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  1. #11

    THE WILD THE INNOCENT AND THE E STREET SHUFFLE




    Released: 1973
    Producer: Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos
    Label: Columbia

    Springsteen organized the still unnamed band for this foray more into classic rock n roll as opposed to the more folk influenced Greetings From Asbury Park. This is a trip towards nostalgia in many ways as Springsteen seems to be looking fondly back on his formative years. Itís not a lament in the sense that he wants to relive the past, rather that he recalls some happy times and confidently says itís time to move on.

    Like Greetings From Asbury Park, the album didnít do very well commercially and Springsteen wouldnít release an album for another two years. Critically though, it was a success, though I recall not liking this album as much as the first one. Anyway, time for another spin.

    Best Tracks: The E- Street Shuffle, Incident on 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

    Weakest Tracks: Kittyís Back (sort of)




    The E Street Shuffle: A quick intro of some brass, and it gets into a groove that is reminiscent of some nostalgic music and yet still sounding very 1973. Genius. com says that Springsteen was influenced by Major Lanceís Monkey Time and I can hear where he may have gotten that from. It certainly sounds like something that could have come out in 1963 with a different arrangement. A good start to the album. It gets a bit funky at the end and that doesnít seem to hurt.



    Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy): A sweet ballad essentially. Sandy sounds like an old girlfriend. This was a romance that wasnít going to last forever when you listen to the lyrics, but it sounds like a sweet reminiscence of a period that is no more.

    Kittyís Back: Kitty is apparently the girlfriend of an old mateís who leaves for Ďa pretty boy on Bleecker Streetí according to Genius.com. Does Kitty come back to her old lover? Sounds kind of like a soap opera ,doesnít it? Starts off a bit dramatic and gets into the brass dominated jazzy style that is prevalent on this album. I donít think this as strong as the first two tracks, but it definitely is exploratory in terms of musical styles.

    Wild Billyís Circus Story: Tom Waits calls this his favorite Springsteen song. I can hear why as it opens up with an accordion, an instrument Waits would use a lot. Itís essentially a folk tune about escaping to the circus. A nice song and some good lyrics, as many of Springsteenís songs have.

    Incident on 57th Street: The first thing I thought of when I first saw the lyrics was that maybe Springsteen was watching a little too much West Side Story. Itís essentially involves a romance in the nefarious gang atmosphere of New York City. In some ways this is a prequel to Jungleland. It weaves a fantastic tale and itís one of those songs you have to listen to closely in order to catch the lyrics. Powerful song in its own way.



    Rosalita (Come Out Tonight): Probably the best known track on this album, this was the song Springsteen used to use to end his concert sets. Like Incident on 57th Street to some extent, this is a song about forbidden love. Instead of dealing with rival gangs though, the protagonist has to deal with Rosalitaís over protective father. This comes off as a typical love song, yet the lyrics, and a great arrangement, make for something way beyond Ďwill you love me tomorrowí. This later would become popular on AOR radio.

    New York City Serenade: The album ends with another ode to New York City romance. In some ways this, like other tracks, is a love fest directed towards New York City. Strange, because Springsteen always struck me as more of a Philadelphia guy, but what do I know? . This track is poignant because this is the last time weíll hear David Sancious on piano as he will be leaving the band shortly thereafter (more on that in the next chapter). Vini Lopez will be leaving too but thatís also for the next chapter. This is a bit of a ballad with the usual introspective lyrics. I really like the acoustic guitar and the string accompaniment on this one. A sweet way to end this album.


    OVERALL EFFECT: Itís funny how opinions change once you give an album a new thorough go over. Yes, I still hold that Greetings From Asbury Park is better, but not by as much as I had originally thought. One thing for certain, Springsteen has clearly grown as a musician on this effort and you sense that the next album, which will be his breakthrough moment, will come off as a disappointment for true Springsteen lovers, but maybe not. Weíll see.

    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken

    So weíll have to wait for another two years until the next, very important, album. There will be a conscious attempt to make it more commercial and it will certainly work from that standpoint. But what will the critics think? More importantly, what will Musty, and you, think? Stay tuned to find out.
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  2. #12
    Never liked him. I think without the USA song he wouldn't be known outside USA. Always reminded me of a regular pub go'er who discovered the karaoke machine. Didn't sound much better either.......bitchy.

  3. #13

    BORN TO RUN




    Released: 1975
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen, Mike Appel, and Jon Landau
    Label: Columbia


    1974 was a bit of a transitional year for the E Street Band. Two not so successful albums seemed to put Springsteen on the sidelines, recording wise, though the live shows continued. During this year a tumultuous confrontation between Vini Lopez and manager Mike Appel led to Lopez being asked to leave the group. David Sancious would also leave under more amicable terms to form his own band, Tone. In their place would be the return of Steven Van Zandt and a new drummer named Max Weinburg, who would later become famous as the leader of Conan OíBrienís stage band. Also Roy Bittan would be added as the new pianist.

    Recording began on Born To Run in May 1974 and there was a conscious effort to make this more commercial for the masses. This was do or die for Springsteen. If this album had failed, the legend that was Bruce Springsteen may have died with this album. The album would take over a year to record as it would be bogged down with Ďwall of soundí elements. Jon Landau (yes, of Rolling Stone) was also brought in to help co-produce. He would be a major factor in some legal turmoil as he would be ultimately replacing Appel as manager as well which would prevent Springsteen from recording another album until 1978.

    This was indeed Springsteenís breakthrough moment and it had the music mogulsí tongues wagging. Both Time and Newsweek had a still unknown Springsteen on the cover with Time touting him as Rockís New Sensation. As it turned out, Born To Run, the hit single wouldnít even make the ten and the album would only peak at number three, not bad, but certainly not the biggest phenomenon since the Beatles as the hype seemed to be saying.

    Still, Springsteen had his first truly successful effort and would have been in the studio again rather quickly if not for a lawsuit launched by now former manager Appel. The critics also raved about the album.

    And with that, here are my thoughts.

    Best Tracks: Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, Born To Run, Jungleland

    Weakest Tracks: Sheís the One



    Thunder Road: I think itís safe to say that this album will be full of small rock operettas. There is a new pianist here as Sancious had left by now. Itís vintage E-Street band as this track is similar to something that would influence Jim Steinman on Meat Loafís Bat Out of Hell album. Springsteen himself referred to this as an invitation to fun and it certainly shows in one of his most classic tracks.



    Tenth Avenue Freeze Out: This is said to be about how the E-Street band was mythically formed. Springsteen says he has no idea what this song means but itís something important. Despite that cryptic description, this is one of my all time favorite Springsteen songs and probably my favorite on the album. It has one of the typically great E-Street band arrangements and Clemons is especially on fire with the sax.

    Night: This track is your typical letís go out and have fun after a hard day at work songs, with the Springsteen vibe of course. Not was well known as the first two tracks and I can see why. Itís a good song but it doesnít seem to have the same power as the first two tracks did.

    Backstreets: This is about a friendship now past though whether it is of a platonic nature, itís hard to say. Like Night, this is a good song but doesnít wow me like Thunder Road or Freeze Out.



    Born To Run: I think everyone knows this tune. This was the song Springsteen worked on as his make or break effort. If this song had failed, Springsteen would have been back to the bar circuit. So they pulled all the stops with the Wall of Sound effects and everything. The result was a medium sized hit despite all the hype but, with the more successful album as a whole, it was enough to save Springsteenís career.

    And it is undeniably a great song. I remember hearing this for the first time while cruising with some friends and it indeed sounded so fresh. It was unlike anything I had heard before and in 1975, that was saying a lot. It convinced me that all the Time and Newsweek hype that was going on at the time was all worth it.

    Sheís the One: This one has a bit of a Dylan influence. Actually, the lyrics kind of confuse me and the song is not one of the better ones on the album in my opinion. I hear the Bo Diddley rhythm as mentioned on Genius.com and Clemons saves the song a bit with the sax but itís not enough for me.

    Meeting Across the River: This is a story that Springsteen came up with about a heist I believe. Springsteen was and is good at coming up with stories and one has to think he may have made it as a writer had he not made it as a musician. This is the slowest song on the album and I like the jazzy mood of this piece.

    Jungleland: This is something of a rock epic as it clocks in at over nine minutes. This is another favorite of mine. Itís a tale of a typical night for a young man while hanging out on the streets in New Jersey. Itís certainly an affectionate take on life on the streets even with a bit of a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy tacked on at the end. This is still one of Springsteenís great rock anthems that probably says more in under ten minutes than The Who could in their two double album set rock operas. And the Who said a lot. Maybe one of the great endings to an album ever.


    OVERALL EFFECT: So I guess the question for me is do I give this four and a half stars or go the whole five. I mean there are a couple weak moments in this admittedly classic album. So I look at the album as a whole and I compare it to how I reviewed Sgt. Pepper, an album I not only had no hesitation giving the five star treatment,itís my favorite all time album period. And yet, even that album has at least one bonafide stinker, something this album lacks. The weakest moments here are missed opportunities, not something Iíd want to puke to.

    So figure that in and knowing that at least four of these tracks are, unarguably, some of the greatest music in rock history, Iíll have to give itÖ


    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken


    So, Springsteen had made it and the future seemed to look bright. Except there was one problem. Mike Appel had been a bit of a control freak and he had a lot to do with Vin Lopezí departure. Springsteen would dump Appel for Jon Landau as his manager and a lot of legal wrangling would ensue. Springsteen wouldnít release another album for three years and soon, he would seem like yesterdayís news. A shining light that was shot down by circumstances, not an uncommon story in rock.

    But we now know that Springsteen would make a very triumphant comeback. It wouldnít be his first one, but it would be his biggest. So stay tuned for the next installment to see if he still has what it takes in 1978.
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  4. #14

    DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN




    Released: 1978
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, and Steven Van Zandt
    Label: Columbia



    To say this album was a long time coming is an understatement. When Bruce Springsteen befriended Rolling Stone music critic Jon Landau, it began an irreparable rift between Springsteen and manager Mike Appel. Springsteen subsequently would replace Appel as manager/producer with Landau and the lawsuits began to fly. Appel wanted financial control of all of Springsteenís assets while Springsteen wanted his musical freedom. In the end, Appel got a large percentage of Springsteenís profits from his first three albums as well as a settlement from CBS records and Springsteenís camp. Springsteen, however, paid a big price as he was not allowed in the studio for a year as a result of a court injunction filed by Appel. It showed the financial vulnerabilities of a young musician and how easy it is to be taken advantage of. Luckily, Springsteen had the advice of counsel that Landau set him up with, and things would work out in the end. Springsteen and his E-Street Band entered the studio in June 1977 and would work on Darkness On the Edge of Town for nine months. Springsteen wrote upwards of seventy songs during the recording of this album including Because the Night which became Patti Smithís biggest (only?) hit, and Fire which became a big hit for the Pointer Sisters.

    But only ten songs make the final cut as Springsteen wanted it to be thematic, side one being a positive side and side two being a bit more negative. The critics would praise the album using the term maturity often. This album is said not to be as commercial as Born To Run and there is some truth to that as itís certainly a darker album overall.

    But Iím getting ahead of myself. Letís see what we have.


    Best Tracks: Adam Raised a Cain, The Promised Land, Prove It All Night

    Weakest Tracks: Factory





    Badlands: The album opens with one of Springsteenís best known songs. He claims to have been influenced by the Animals on this one borrowing the rift on Donít Let Me Be Misunderstood in this case. The lyrics are classic Springsteen as it weaves a story of a guy with hard luck trying to get through it all. It has the classic signature E-Street sound as well. A part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the mess with Appel, but I guess weíll never know.

    Adam Raised a Cain: A friend of mine mentioned that she read Springsteenís unauthorized biography which indicated he had a complicated relation with his father. Perhaps Springsteen is seeing himself as the Cain in this case. One thing for sure, this song is heartfelt and the arrangement of searing guitars add to the mix. I really like this track.

    Something in the Night: Obviously one of the lesser known songs on the album, but I do have to say Iím agreeing with the critics in terms of the maturity. While not one of my favorite songs on the album, you can definitely hear how Springsteen has grown musically with this track.

    Candyís Room: This one seems to have the ďexpertsí at Genius. com in a quandary. They donít know whether this is about a prostitute or some young boyís sexual fantasy. This track has all the E-Street band elements as if Springsteen is telling a story. One thing for sure, Springsteen didnít lose anything as a lyricist during his Appel imposed hiatus. Nice lead guitar on this.

    Racing in the Street: Here Springsteen is singing of the yearning to escape from adult like responsibilities. There was apparently some drag racing going on near Springsteenís childhood home in Asbury Park. In any event, this is a heartfelt ballad dominated by Bittanís piano



    The Promised Land: This track was a result of a trip to Utah with Steven Van Zandt in the days after Elvis Presleyís death. Indeed, the title may have come from one of Elvis Presleyís last hits. This is a great arrangement with Clemonsí sax solo and the harmonica adding to yet another heartfelt song thatís good enough to make my favorites list.

    Factory: Okay, so somebody is claiming on Genius.com that this is about Springsteenís father losing his soul at the factory. The only problem with that is Wiki says his father was a bus driver. I guess that can be soulless too. Anyway, itís not one of the more memorable songs on the album.

    Streets of Fire: Dave Marsh would rave about this track as it helped to fulfill all the hype that had surrounded Springsteen three years before. I like the haunting organ and the dark arrangement in general.



    Prove It All Night: This might be my favorite track on the album. In some ways this is about young love. Wiki says this is about a girl having to give up her virtue to prove her love for a guy (what a creep!). Anyhow, this is your typical E-Street romp with all the classic settings that an actually bad movie band like Eddie and the Crusiers would rip off and claim they were ahead of the curve in 1964. Yeah, right. Anyway, this is proof that the original is always better than the cheap imitators.

    Darkness on the Edge of Town: The last song and the title track is the third that mentions street racing. Street racing was obviously part of the theme on this album. Of course, as with most Springsteen songs, itís a bit more complicated than that as it talks about alienation and the desire to get out of the darkness on the edge of town so to speak. Itís a slow paced song, one of the better known Springsteen tracks. A solid way to end this epic.




    OVERALL EFFECT: I sense a moodiness to this album that I didnít hear on the first three albums. Iím sure a lot of it had to do with the legal entanglements that Springsteen just got out of, but he may have also had extra time to reflect on his youth given the depressing nature of tracks like Adam Raised a Cain and Darkness. Overall, I donít like the album quite as much as Born To Run, and Iíd rate it third out his four albums at this point, meaning I, nevertheless, like this a lot. Just canít give it the five flower special though.

    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken
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  5. #15

    THE RIVER





    Released: 1980
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, and Steven Van Zandt
    Label: Columbia

    There were a lot of things going on in the late seventies into 1980 and it would influence the direction Springsteen was about to take. The brand new star aura was now gone for one thing. The legal entanglements were now behind him but now there was a feeling of Ďhow can he top Born To Run and Darkness?í Add to that, the US was in an economic recession that would affect Springsteen indirectly by way of his sister. She was married to a guy who lost his job in construction and was struggling to make ends meet. This, among other things, influenced Springsteen to write songs of a more personal nature. He wasnít writing about hanging out in the parking lot anymore. Now he was writing about things that affected the average person. And the end result would be The River, released late in 1980.

    The double album set was meant to be released as a single album that would have been called The Ties That Bind. It didnít seem enough for Springsteen, thus, we have the two album set.

    I might mention that there is some personal importance to me surrounding both this album and of Springsteen himself. For starters, the first single, Hungry Heart, opens up with ďGot a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack.Ē Well, Iím from Baltimore so of course I listened, not caring that itís about a lone wolf that left his family.

    Then there is the fact that this album was getting a lot of airplay in late 1980 when John Lennon was murdered. So The River is an album that I connect to the period. There is also the irony that Springsteen would play a tribute to Lennon the following night in Philadelphia. He wasnít the only artist to do this of course but it seemed symbolic that Springsteen would be doing an already scheduled concert near his own home base in New Jersey at that same time.

    Anyway, letís review the album, shall we?



    Best Tracks: The Ties That Bind, Hungry Heart, Out in the Street, The River

    Weakest Tracks: Crush On You, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)



    The Ties That Bind: The album opens with what was supposed to be the title track to a single album meant for release in 1979. Instead itís here and it starts the theme of this double album set with an upbeat tempo. Iím not sure this is more about a breakup or something a bit deeper, but itís nonethleless a great start to the album.



    Sherry Darling: This had been left off Darkness On the Edge of Town. Not surprisingly, this is more about life in New York City. It certainly sounds like New York given the blunt lyrics which is one of the things I love most about New York. There is a brutal honesty you donít hear anywhere else. No oneís afraid to hurt any feelings, thatís for sure. Another upbeat tune.

    Jackson Cage: Itís perhaps here where you start getting into the theme of the album. This one addresses the employment conditions, or lack thereof, that was prevalent in the US in 1980. Springsteen looks at Jackson Cage as something akin to a life sentence. Itís sad, may even a little desperate. Canít argue about the quality of the song though. Springsteenís three for three so far.

    Two Hearts: This is probably more of a love song of sorts. Maybe not one of Springsteenís better efforts. The lyrics arenít bad and I do like the two hearts are better than one line, but, overall, it comes off as pretty average by Springsteen standards.

    Independence Day: This could be one of Springsteenís songs that emphasizes his personal relationship with his father. One thing Iíve learned after researching Springsteen was that he had something of a complicated relationship with his Dad. And you can feel the pain in this melancholy track.




    Hungry Heart: Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. Still canít get over that line, even if it was essentially a song about a drifter. This was the big hit off the album and, like I mentioned earlier, is kind of an important song to me for reasons unrelated to the song itself. You can certainly hear the commercial appeal of this track.

    Out in the Street: This is basically a slice of life in a working manís surroundings. It has some of the Springsteen trappings as he tells his girl to get ready for a night on the town. Itís a happy song. A positive song in the wake of economic turmoil. Perhaps this was a guy that survived the economic downturn, and a lot of people thankfully did. I like this song.

    Crush On You: Not really the most lyrically rich of Springsteenís songs, Iím not sure if Iíd exactly call this a filler track (Did Springsteen consider anything filler?). I do like Clemonsí solo, but this doesnít seem to fit in with the theme of the album overall.

    You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch): Interesting article on Springsteenís songs https://www.vulture.com/2016/06/ever...ng-ranked.html. There is supposed to be a rockabilly version of this somewhere. Like Crush On You, though, I canít say I can get into this obvious rocker.

    I Wanna Marry You: Again from Vulture (why didnít I discover this article earlier?), this is a slower ballad by Springsteen standards and yeah, I can definitely hear the Roy Orbison vibe here. And since I happen to be an Orbison fanÖ thumbs up.




    The River: The title track to the album and probably my favorite. This one is a bit darker than much of his material and the E Street Band isnít involved in this. In some ways this is a precursor to Nebraska. This is one of Springsteenís most personal songs as he sings in the voice of his brother-in-law and covers his early marriage to Springsteenís sister. It really is a working manís song in so many ways. Few Springsteen songs have this type of intensity which is saying a lot for someone who can write some pretty intense material.



    Point Blank: A piano dominated ballad that reflects on a broken relationship. Not an unusual theme to be sure, but Springsteen somehow turns a typical theme into something more lyrical as breaking up is akin to being shot in the back.




    Cadillac Ranch: Springsteen at his upbeat best. If you read the review on Genius.com, Dave Marsh seems to suggest this is in fact a graveyard for those that live in the fast lane- literally. If so, itís certainly an upbeat way to do it. Pretty clever.

    Iím a Rocker: I think Springsteen is channeling 1966 if you look at the lyrics. Springsteen isnít being introspective on this track. Rather, the band just seems to be having fun which is what a band should be doing anyway, right?




    Fade Away: This ballad was released as a single but I donít remember this doing very well. This track garnered some pretty good reviews, but I donít get that vibe personally. But, different strokesÖ no, Iím not Gary Coleman. I do like Federiciís organ solo.

    Stolen Car: This one is a bit stark. Replace the piano with an acoustic guitar and it fits quite well on Nebraska. Itís a sad song about a relationship that didnít work out. Where the stolen car enters into this, I couldnít tell you, but it seems to work.

    Ramrod: Springsteen gets back on the upbeat train with this one. This one has a great Farfisa organ and certainly has the elements of a fun sixties song that talks about cars and girls. Not a favorite song but certainly not a bad one either.

    The Price You Pay: I think Springsteen is talking about the consequences on what path you may take. Whether heís talking about romantic choices or career choices, only he knows for sure. One thing for sure, itís a bit of a reality check after the fun of Ramrod.

    Drive All Night: Probably the slowest song on the album. Itís somber in tone but yet there is a lot of hope in this song. Itís one of Springsteenís abilities, to take something negative and turn it into a positive message of hope, something that will be much needed in later years for all of us really.

    Wreck On the Highway: Springsteen says he ripped the title from the Roy Acuff classic. Yes, this is a country tinged tune to a large extent. I even wonder how much he took from Acuffís song itself. Iíll have to play sleuth and check it out sometime. I do remember Acuffís song being quite powerful, even for the 1940s. Anyway. Itís a pretty pensive way to end this double album set.




    OVERALL EFFECT: The first of the two discs comes close to five star quality with tracks like Hungry Heart and the River. It tails off a bit on side two. But the quality remains high. Again, there are the personal elements for me and I know that critics rate this as one of Springsteenís best. For me, Iím not as sure. Itís certainly an excellent album and itís getting four stars, and I love how he is maturing as a songwriter. But I still keep looking at Born To Run as the barometer, and I havenít found an equal to that album as of yet. Still, Springsteenís momentum is still going strong. Nice piano at the end.


    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken
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  6. #16

    NEBRASKA




    Released: 1982
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen
    Label: Columbia



    After the success of The River, Springsteen went to work on what was to become the next E-Street album in early 1982. Springsteen recorded about twenty demos at his home with the intention of teaching the band, who would add their own arrangements as always. It turned out though, that Springsteen felt the songs were too personal and only some of the songs that were recorded by the band would surface on an album, notably Born in the USA.

    What Springsteen did with the remaining tracks instead was to master the demo tapes with some sparse overdubbing and release it as a stripped down album that is arguably the starkest album Springsteen would ever do. Itís a folk album essentially and it wouldnít play as well commercially as his earlier efforts and certainly not as well as the megahit Born in the USA two years later. Critically, though, itís considered one of his best.

    But is it one of Springsteenís best according to Musty? Iíll give you a hint- could be


    Best Tracks: Nebraska, Atlantic City, My Fatherís House

    Weakest Tracks: None


    Nebraska: The title track is an account of the infamous Charles Starkweather killing spree in 1958. Sung in an autobiographical voice, the lyrics come off as quite chilling. In some ways it reminds me a little of Sufjanís Stevensí John Wayne Gacy as it seems to be a song about getting into the mind of aserial killer. Depressing, stark, and just plain brilliant



    Atlantic City: The video was on heavy airplay on MTV when I originally saw the network in 1983. The video looks about as stark as the song sounds. The premise is a young couple trying to escape to the resort while the male protagonist is rubbing elbows with the mob. Itís a depressing song to be sure which makes it all the more powerful. Possibly the most commercial song on the album if there is one at all.

    Mansion On the Hill: I couldnít find much on what Springsteen meant by the mansion on the hill, but this Appalachian influenced song seems to be of a positive vein lyrically. So far the thing I like this album the most is that itís really a folk album in the vein of early Dylan or Pete Seeger. Iím liking this album a lot.

    Johnny 99: Another song of despair. In this case, a laid off auto worker resorts to petty crime just so he can feed himself. The protagonist gets 99 years but asks to be executed instead. Johnny Cash would cover this a year later along with Highway Patrolman. This is certainly in the folk vein with nothing but acoustic guitar and harmonica, a going theme on this album.

    Highway Patrolman: Reverse the characters and you have a man who takes a job as, well, a highway patrolman. He has to deal with issues concerning his brother. Itís a sad song to be sure as he reluctantly lets his brother escape to Canada after a bar melee. Again, there is a sad vibe to this folk tune. I have to hear Cashís version now.

    State Trooper: Springsteen is said to have been influenced by the band Suicide and their minimalist approach to music. This almost sounds like the E-Street band without the instruments. Of course Nebraska is all Springsteen. The howling was taken from the Suicide track, Frankie Teardrop.

    Used Cars: One of the more gentle tunes on the album as Springsteen recounts a day out with his family as a child. Itís a sweet tune. I might mention I have yet to find a weak track here.



    Open All Night: This, too is a more positive song. Springsteen goes electric on this track, which was released as the albumís second single. This sounds a little like Pink Cadillac only without the band behind him. I like how he rocks on this one even without all the accompanying instruments.

    My Fatherís House: I gather from what Iím reading this is something of a personal song for Springsteen. He would often drive past his fatherís house for a time in some vain attempt to make things right. I have to admit this is a little personal for me too as I havenít had the best relationship with my own father. Iím not sure I realized just how Springsteen resonated with me until I started this project.

    Reason To Believe: This is essentially a song with four vignettes starting with a man desperately trying to bring a dead dog back to life. He follows up with a woman believing her man will come back, and so on, the theme of the song being that people have to have faith. There is a bit of a gospel feel to this and it makes for an interesting end to the album.




    OVERALL EFFECT: Okay, so this is easily the most unique album Springsteen has recorded to date and there wonít be another similar until The Ghost of Tom Joad, which I have to admit, Iím really looking forward to (I waned from Springsteen a bit after Born in the USA). Essentially, this is a folk album and I happen to be a big folk music fan. There are so many parallels to Dylan on this album, itís not funny. Itís a dark album at times to be sure, but there is such a stark beauty to the minimalist style on this album.

    So now comes the million dollar question. Is this one of Springsteenís best albums? Well, sorry to say, it isnít.

    No, actually, itís my favorite Springsteen album of all time. Not only that, but I listed this as my favorite album of 1982. So, yeah, it rates. Who knows, if he had stayed on this course, he might have even cracked my top 100 artists list instead of being on the cusp.


    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken


    So Springsteen has proven his mettle as someone who doesn't have to always go for the money. I'm not sure how the folks at Columbia felt about that, but they would be rewarded very nicely with Springsteen's next album, the blockbuster Born in the USA that would net seven top ten singles and be the best selling album of 1984. So can commercial success and artistic success go hand in hand? Stay tuned for the next installment and find out
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  7. #17

    BORN IN THE USA




    Released: 1984
    Producer: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Jon Landau, Steven Van Zandt
    Label: Columbia



    The Electric Nebraska sessions would be the bulk of this, the most successful of all Springsteen albums. Seven of the twelve tracks would be released as singles and Springsteen was all over the place on MTV in 1984 going into 1985. As many of the tracks (though not all) were from the Nebraska period, much of the material, notably the title track, would concentrate on the everyday experiences of the common man. The album though is in a much more mainstream vein than Nebraska was. In fact this may be Springsteenís most commercial album.

    So, having heard this before, as has just about anyone else it seems, I can already tell you I wonít like this as much as Nebraska. The real question is will I like it at all, well, letís seeÖ


    Best Track: Downbound Train, Bobby Jean, My Hometown

    Weakest Tracks: Dancing in the Dark





    Born in the USA: This track has quite a bit of history to it. Ronald Reagan used this track as his re-election campaign theme. Not only was Springsteen upset about this, Reagan and his fans totally missed the point of the song. For this isnít about patriotism at all. This is about the experience of a Vietnam Vet who had to endure the hardships that came from that war. It isnít complimentary of US policy, and certainly not Reaganís policy, at all. It isnít really a favorite Springsteen song but that has more to do with the glossy production than of the song itself, which is certainly one of Springsteenís most powerful set of lyrics. NOTE: I heard the Nebraska acoustic version, and man is that song powerful.



    Cover Me: This had been written for Donna Summer but Jon Landau thought it worked better as a Springsteen track. There is a certain funkiness to this, but I think there may be a little too much polish to this.

    Darlington County: A song about a couple of buddies from New York looking for work out of state (South Carolina?). It boils down to two friends looking for a little fun. Pretty innocent in that regard. A nice upbeat temp with a solid sax solo by Clemons.

    Working On the Highway: This is a darker version of Darlington County (perhaps this is the Wayne character from Darlington County who had been arrested?). Here the protagonist trades a job on the highway for a prison stint working, ironically enough, on the highway. The arrangement is far from dark as this is pure rockabilly. Itís actually fun to listen to.

    Downbound Train: This dark, sad, song, about a laid off worker (a typical Springsteen theme) was meant for the Nebraska album. This guy is down on his luck as he loses his girl and ends up on a railroad gang. This one is a solid driving song. Itís depressing and yet never maudlin.



    Iím On Fire: This track has quite a mood to it. Vulture calls it one for the ladies and I can see the sexual attraction to this. This has a bit of a rockabilly feel to it and it certainly adds to the song. This was one of the seven singles released off this album.

    No Surrender: This wasnít going to be on the album, but Steven Van Zandt convinced Springsteen to add this one on. Like Born In the USA, this would find its way into a Presidential campaign. In this songís case, The John Kerry 2004 campaign. Itís certainly a positive track and itís a good start to side two.

    Bobby Jean: This is said to be a farewell to Van Zandt. Zandt was leaving the E-Street band to pursue his own career. It proved to be a good move for him as he would keep returning to his old friend over the years. Itís a beautiful song about friendship and that, of course, is the songís charm. Very sentimental tune.



    Iím Goin Down: There arenít a lot of words on this track outside of the main chorus of course. The song is buoyed by the farfisa organ like background. This really isnít one of my faves but not a bad tune all in all. Another great sax solo.



    Glory Days: This is possibly the second most popular song on the album. Lyrically, it plays as if someoneís best days have passed by, thus the Glory Days. Itís a nice pop song basically, but like many of the tracks on the album, maybe a little too commercial for me.



    Dancing in the Dark: This one certainly has a history, well, the video does anyway. Itís a typical Springsteen love song, but the highlight is where he picks a random member of the audience to dance with him- who just happens to be Courtney Cox. Yes, unbeknownst to Springsteen at the time, it was all set up. Thatís not why this is my least favorite song on the album though. I know this sounds weird but it sounds like something Iíd make believe Iím recording with my mouth. Donít ask, I do pretty weird things, okay?



    My Hometown: Luckily the album ends with one of its strongest tracks. A fictional story by nature, yet strongly influenced by Springsteenís own youth in New Jersey. Itís not all nostalgic as Springsteen laments about the racial turmoil that was prevalent in his hometown in the sixties, but it is a nice slice of life type song and I like how it ends the album.


    BONUS TRACK: Pink Cadillac: This track ended up on the B-side of Dancing In the Dark. Springsteen meant this as a bar band song and it's certainly what makes this song work. Actually Iíd argue this should have been the A-side but then I guess we wouldnít have gotten to see Courtney Cox dance and then she wouldnít have been on Friends andÖ you get the idea.





    OVERALL EFFECT: I think there is a fundamental problem with some rock critics. Critical acclaim and commercial success isn't always supposed to go hand in hand. Of course, thatís hardly the case but I think they may have been blinded a little by the massive success of this album. That doesnít mean this isnít a bad album, not at all. Itís actually quite listenable and even my weakest track isnít all that terrible. But I canít help thinking that they tried so hard to make this a commercial album, and they were wildly successful in that regard, but it really wasnít the Bruce Springsteen Iíve been used to listening to.

    MUSTYíS RATING: 1/2

    The Word has Spoken

    And with that, Springsteen is on top of the world. All he now has to do is avoid saying heís bigger than Michael Jackson because you know what happened to the Beatles.

    Seriously, though, Springsteen is at the height of his career and he soon is going to find himself in the gossip magazines through his new marriage to actress Julianne Phillips while falling for his backup singer, Patti Scialfa, at about the same time. None of who deserved the crap that would get thrown at them. Anyway, there seemed to be only one way fro Springsteenís career to go at this point.

    Or was there? Stay tuned for the next installment as we cover one of the great live album achievements in rock history. See you then.
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  8. #18

    LIVE 1975-1985





    Released: 1986
    Producer: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Bruce Springsteen
    Label: Columbia


    Bruce Springsteen was never bigger than he was in the mid 1980s. Born In the USA was still garnering interest into 1986 and there was now great anticipation for a live album. And the Boss didnít disappoint. Forty tracks from various concerts over a ten year period are on this five album set and, like Born in The USA before it, garnered excellent reviews. It also set a then record for advance sales as some stores reported selling copies of the set off the delivery trucks.

    So, hereís the deal. I am going to listen to the entire set but Iím only going to review the songs that hadnít been recorded on a Springsteen studio album. I will comment on the album as whole in my overall effect section. I will say I have heard parts of this album and I remember the energy that was on it.

    And with thatÖ

    Best Tracks: Spirit in the Night, Paradise by the ďCĒ, Growiní Up, The River, War

    Weakest Tracks: Thunder Road (whereís the sax?), This Land Is Your Land


    Paradise by the ďCĒ: This is purportedly the only instrumental in Springsteenís entire repertoire. I like it. It has a lot of energy and Clemons is especially active on the sax here. This is probably an example of why Springsteen and his E-Street Band are one of the most popular live acts ever. This is pure fun.



    Fire: Some interesting trivia considering it would be the hit for the Pointer Sisters in 1978. Springsteen actually gave this song to Robert Gordon who was a retro rockabilly artist. He only did that because he actually wrote this for Elvis Presley, who had to die on him. Anyway, Springsteen does a decent job with it being live and all, but I have to lean towards the Pointer Sisters when all is said and done.

    Raise Your Hand: Originally recorded by Eddie Floyd in 1967 and written with Steve Cropper and Al Bell. Yes, this is Stax territory. I havenít heard Floydís version though I think I will. Nice cover, very soulful, upbeat. Not quite as good as Knock On Wood but, yeah, a fun song to play in concerts.

    Because the Night: This is, of course, the Patti Smith staple. Springsteen gave this one away during his dispute with Mike Appel. It was worth it as this would become Smithís most successful song. Itís a nice tune but Springsteen never meant this to more than anything but a love song. In fact, Patti Smith would add lyrics to her version to make it sound more like her song and it really does fit her style better.

    This Land Is Your Land: Of course this is the Woody Guthrie song. I assume he learned this song in elementary school like everybody else. Itís not a bad rendition and I guess it works in concert but, somehow, Guthrieís version has a bit more punch to it.

    Seeds: This is one of Springsteenís political statements to be sure as he laments the struggles of the working man. In this case a guy that hopes to make it big in the Texas Oil Boom. Of course, he doesnít and this is basically railing against the rich barons. There is obviously an angry vibe to this song but it probably wasnít enough for Springsteen to put this on an album. Nice lead guitar by Nils Lofgren.

    The River: Well, the first half actually. Because it isnít this song at all, rather itís Springsteen recounting his experience after a motorcycle accident and then almost having to go to Vietnam only to fail his physical exam. Itís frankly rather touching and one forgets the anguish young men had to go through in the sixties and into the seventies.



    War: This is maybe the best track on this set. Of course, this is the powerful anti-war song originally recorded by Edwin Starr. Iíll have to cover this in more in depth later as this was originally released during a transitional period at Motown, but you can replace Vietnam with Nicaragua and El Salvador and you can get the same kind of powerful statement that Springsteen very ably delivers.

    Jersey Girl: Well, if Tom Waits is a Springsteen fan, the boss knows how to return the compliment. Jersey Girl is a Tom Waits composition originally off his 1980 Heartattack and Vine album. Itís a slow ballad that Iím sure made Waits proud. Nice track to end the five record set.



    OVERALL EFFECT: Okay, so first Iíll mention the tracks that impressed me. There was the fun Paradise by the ďCĒ, then there was Growiní Up, where Springsteen talks (literally) about an accident and a court hearing sort in Arlo Guthrie style. I also like the Nebraska tracks. To me they play as well live as they did in the studio. I especially like how The River starts off with a remembrance of Springsteenís youth that I mentioned earlier. It makes the next track, War, which isnít Springsteenís song actually, very personal. Cover Me is interesting as it features a female singer (Patti Scialfa?). I keep forgetting this is where Springsteenís romance with his new backup singer began at the expense of his recent marriage to actress Julianne Phillips.

    So I guess to rate this overall I have to admit Iím not a live album connoisseur. I can name the live albums I like on maybe two hands, notably Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and San Quentin and The Who Live At Leeds. This wonít be one of them, but still, itís a pleasant listen and the tracks that hadnít been released on albums by this point are quite good overall. So when is all said and doneÖ


    MUSTYíS RATING: 1/2

    The Word has Spoken
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  9. #19

    TUNNEL OF LOVE





    Released: 1987
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin
    Label: Columbia


    This would be a significant turn in Springsteenís life, both professionally and personally. His marriage to Julianne Phillips was already on the rocks and the rumors that he was seeing band member Patti Scialfa wasnít helping matters much. On top of that, he more or less broke up his E Street Band and they are only sporadically on this album. Though personal relationships remained strong, the band itself was going in different directions. Not that they wouldnít appear on future Springsteen albums, but it wouldnít be until The Rising where they would again get full credit.

    As for the album itself, much of it had to do with his struggling marriage. It was maybe a little too personal for close friend Steve Van Zandt who criticized Springsteen for singing about himself too much. With anyone else, this might have been taken as a nasty Lennonesque jab but Springsteen knew Van Zandt was criticizing out of love (which was true).

    So I guess, in a way, this is a break from the usual working man anthems that Springsteen was known for and it would be successful as it garnered some decent reviews. As for me, well letís seeÖ




    Best Tracks: Ainít Got You, Cautious Man,

    Weakest Tracks: Walk Like a Man, Tunnel of Love



    Ain't Got You: This one starts off with a gospel accapella. The album, and this track among them, is said to be autographical as Springsteen sings about loneliness here. Itís stripped down with only Springsteen and an acoustic Bo Diddley beat. I really like this track and itís a great opening.



    Tougher Than the Rest: This is more fully realized as synthesizer and electric drums are added to the mix. Lyrically itís a beauty and the beast type song in my opinion. Itís fairly commercial compared to Ainít Got You, but a very nice tune. Missing the E-Street band though.

    All That Heaven Will Allow: Not too much on this one except that Vulture calls this a positive song in general. Itís a pleasant tune overall but I canít say I can get into this one too much.



    Spare Parts: This is a cautionary tale about pre-marital sex obviously and the consequences that come with it. It doesnít help that Bobby bravely runs away, what a guy. This is an angry sounding song as Vulture suggests and it makes this song sound quite powerful. Much of the E-Street band is here for this track.

    Cautious Man: This one is pretty much Springsteen territory, lyrically speaking, as it seems to delve into the mind of a desperate young man. This is essentially a folk song. Itís stark and probably would have fit well on Nebraska as Vulture suggested. I also seem to like this song better than Vulture (this is from their rankings of all his songs). His stripped down tunes always seem to have a little more feeling to me.

    Walk Like a Man: Another song about Springsteenís complicated relationship with his father. I get the lyrics and I know itís heartfelt, but it doesnít seem to have the strength of some of the other tracks on the album. Maybe a little too eighties in terms of arrangement for me.



    Tunnel of Love: A song of hope in a new marriage it seems. This is the song I remember most from this album and it sounds like this was worked on to be a single. The critics seem to love this track, but I canít say Iím all that impressed. Still, this is miles away from Tenth Avenue Freezeout as this is much more introspective.

    Two Faces: Another stripped down song as he anguishes about his marriage. Julianne must have been having a blast when she heard this album. This is mainly guitar, a little organ, and some drums. Not quite acoustic, pretty effective.



    Brilliant Disguise: Springsteen is said to have gone into therapy in part because of this song. It was clear Springsteen was unhappy in his marriage at the time. In later years he has been quite apologetic to his ex-wife but at the time, I guess it was all about him. This may have been his most commercially successful song as it it number one on the mainstream rock songs. Like this one better than the other big hit on this album.



    One Step Up; Yet another song about the acrimony that was Springsteenís unhappy marriage. There are so many metaphors in this song such as the girl he meets in a bar (Patti in the band?). You sort of feel for the guy at this point though you also would love to hear the other side of the story. At least here, he is blaming himself more than anything else. Nice track. Like the background vocals.

    When Youíre Alone: This is another angry song from a lyrical standpoint. The theme of album is obviously loneliness. Musically, itís a simple arrangement that fits in well with the album.

    Valentineís Day: A rather sad song despite the title as Springsteen misses his baby. This lament seems a bit sadder than his more upbeat earlier efforts as this may have been much more personal. It sounds a little like a country bar tune. Itís mostly acoustic with the signature keyboard that is prevalent on Springsteen albums these days. A decent way to end the album.




    OVERALL EFFECT: So, in some ways, I like this better than Born in the USA, but it doesnít reach the heights of his best albums which, to me at this point, are Born To Run and Nebraska. Still, the best tracks match up with the best tracks on his other albums. And the worst tracks are again not terrible so much as they donít match up quite with the best tracks. Really, I donít think I recall a Springsteen song I actually hate at this point. But there are only a handful of what I would call ĎMusty classicsí and none of them are on this album, Iím afraid. But, overall, it has a theme, a personal theme, that makes you think, and that, perhaps, is the main value of this album. Not a great album but definitely better than average.

    MUSTYíS RATING: 1/2

    The Word has Spoken
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  10. #20

    HUMAN TOUCH





    Released: 1992
    Producer: Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Plotkin, Jon Landau, Roy Bittan
    Label: Columbia


    When we left off last time, Springsteen was in the last stages of a bad marriage to Julianne Phillips while publicly courting Patti Scailfa. I still remember the dirt that was going on in the snot rags, as I affectionately call them, condemning both Springsteen and Scailfa, and not necessarily being complimentary to Phillips either. Springsteen bared his soul on Tunnel of Love and the marriage ended, after which, Springsteen took a five year hiatus from recording.

    Well, sort of. He and Roy Bittan, upon formally breaking up the E-Street Band, worked on three tracks, while Springsteen also worked on an album that would become Lucky Town which, coincidentally enough, would be released on the same day as this one. That would be abandoned and not revived again until 1991.

    Which brings us to Human Touch, the first album that doesnít have The E-Street Band on it at all, unless you count Bittan, who co-produced. Human Touch was supported by mostly studio musicians from LA and it didnít necessarily go well with the critics. In fact, this may have been the first panned album of his career. In a way, Springsteen was saved by the brainstorm of releasing this on the same day as Lucky Town, which weíll cover in the next installment. Weíll also talk about how that project, considered the more popular of the two, came to be.

    In the meantime, will this be the first time the Boss scores less than a three? Well, letís seeÖ





    Best Tracks: Human Touch, With Every Wish, Pony Boy

    Weakest Tracks: Roll of the Dice, Real World, Real Man



    Human Touch: In a sense, this is about starting over. Springsteen was now a few years away from a bad marriage and was now enjoying a happier relationship with Patti Scailfa. There is a maturity, a sense that one must go on. He wants to rejoin the world again judging from this track. Gets more powerful as the song goes on with some nice harmonies from Patti.

    Soul Driver: Vulture https://www.vulture.com/2016/06/ever...ng-ranked.html doesnít rate this song very highly and it does kind of sound like standard eighties fare even though it was now 1992. Canít say I hate the song though. Not a favorite to be sure but Iíve certainly have heard worse.



    57 Channels (And Nothiní On): Interesting in that it started as a humorous slap at the gossip that had been following Springsteen. Later, in concert, it would become something of a lament of the LA Riots which happened right after the release of this album. Since I havenít heard the live version, I canít judge how dark this song would become. The more light hearted version you hear here isnít bad though.

    Cross My Heart: A country tinged love song basically. Pretty standard early nineties fare. Nothing to especially jump and down about.

    Gloriaís Eyes: Another love song. I donít think is autobiographical though as I donít think anyone was actually trying to run back to Springsteen. A nice rocker basically but I have to think the E-Street would have done this better.

    With Every Wish: If there is a theme at this point, itís maybe that there is no theme. Most of the songs to this point are your standard love songs with a few variations. This song is a bit subdued in terms of arrangements. I really like the trumpet on this.



    Roll of the Dice: Co written with Roy Bittan, itís Springsteen yet again taking a chance on love. I do think there are too many gambling innuendos and it does sound kind of overproduced for me. Maybe this would have been better material for Eddie and the Cruisers.

    Real World: This was also written with Bittan. Again, this is about love; Springsteen clearly isnít getting topical on this album. I have to say it isnít a song that really hooks me. I can see why the critics were a little hard on this album.

    All Or Nothiní At All: Lyrically, this almost sounds like the old ďIf you love meĒ trick to get a girl in bed though I suspect Springsteen is a little more mature than that. Pretty much a standard song, nothing Iíd kill for.

    Manís Job: Springsteen brought in Sam Moore for this track as he is trying to channel his sixties soul self. The problem is, this doesnít sound all that soulful. Maybe he should have brought Dave Prater back from the dead but then again, Sam and Dave stopped talking to each other sometime around 1968.

    I Wish I Were Blind: A song of rejection basically, though Springsteenís lyrics make it a little more palatable than the usual fare. You could argue the synthesizer hurts the song a little and Springsteen does tend to use that instrument a little too much. Itís okay to use strings once in a while, Boss. Anyway, itís mediocre, but not necessarily bad.

    The Long Goodbye: This may the most personal song on the album as Springsteen is essentially singing about his eventual move to California. Itís like heís sad to leave and yet heís happy to go. Unfortunately, the production seems a little over the top. Maybe a slower tempo could have helped this track a lot.

    Real Man: I canít comment on the lyrics here as itís again pretty typical love song fare. Okay, maybe I can. He really does need the E- Street Band. Springsteen just doesnít do well with just any old studio musicians. I mean Iím sure theyíre fine and all but they arenít really a band. I think I actually hate this song.

    Pony Boy: This is a song that was actually written in 1909 (not by Springsteen obviously). And guess what? I like this. Itís just Springsteen and an acoustic guitar and harmonica singing a western tune. This is what he needs to do more often.






    OVERALL EFFECT: One of the themes Iíve had while doing these reviews was my criticism of Springsteen when he sounds a bit too commercial and that is certainly something that has a negative effect on this album. There are enough decent tracks for me not to give the album the lowest rating, but so far, this is easily the weakest of Springsteenís efforts. Letís hope I like the better received Lucky Town better.

    MUSTYíS RATING:

    The Word has Spoken
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