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Bruce Spingsteen

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    Bruce Springsteen

    Greetings From Asbury Park ( 1973 )
    Blinded by the Light / Growin' Up / Mary Queen of Arkansas / Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? / Lost in the Flood / The Angel / For You / Spirit in the Night / It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City

    In many ways, Bruce Springsteen is as much an American phenomenom as Morrissey is a British one. That's not to say that Europe, The UK and pretty much the whole world haven't got caught up in BROOCE-MANIA! at some stage, yet in America, they really seem to worship this guy. It's not something I can easily understand when I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different artists in my collection as well as Bruce. For a song to be 'a hit' in the UK, really, due to the smaller size of our country, it needs to go top ten to qualify as a big hit. Yet Bruce has only enjoyed four UK top ten singles. Three of those were in 1985. Albums wise, it took us Brits until 1980s 'The River' to place Brooce inside our top ten albums chart. 'Born To Run'? We preferred Meat Loaf. Strange but true, although slightly timey-wimey if you ask me, because Loaf didn't appear until a year or two later. The point is, Bruce was alarmingly American where even Dylan wasn't. Heck, he's more American than 'America's Band' - The Beach Boys. He's sold 65 million albums in the US alone, after all. 'Greetings From Asbury Park' meanwhile only sold around 25,000 copies in its first year of release back in 1973.

    He was labelled a 'new-dylan', of course he was. Funny thing is, he later became the first Bruce Springsteen, overcoming those Dylan comparisons in a way many other artists tarred with the same brush simply weren't able to do. I say that also believing 'Greetings From Asbury Park' is far less distinctive a debut than, let's say, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman or Tom Waits. What it does do very well however is introduce Bruce's lyrical worldview. We've got the working class all over this album, stories of everyday working American folk. We've also got a batch of surprisingly durable songs. I say surprisingly because I wasn't expecting a lot, funnily enough, having only heard one Bruce Springsteen album before embarking upon this page.

    The final two songs interest me here. 'Spirit In The Night' sounds for all the world like Van Morrison should cover it. The closing 'It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City' was covered by David Bowie and listening to Bruce's original, it's easy to see why. This is a fast-paced tune and Bruce's vocal stylings here so easily transposed to Bowie's glam-period. It's a terrific tune by the way and a clear album standout. 'Those gasoline boys sure talk gritty,' sings Bruce and why not? Two rocking tunes open the album, 'Growin Up' being the first tune on the album that really jumped out at me. Given more expensive production, you could stick this tune on the 'Born To Run' LP and it would fit right in. I also like the fact Brooce's vocals aren't quite as gruff on this LP as they would be on, let's say, 'Born In The USA'.

    The musical backing across the LP manages both to be exemplary and retain rough edges through keeping in the spirit of the tunes. These songs sound well arranged yet in plops a wonderful piano solo in the middle of 'Growin' Up' for example that as well as displaying technique showcases great feel. What else before I go? Well, 'Mary Queen Of Arkansas' is a hard hitting acoustic number with very intriguing lyrics and this tune alone marks out Bruce as someone you'd want to hear more from, imagining again, in timey wimey fashion, that it's now actually 1973.

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    The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle 8 ( 1973 )
    The E Street Shuffle / 4th of July, Asbury Park / Kitty's Back / Wild Bill's Circus Story / Incident on 57th Street / Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) / New York City Serenade

    The E-Street band start to come into their own, at times, Bruce comes across like a guest singer on their album, rather than this being his own creation. I say that because the songs on this, his second album in less than a year, come across as far less composed. Indeed, songs are allowed to run to five, six, seven minutes and beyond as the band go wild behind him, particularly the keyboards and saxes. I mean, this thing is funky and at times astonishing for an album released in 1973. As an aside, I was just reading a review of this album on blogcritics.org. That kind of review gives us all a bad name. Doesn't mention the music, the album. Hardly even goes into any details that don't involve himself, the reviewer or what his mother is doing in hospital. Yes, Bruce has touched upon issues or mortality, among many topics, but do we really care about that kind of shit?

    'The E Street Shuffle' at times makes me believe Bruce has turned into James Brown. It's a rollicking opener, although not particular a great song. You couldn't play it folk-style in a club, let's put it that way. Thankfully, '4th Of July' is just glorious. In comes an accordian as extra texture, Bruce sings romantically and you'd want to hug him, although in a manly Joey and Chandler type back-slapping fashion, because you know, otherwise and where would we be? Anyway, this accordian player has clearly waltzed in from a session playing a sea-shanty with Roger McGuinn or something, but it works really well. A bluesy riff opens 'Kitty's Back' and like the album opener, we move into some schizophrenic waters here. It's fun when i'm at the doctors by the way, glancing on his computer screen and seeing 'schrizophrenia' on there. You know, Doctors are so unwilling to declare anybody a schizophrenic rather than serious depressive, because you can treat or cure depression whereas schizophrenia tends to be a lifelong condition. I think Bruce was suffering a bit from schizo-tendencies when making this album. Where was I? Writing for blogcritics.org? Ah, no. Sorry. 'Kitty's Back' goes off on one with some jazzy melody lines and parping trumpet before a virtuoso keyboard section that would sound great on a Doors track. The guitarist goes mad, the drummer starts to fall over himself with glee. A wonderful moment of music all round, I think.

    The final four songs contain two which i'm pretty ho-hum about, 'Wild Billy's Circus' being a particular mis-step, both musically and lyrically. Still, the other two songs are pretty great, particularly 'Rosalita'. 'The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle' really does point the way forwards to 'Born To Run', much improved production this time out, even if the LP is slightly less consistent than Brooce's debut was. The high points are higher though, particularly musically.

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    Born To Run ( 1975 )
    Thunder Road / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out / Night / Backstreets / Born to Run / She's the One / Meeting Across the River / Jungleland

    Right, we're not going to invite Phil Spector in to produce this Bruce, because he's totally mad and is likely to pull a gun at you. I know, we can layer this mother ourselves, get lots of that shining, bell chiming sound as texture, have Clarence wailing beautifully away. Our rhythm section are rock-solid now, after two years of touring non-stop. Why, your first two albums are even selling, finally. Oh, you've got to name it 'Born To Run', I mean, what a tune! Etc and so-forth. Now, the 'Born To Run' LP is possibly less consistent than Bruce's debut and without the sheer magnificence of 'Jungleland' and the title track, may only have got a 7/10. Indeed, for an album to rank 9 or above, it's got to have something special. These two songs in this case are almost enough to do it. I couldn't rate this higher, because some of the songs simply just don't know how to end properly. At times, all this production works spectacularly, most clearly on the title track. At other times, having too many choices seems to have confused Bruce and it's left to a simple fade-out to bring a couple or three songs to a close.

    Ah, 'Thunder Road' is pretty glorious too, actually. 'Born To Run' is a great escapist LP when it's at its best. Talk of pretty girls, fast cars, etc, etc. 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out' seems fairly derivative to me, a weak spot on the LP. 'Night' seems better, certainly it has the liveliness of the best moments on the LP but also comes across as a b-side to the title track's 'a-side'. 'Backstreets' is very passionate and contains decent guitar player. Brooce's voice is starting to get deeper yet also more powerful, his vocal chords clearly honed by a hard-working-guy touring schedule. 'Meeting Across The River' is a nice moment, Bruce and Piano and it works for me to vary the album. We were in danger of getting a little one-dimensional.

    Basically, it always revolves around 'Jungleland' and 'Born To Run' itself, for me. The title track needs little introduction other than I will say that Dylan fans must have been weeping. Even considering Dylan's mid-seventies return to form, Dylan simply hadn't sounded as exciting or as thrilling as Bruce does here since 'Like A Rolling Stone'. The nine-minute plus 'Jungleland' moves from soft and strings to dramatic and over the top to almost everywhere in-between. Pretty girls on a dodge, warm beer in hand, a blistering guitar solo and a wonderful sax-solo. Sounds great turned up as loud as possible and although for me the 'Born To Run' album isn't a slam-dunk, it's still clearly the work of a major talent.

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    From Jeremy berg London
    Interesting analysis; I like the way you throw in that Thunder Road is "pretty glorious too". It has to be one of the most iconic, compelling and evocative opening tracks ever to an album. It's also one of the only tracks of which I learned every line so that I can sing along as if I am the boss (top down in the auto of course). You underrate Tenth avenue freeze out, a top track and one of the greatest of stadium crowd pleasers. However Jungleland is the ultimate expression of everything Springsteen stands for- romance, lyricism, dark edginess, danger and melody combined. The guy has kept it going and still makes great music (The Rising being a particular recent favourite) but he has never bettered this (and probably never will). At least 9 and a half out of 10 for me.

    top of page Darkness On The Edge Of Town 8 ( 1978 )
    Badlands / Adam Raised a Cain / Something in the Night / Candy's Room / Racing in the Street / The Promised Land / Factory / Streets of Fire / Prove It All Night / Darkness on the Edge of Town

    Bruce found himself unable to tour or record due to a lawsuit from his former manager, which explains partly the three-year gap between 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' and 'Born To Run'. 'Darkness' was the first Bruce Springsteen album I ever heard and it remains one I have a soft spot for. Unlike 'Born To Run', 'Darkness' is perfectly rounded as a cohesive album experience rather than a sequence of highs, lows and inbetweens. Some thought clearly went into this record and it arguably expresses the widest range of moods and emotions of any Brooce record thus far. There's also an attractive weariness here and a little darkness, too. For a post breakthrough album, this has to be one of the finest, although niggling in the back of my mind are whispers that suggest the Springsteen fanbase hold this in lower regard than the 'Born To Run' LP. I'll try to ignore said whispers. One area 'Darkness' is certainly inferior, not only to 'Born To Run' but also to 'The Wild, The Innocent' is the actual sound of the LP. I blame the engineer or whoever was responsible for the mixing. The drums sound too loud, which when they aren't doing anything particularly interesting they certainly don't need to be. The guitar parts seem to have been mixed into oblivion and even Bruce's vocals suffer from a somewhat murky mix overall. Thankfully, the songs are nearly all uniformly excellent.

    'Badlands' is a thrilling opener and a song always able to cheer me up, although the drums boom out far too loudly and somewhat unpleasantly at times. It's only a minor niggle on such a good tune. 'Adam Raised A Cain' meanwhile places us further into the dark planes of the badlands, opening with twisting, spiralling guitar, ominous drums and much lingering unease all round. 'Something Is The Night' is a superior ballad and 'Candy's Room' completes an impeccable album opening sequence. We skip forwards to 'The Promised Land', a perfectly rounded melodic rock composition that should have been a hit, same comments apply to 'Prove It All Night', although again, you just wish the actual sound of the recording had a little more sparkle. The title track is a suitable closer, a mid-tempo tune that almost resembles a dirge at times, but I don't mean that as a critiscm. Such a mood or feeling seems to fit the overall theme of 'Darkness At The Edge Of Town', Bruce edging himself away from the escapism of 'Born To Run'.

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    From Jeremy berg London
    It's great to read that Bruce is not dismissed as crass and worthless, but why no mention of the glory of "Racing in the Street", one of the Boss's true classics?

    top of page The River 9 ( 1980 )
    The Ties That Bind / Sherry Darling / Jackson Cage / Two Hearts / Independence Day / Hungry Heart / Out in the Street / Crush on You / You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) / I Wanna Marry You / The River / Point Blank / Cadillac Ranch / I'm a Rocker / Fade Away / Stolen Car / Ramrod / The Price You Pay / Drive All Night / Wreck on the Highway

    The E-Street band had changed slightly since their inception. Original keyboard man David Sancious left before the sessions for 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town'. The 'Born To Run' sessions saw Max Weinberg replace Vini 'Mad Dog' Lopez on drums. Steve Van Zandt joined on Rhythm Guitar for 1978's 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' which brings us more or less upto date for now. Other members past and present i'm sure will get a mention here at some stage.

    'The River' is the sound of evolution and growth. Certain songs appear to have been stripped back to their essentials, other tunes celebrate some of the different styles of music Springsteen loves. We've got a change in the direction of the overall sound, Springsteen employing an 80's new-wave pop production which allows the guitars to shine and chime. There is less emphasis on the funk or the soul and there's no Spectorish layering of instruments, either. We've got some taking away and some shifts sideways when compared to previous Springsteen records, then. We've also got Springsteen moving to record different types of songs, expanding his recorded horizons. 'Hungry Heart' would become his first pop hit as a result of such moves, paving the way forward for 'Born In The USA' some years later.

    'Hungry Heart' reminds me of The Beach Boys. Well, it's out and out pop and the harmonies are nice. The album as a whole has a very definite live feel and was indeed recorded live in the studio, hence the lack of the kind of overdubs that characterised the 'Born To Run' sessions. The title track is an excellent song that you imagine must have been a single, yet this never was. Telling the tale of a kid who gets pregnant, married and then forced into a dead-end job, it uses excellent language and imagery to get its point across. On the otherhand, songs like 'Hungry Heart' and the fifties stylings of 'Sherry Darling' are simply lots of fun. 'Two Hearts' and 'I'm A Rocker' are superior, erm, rockers whilst 'Point Blank' masterfully opens the second disc of the album in impeccably played, sensitive mid-tempo ballad style. Lots of songs about cars and girls wrapped up in some of Springsteen's finest lyrics. He apparently cut multiple takes of some forty to fifty tunes, which makes you believe he was at some kind of peak artistic level right about then.

    More than the albums featured so far, 'The River' is an album I can really live inside. It takes time for the sound to get through to you, especially after the sonic attack of the previous couple of LPs. Best to go into 'The River' without too many preconceptions. It's a unique album as much as 'Born To Run' is a landmark album. When Brooce's harmonica comes in on the beautiful 'The Price You Pay' for example, and you hear the echo on that harmonica, you realise how cleverly the album was recorded and mixed. That takes me back to the opening cut and the chiming, Byrds-esque guitars of 'The Ties That Bind'. The key lyric on the album is perhaps the following from 'Two Hearts'. It says more than I can about the transition from 'Born To Run' to 'The River'.

    Once I spent my time playing tough guy scenes,
    But I was living in a world of childish dreams.
    Someday these childish dreams must end,
    To become a man and grow up to dream again.

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    From Jeremy berg London
    A brilliant album, and one which i heard almost in its entirety in May 1981 at Wembley (best gig I've ever seen). There's something for everyone here, but above all what comes through is the man's warmth. At the time I used to play Drive all night over and over because it is such a mesmerising track, with the Boss's impassioned yelling at the end really hitting the spot. We are talking one of the great albums from one of my favourite artists here, and a record that is consistenty (and wrongly) obverlooked. He has made more consistently brilliant albums, but none with as many great tracks.

    top of page Nebraska 7 ( 1982 )
    Nebraska / Atlantic City / Mansion on the Hill / Johnny 99 / Highway Patrolman / State Trooper / Used Cars / Open All Night / My Father's House / Reason to Believe

    Nebraska is a neccesary step-back from the idea every album has to be bigger and longer and louder. Well, you could argue this step back didn't come from nowhere, there were enough hints on 'The River'. Originally intended to be a set of demos for full band arrangements, 'Nebraska' ends up being something different by sheer chance - this isn't a regular singer/songwriter guitar and voice album. Several of the songs cry out for a full-band recording. Other-times the lack of excess ( or indeed, any at all bar one acoustic guitar ) instrumentation throws the songs themselves really into the spotlight. Artistically, 'Nebraska' would prove to be a tactical masterstroke and some smart way of following up 'The River'. Lyrically, we've Bruce mentioning factories, cities, buses, guns, murderers, debts, auto-plants, cars, police, dreams, dead dogs and a preacher-man. Sounds cheery, doesn't it? The blasts of harmonica here and there in light of the natural room echo, the cheapness and 'real-ness' of these audio-recordings plunges Bruce unexpectedly into blues, country and folk music. Fully, head-on. With his lyrics being his usual lyrics, he also manages to sound authentic in his own skin, without trying to be somebody. Without trying to be Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan or Neil Young.

    Some songs need full band arrangements, I mentioned? Bruce did try, without the results meeting his own approval. Still, once the album reaches 'State Trooper' and Bruce plucks away very basically on an electric guitar with his voice semi-audible, semi-mumbling where the song itself doesn't entirely fit this type of performance, 'Nebraska' loses a little of the magic the previous songs have built up. 'Atlantic City' proves Springsteen can indeed weave a melodic spell, the title track is just masterful writing whereas something like 'Open All Night' demands a rock'n'roll party/electric fifties treatment. 'My Fathers House' and 'Reason To Believe' restore much of the atmosphere the first half of 'Nebraska' weaves, although the spell is still broken. As a buying time excersize however, 'Nebraska' works very well, flaws and all. I tend to view 'Nebraska' as wiping the slate clean, getting things out of the system. It fits into the overall jigsaw and is a major clue in piecing the jigsaw together. That doesn't mean it's the mans best work, however.

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    From John Co Kildare
    Ok, I know most people are sick of hearing critics refering to this as Bruce's best album just for the sake of tuning into some kind of Johnny Cash-esque zeitgeist, but a 7???!!! (reaches for inhaler even though I don't have asthma...) It's not the just the fact that Springsteen proved he had more to him than some of his more obvious repetoire, I also believe the album stands as a fine example of the boss embracing the lonely recesses of Americana and presenting them for a mainstream audience that otherwise would've had to wait over 10 years for Johnny Cash's regeneration. Deserves a 9.5/10 for Bruce's sparse take on an America being torn apart by Bonzo's own particular brand of Neo-Conservative deconstruction, or DESTRUCTION more to the point...

    top of page Born In The USA 6 ( 1984 )
    Born in the U.S.A. / Cover Me / Darlington County / Working on the Highway / Downbound Train / I'm on Fire / No Surrender / Bobby Jean / I'm Goin' Down / Glory Days / Dancing in the Dark / My Hometown

    Born In The USA? I have problems with this album. Many problems. The melody lines are as basic as can be, base and going for the lowest common demoninator, often containing like, 3 notes. The guitar is largely absent, Bruce's lyrics are toned down and almost nothing is as good as Bruce was before. Yet, the songs are almost mathematically catchy in a typically insidious eighties way. Lots of repetition both musically and vocally. Bryan Adams had a similar sound circa 1985 but his songs 'Run To You', 'It's Only Love' and 'Summer Of 69' were far better than anything on 'Born In The USA'. It's really difficult for me to say why this album sold so much, why people love it so much. It's really hard for me to put my views on this album forwards. 80s pop did have a sub-section of bands that loved repetition. Pet Shop Boys, etc. Write a hook, get it in your three minute pop song as often as possible and that's exactly what Brooce does throughout this album. The only single I really like is 'I'm On Fire' because it's fairly understated. Yes, the title track is huge, loud drums, catchy synth lines, very good vocals - but the hook obliterates the actual message of the song, something Ronald Reagan later learned. Then again, he's a republican and I hold them in about as much regard as I do the Conservative party in my country.

    'Nebraska' and 'Born In The USA' are actually related in ways many don't imagine. One is a low-key album of demos, the other a studio production, but the songs for both were written largely at the same time. Bruce was uncertain in 1982 that any arrangement could bring justice to his songs - come 'Born In The USA', we can only assume he was happy for commercial arrangements that were totally of their time. Not only Bryan Adams but also Dire Staits. Their songs were fairly similar in sound and construction to these songs. Bryan Adams at least, on his best album to date and breakthrough 'Reckless', let the guitars be the dominant instrument. Dylan would never have resorted to the tactics the Springsteen team seem to play here - lowest common demoninator. 'Born In The USA' is routinely hailed as his best album, usually by people that didn't pay attention to his earlier albums. 'Born In The USA' does deserve some credit for tapping in to what people wanted, easily digested melodies often repeated. Yet, it's not something I like personally at all. 'The River' took risks, 'Born In The USA' is very conservative. I mean, it's not even the 'fight, fight, fight' particularly alarming sayings of McCain, nor is it the promise of a new future of the unknown Obama.

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    From Jari Dublin
    Bryan Adams?! You must be joking. Summer of '69 is one of the most watered down, embarrassing list of cliches ever put to tape. Bryan Adams was 10 years old in 1969 for chrissake. Comparing Bruce to Bryan is an insult. Who cares how many notes a melody has? As long as it's memorable and catchy and fits with the song. That's what great pop music is. Your reviews and writing are generally spot on. (Thanks for turning me on to Sparks.) But this review misses the mark by a mile.
    From Bud Montreal, Canada
    hmm This record is unfuckwithable once you forgive the production. It was clearly a product of it's time and designed that way to reach as many people as possible. The lyrics are as beautifully dark as anything Bruce ever penned and the simplicity suits him. If you listen to the rumour that he was a huge Suicide fan then you'll start to dig the icy sounds a hell of a lot more.Oh yeah, "Working on the Highway" is a killer party jam. I DJ a punk rock night and that song always has people throwing down on the dancefloor.
    From Will Melbourne Australia
    I'm a big fan of the site and generally agree with the ratings you give, but Born In The U.S.A. deserves much better than a 6. Theres no doubt of the commercial nature, but the catchy hooks married to great songwriting is a formidable combination. "Dancing in the Dark" is just about my favourite Springsteen song. And you can't beat tracks like 'Cover Me' and 'Working On A Highway' for sheer swagger and feel. Although majorly popular, its still a brilliant piece.

    top of page Live In Concert 1975 - 1985 8 ( 1986 )
    Thunder Road / Adam Raised A Cain / Spirit In The Night / 4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy) / Paradise by the "C" / Fire / Growin' up / It's hard to be a saint in the city / Backstreets / Rosalita / Raise your hand / Hungry heart / Two hearts / Cadillac Ranch / You Can Look (But You'd Better Not Touch) / Independence Day / Badlands / Because The Night / Candy's Room / Darkness On The Edge Of Town / Racing In The Street / This Land Is Your Land / Nebraska / Johnny 99 / Reason To Believe / Born In The USA / Seeds / River / War / Darlington County / Working On The Highway / Promised Land / Cover Me / I'm On Fire / Bobby Jean / My Hometown / Born To Run / No Surrender / Tenth Avenue Freeze Out / Jersey Girl

    The second best selling live album in US history behind, cough, Garth Brooks. Some say this is the only Bruce Springsteen you need. Some say the best song here, actually, is written by Tom Waits. Some also incorrectly say this Brooce box set was one of the first to be released in the CD format. Sorry Boss fans, but that man Dylan released his 'Biograph' in 1985, before Bruce had the idea of this live vault archive extravaganza. Some of the highlights are inevitable ones, eg, 'Born To Run'. Hearing material from 'The River' played with the 'Born In ThE USA' synths was a little disconcerting. The 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town' material though fares especially well in a stadium/arena context, this soaring version of 'The Promised Land' being a highlight of the box in the Denning household. 'Flo & Eddie' provide the backing vocals ( as do the audience ) for big Springsteen hit, 'Hungry Heart', which is a relatively interesting fact, I suppose. Bruce released his loud version of the Edwin Starr classic 'War' as a single and watched it hit top ten on Billboard. I prefer the Frankie Goes To Hollywood version, but that's just me.

    It's always good to hear 'Growin' Up' performed and I guess this version dates from around the '78 tour. I could have looked that up, but with my mother-in-law seriously ill in hospital for the past five weeks, i'm only just rediscovering this writing lark. Looking up facts? That's for professionals! Ah, I know which song I want to hear. It's a song from 'Born To Run' funnily enough, 'I'm On Fire', which still manages to be one of my favourite Springsteen songs despite it's understated simplicity. Oh, this version is totally different. Nevermind. Could be a different song altogether. Ah, proper rock N ROLL opening to the classic 'Badlands'. Too much audience noise? Perhaps. Weedy synths? Definitely. Great melodies and great Bruce vocal? Well, naturally.

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    Tunnel Of Love ( 1987 )
    Ain't Got You / Tougher Than the Rest / All That Heaven Will Allow / Spare Parts / Cautious Man / Walk Like a Man / Tunnel of Love / Two Faces / Brilliant Disguise / One Step Up / When You're Alone / Valentine's Day

    Bruce steps away from the stadium pleasing sound of 'Born In The USA', records this album mostly himself and sports something of a sober, clean shaven and suited look on the rather lack-lustre cover-art. He had married a hollywood actress/model, flushed with the trappings of fame. 'Tunnel Of Love' is shaped by that relationship and what would follow. It's a very honest and soulful album and almost back to the beginning. Gone for the most part are the rock trappings and the large sound, although the e-street band do guest on a few of the more upbeat and/or loud offerings. Bruce is writing quality material here and strangely, 'Tunnel Of Love' comes across as a small album after 'Born In The USA' had become larger than life itself. This was almost certainly a deliberate decison on Bruce's part. He's not retreating to 'Nebraska' though, this is shaped by the times Bruce found himself in. For the acoustic tinged numbers Bruce sings in a weird, almost Dylanesque voice. It had been rumoured this was going to be a country album, clearly unfounded, but folk and roots music does infuse this set of songs all the same. The best song here? 'Spare Parts' by a country mile. It's upbeat, it's got guitar and stuff. Much as I admire the restrained and accomplished mumbling Bruce elsewhere on the LP, we do like our Brooce to rock out every now and then, don't we?

    'Ain't Got You' is a misleading opener, almost inviting 'Nebraska' comparisons. Apart from that and the likes of 'Spare Parts', the majority of the tunes here fall into mid-tempo categories with nice melodies. 'Brilliant Disguise' and 'When You're Alone' both rank among the best material 'Tunnel Of Love' has to offer. Were both of these also singles? I do especially remember the latter tune being surprisingly soft for a then 'modern day' Springsteen number. In a way it's this albums 'I'm On Fire', although in reality of course, it isn't at all. The title track is a neat late eighties rocker, almost but not quite entirely unlike Simple Minds, and that's about the end of it. The tour of the album, titled 'Tunnel Of Love Express' saw Springsteen playing hits such as 'Born To Run' in slowed down, acoustic fashion and also saw some unlikely covers, including The Sonics and Roy Orbison. Something had changed, permanently it seemed.

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    From Jeremy berg London
    The break up of Springsteen's marriage was the backdrop for this fine album; it's not quite Blood on the tracks, but even so there is some poignant lyricism and the tone is reflective and sometimes sombre; there are some beautiful tracks (for example "One Step Up" and "Valentines Day)- a complete contrast to the bombastic blast of the album before. It's a cruelly overlooked record, even by the Boss himself as he rarely plays any of the tracks in concert. It should be treasured by any true fans and is worth a listen even for the unconverted.
    From Will Melbourne Australia
    I'd agree with the 7.5 rating. Its a nice album without being a contender for his very best. Tracks like 'One Step Up', 'Walk Like A Man' and 'All That Heaven Will Allow' are pleasant yet dont change world for me. However, some of my favourite Springsteen numbers are here: the brilliant 'Tunnel of Love', 'Brilliant Disguise', 'Two Faces' and the best on the album, 'Valentine's Day'.

    top of page Human Touch 6 ( 1992 )
    Human Touch / Soul Driver / 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) / Cross My Heart / Gloria's Eyes / With Every Wish / Roll of the Dice / Real World / All or Nothin' at All / Man's Job / I Wish I Were Blind / The Long Goodbye / Real Man / Pony Boy

    Bruce Springsteen ended a five year break from the studio with not one, but two simultaneously released new albums. A mixed critical reception wasn't enough to put off the public as both albums rocketed to the top of most charts worldwide. It wasn't planned to be this way, after Bruce left 'Human Touch' unreleased in the fall of 1990, he went back to it during the spring of 1991 intending to add another song to the lineup. He ended up writing what became the 'Lucky Town' LP and chose to release both LPs rather than compile the best work into a double, as other artists may have chosen to do instead. Still, I have a theory about this and it's this. Bruce had seemed to have evolved throughout his career and perhaps he himself realised that his new work wasn't really an advance as such in either production, arranging or writing. So in order to make things different, two albums released the same day? Well, it's a theory that works for me.

    No E-Street band here although Roy Bittan does join up with Bruce, and between them they perform most of the instrumentation. Nothing surprising about this instrumentation or the arrangements. 'Human Touch' isn't an inventive album, 'Human Touch' isn't an ambitious album with a concept. 'Human Touch' is just a batch of songs. With Bruce's personal life in some kind of upheaval, we'd have liked something a little more honest, or touching. All Bruce can seemingly offer up is his own boredom, the terrible likes of '57 Channels (And Nothin' On)' have nothing to say other than, 'Hey, I bought a Satelite dish, do you like it, baby?' I'm being unfair, of course. The title track is a touch of class and certainly one of the memorable tunes here. The trio of 'Gloria's Eyes', 'With Every Wish' and 'Roll Of The Dice' are tremendous are these three songs provide the undoubted highlight of the LP. Two rocky songs, 'Roll Of The Dice' good enough to have been on 'Born To Run' for instance - with a genuinely honest and touching slice of balladry inbetween - the lovely 'With Every Wish'.

    'Human Touch' isn't a terrible album. There's not really a single track you'd call rubbish apart from '57 Channels' but with a makeover in production and arranging you'd get yourselves a better album. I mean 'Real Man' with very 80s synths already would have sounded dated back in 1992, let alone now. 'Pony Boy' closes the album, an acoustic 'Nebraska' style intimate recording. We would have welcomed more songs in that style.

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    top of page Lucky Town ( 1992 )
    Better Days / Lucky Town / Local Hero / If I Should Fall Behind / Leap of Faith / The Big Muddy / Living Proof / Book of Dreams / Souls of the Departed / My Beautiful Reward

    'Lucky Town' is concise, contains more band recordings than 'Human Touch', makes more sense and is rather more consistent. 'Lucky Town' may lack any 'big' Springsteen tunes but it's not an unpleasant way to spend forty minutes or so. 'Better Days' may well be an inferior re-write of 'Glory Days' and Bruce's voice on several cuts does seem rather pinched and thin, yet 'Lucky Town' survives such minor faults. The title track will have sounded impressive when played live and I like the sound of the guitar, a bit of echo always goes a long way in our house, so to speak. 'Local Hero' opens with a squeal of harmonica and Bruce remembers the kind of things he used to write about. Well, he'd become a father by now and perhaps was reasessing his priorities. Now, a song like 'Local Hero' isn't necessarily any better than many of the songs from 'Born In The USA' yet here we don't get commercial production beating you over the head or a chorus every third lyric. No, instead we get the likes of 'Local Hero' which are anthemic enough to please and also we get the likes of closer 'My Beautiful Reward'. 'My Beautiful Reward' has a nice soul about it, it's taken fairly understatedly with elements of acoustic, some nice unobtrusive electric bass, nice melodic patterns and a warm Bruce vocal to top it off - all very nice indeed.

    Another winner for me is 'Living Proof', I like the roughness of the vocal and the linear structure of the song. I like the sound of the drums which seem like they are being played in your living room, or at least, the living room next door. No showboating by Springsteen here just a very genuine piece of songwriting. 'If I Should Fall Behind' is also very touching and I won't carry on listing song by song. What I will say is don't believe or think you have to buy both 'Human Touch' and 'Lucky Town'. You could forget 'Human Touch' and just buy 'Lucky Town' if you wanted to, I would.

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    top of page this page last updated 10/04/09

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