’d spent my working life with my voice at the service of my songs, confined by my arrangements, by my melodies, by compositions, and by my constructions,” he said. “My voice always came second, third or fourth to those elements…[On this new album], I put my own spin on the singing, and my team mastered and sonically modernized some of the most beautiful songs in the American pop songbook. I had so much fun recording this music.”
The cover of the LP says “Covers Volume 1,” indicating that more albums like Only The Strong Survive could be coming in the future.
Only The Strong Survive is Springsteen’s first covers album since his 2006 LP We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. He launched a world tour in support of that record, but there are no plans for a special Only The Strong Survive tour. He is kicking off a tour with the E Street Band in February that will take him all across North America and Europe.
“I’m just aching to play,” Springsteen told SiriusXM’s E Street Radio earlier this year. “Not just play but to travel and see our fans in all those distant cities.”
Springsteen hasn’t been out on the road since the end of his River tour in early 2017. Since that time, he’s released Western Stars and Letter To You. By the time it starts, Only The Strong Survive will also be out. “[The show] will have a significant amount of some recent material, and then, of course, we’ll play a lot of the music that fans have become familiar with and love to hear,” he told E Street Radio. “It should be a balance… the show should feel contemporary, and it should also make you feel at home at the same time.”
Here is the complete track listing for Only The Strong Survive.
“Only The Strong Survive” (Jerry Butler)
“Soul Days” (Featuring Sam Moore) (Dobie Gray)
“Nightshift” (The Commodores)
“Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” (Frank Wilson)
“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” (The Walker Brothers)
“Turn Back The Hands of Time” (Tyrone Davis)
“When She Was My Girl” (The Four Tops)
“Hey, Western Union Man” (Jerry Butler)
“I Wish It Would Rain” (The Temptations)
“Don’t Play That Song” (Aretha Franklin)
“Any Other Way” (Jackie Shane)
“I Forgot To Be Your Lover ” (Featuring Sam Moore) (William Bell)
“7 Rooms of Gloom” (The Four Tops)
“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” (Jimmy Ruffin)
“Someday We’ll Be Together” (Diana Ross and the Supremes)
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