29 November, 2014 in Music Reviews
Bruce Springsteen’s first seven albums have been remastered and released as a boxed set, tracking his journey to rock’s summit
he first seven albums by New Jersey’s favourite son have been newly remastered (five for the first time) and released as a boxset with an accompanying 60-page booklet featuring rare photos and memorabilia. Renowned engineer Bob Ludwig worked with long-time Springsteen associate Toby Scott to breathe new life into these classic records using the ‘plangent process’ method, and the results will please Springsteen fans both old and new. Starting with the 1973 debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ and taking us up to 1984’s multi-million selling Born In The USA, this collection follows The Boss’s journey from street troubadour to all-conquering stadium rockstar.
Greetings From Asbury Park found Springsteen firmly in Dylan mode. In some places, such as Mary Queen Of Arkansas, it sounds overwrought and over-thought, but what is clear throughout is that Springsteen has too much energy to be cast as the next sombre poet. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City brings the album to a close with the promise of good times to come. A mere eight months later The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle saw Springsteen continue to find himself. With the help of David Sancious he channelled jazz and funk to record his own Astral Weeks. It is expansive and unruly and easily Springsteen’s most fun record, with Clarence Clemons’ saxophone exceptional throughout.
What came next was Born To Run, a monster of a record in terms of both songwriting and production. Driving piano helps to lift Springsteen’s signature growl into something so powerful that it would carry millions of fans on a decades-long journey. Thunder Road, Night and the monster title track show him to be at the very top of his game. After a three-year gap Springsteen then returned with Darkness On The Edge of Town, featuring overtly political character songs such as Badlands and Factory that gave the working man something to think about as well as pump fists to.
“Nebraska was both a bold statement and a huge risk”
The same themes of working class disillusionment continued on The River. Springsteen’s characters could be found seeking comfort on a night drive just as a song like Sherry Darling could provide the listener with a simple moment of joy. On Nebraska, Springsteen went even further: stripping back to a guitar and a harmonica he framed his tales of murder and desperation with a lo-fi production, unheard of at the time. It was both a bold statement and a huge risk for a major recording artist to take, and one which allowed fans an intimate moment with their idol.
The collection ends with Born In The USA, the perfect union of Springsteen’s lyrical disillusionment and his arena-sized rock hooks. It is a celebration of the workers’ anger and, propelled by singles such as the title track and Dancing In The Dark, went on to become one of the bestselling albums of all time.
A journey which started with Bruce Blinded By The Light ended with him being the world’s biggest rock star having released seven remarkable albums, each adding something new to his repertoire.
Verdict: From New Jersey troubadour to global superstar in seven albums, maintaining his artistic integrity all the while