Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

In the last few months, Legacy Recordings has launched an extensive digital campaign with the aim of releasing Bruce Springsteen to the streaming age.  This last May saw the digital debut of 17 rare singles and EPs, as well as the new compilation, Spare Parts, which collected highlights from those releases.  Now, Legacy has teamed up with Nugs.net on a new compilation, The Live Series:  Songs of the Road that celebrates The Boss’s incendiary concert performances and his music’s association with the open road.

As the name suggests, The Live Series: Songs of the Road is a themed compilation featuring songs related to roads, cars, and travel.  The 15 live performances are culled from Nugs.net’s ongoing Live Archive series, which brings full concerts from Springsteen’s live vaults to digital download and CD.  While these tracks have been available for download on Bruce’s website, The Live Series:  Songs of the Road brings this material to mainstream digital download and streaming services for the first time.

With blazing versions of “Thunder Road” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and the hard-to-find “Action in the Streets” from his transitional 1977 upstate New York shows, a swinging 2006 take on “Open All Night” with the rootsy Seeger Sessions Band, the acoustic “Used Cars” from an intimate acoustic show from 1996, plus the arena rock god prowess of “Born To Run” from 1984 and the more recent impassioned performances of “Out in the Street” and “The E Street Shuffle,” this collection brings together all the different sides of Bruce’s live work, past and present.

You can find the new Bruce Springsteen collection, The Live Series:  Songs of the Road on streaming platforms now.  Check it out on Spotify

Bruce Springsteen,The Live Series:  Songs of the Road(Columbia/Legacy, 2018)

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The Live Series: Songs of Friendship

In December, Columbia Legacy Recordings surprised Bruce Springsteen fans with a digital album of live rarities called The Live Series: Songs of  the Road.  Now, The Live Series continues with Songs of Friendship, which brings even more rarities to digital and streaming for the first time ever.  Culled from Springsteen’s extensive vault of live material that was previously only available from the Nugs.net on-demand site, the 15-track set spotlights iconic tracks about the unbreakable bonds of friendship.

While the previous volume mixed solo and E Street Band recordings, Songs of Friendship fittingly features only band performances.  Four decades’ worth of live greatness is on-display here, from the rousing New Year’s ’75 version of “Spirit in the Night” and the East Rutherford 1984 take on “Glory Days,” to the sparse “If I Should Fall Behind” from 2014 and the 2017 outing of the obscure “Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart.”  Altogether, the collection is a testament to the power of Springsteen’s live shows, the talents of The E Street Band, and the enduring quality of these songs.  So take a listen and share it with a friend or blood brother.

The collection is available now from digital download and streaming services, including Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify.

Bruce SpringsteenThe Live Series:  Songs of Friendship (Columbia/Legacy, 2019)

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2018-11-02. Official…
Springsteen on Broadway LP + Litho Bundle
Pre-Order:
Albums will ship on or around December 14th, 2018

This bundle includes the Springsteen on Broadway 4LP album and exclusive Springsteen on Broadway lithograph.

SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY is the new album of music and stories by Bruce Springsteen, and the soundtrack to the Netflix film of the same name. The album is the complete live performance of the show, and available physically as a 2 CD set, or on vinyl as a 4 LP set, as well as digitally.

Springsteen is previewing the record, with “Land of Hope and Dreams” the second-to-last song in the show’s running order. He premiered the song during his 1999-2000 reunion tour with the E Street Band, and has since released an in-concert version of it on 2001’s Live in New York City and a studio take on 2012’s Wrecking Ball.

Based on his 2016 memoir Born to Run, “Springsteen on Broadway”opened at the 975-seat Walter Kerr theater on October. 12, 2017. It consists of Springsteen telling the story of his life through his words and 15 songs, accompanied by his guitar and piano. His wife, Patti Scialfa, sings with him on two songs. SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY is the solo acoustic performance written and performed by Tony Award, Academy Award, and 20-time Grammy Award winner Bruce Springsteen. Based on his worldwide best-selling autobiography ‘Born to Run,’ SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY is a unique evening with Bruce, his guitar, a piano, and his very personal stories.

DISC 1, SIDE A
1. Growin’ Up (Introduction)
2. Growin’ Up
3. My Hometown (Introduction)
4. My Hometown

DISC 1, SIDE B
1. My Father’s House (Introduction)
2. My Father’s House
3. The Wish (Introduction)
4. The Wish

DISC 2, SIDE A
1. Thunder Road (Introduction)
2. Thunder Road
3. The Promised Land (Introduction)
4. The Promised Land

DISC 2, SIDE B
1. Born In the U.S.A. (Introduction)
2. Born In the U.S.A.
3. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Introduction)
4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

DISC 3, SIDE A
1. Tougher Than the Rest (Introduction)
2. Tougher Than the Rest
3. Brilliant Disguise (Introduction)
4. Brilliant Disguise
5. Long Time Comin’ (Introduction)
6. Long Time Comin’

DISC 3, SIDE B
1. The Ghost of Tom Joad (Introduction)
2. The Ghost of Tom Joad
3. The Rising

DISC 4, SIDE A
1. Dancing In the Dark (Introduction)
2. Dancing In the Dark
3. Land of Hope and Dreams

DISC 4, SIDE B
1. Born To Run (Introduction)
2. Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen’s historic sold-out series of performances of his one man show began previews on October 3rd, 2017 and officially opened October 12th, 2017. The show was extended three times after its initial eight-week run, and ran on Broadway at The Walter Kerr Theatre through December 15th, 2018, bringing the total number of performances to 236.

Bruce Springsteen’s ongoing live archives series finally landed on his 2002/03 Rising tour with the release of Helsinki, Finland June 16th, 2003. The show came nearly a year into the Rising tour and features classics like “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Prove It All Night” and “Badlands” mixed in with tracks from the Rising album like “Worlds Apart” and “Into The Fire” along with a cover of the rockabilly classic “Seven Nights to Rock.” It’s a bit of a surprising pick since fans never saw it as a particularly noteworthy show and the set list doesn’t contain any real surprises.

Fans have been clamoring for a Rising tour release ever since Springsteen began releasing vintage live recordings in late 2014, but technicals issues made it very difficult. “Rising” tour recordings were made on what was then a state-of-the-art DSD (Direct Stream Digital) system, the first to offer high-resolution audio in an easily transportable, multi-track recording unit,” reads a note on nugs.net by Erik Flannigan. “But 15 years later, the proprietary nature of the software and hardware elements in that system have caused what might best be described as forward-compatibility issues, making it challenging to restore the original recording files. Helsinki is the first successful result of ongoing efforts over the last several years to address the problems.”

Other recent Springsteen live releases include Chicago 9/30/99, London 6/5/81, Los Angeles 7/7/78 and New York 11/8/09. Nearly every tour from his long history has been spotlighted at this point, though they’ve yet to feature a show from the 1988 Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour or anything from his pre-fame days in Steel Mill or the Bruce Springsteen Band.

Bruce Springsteen has spent the entirety of this year focusing on his Broadway show, which wraps up December 15th.

Bruce Springsteen is continuing his ongoing Archive series.  Last month, he released a concert from 1978 that was promoting theDarkness on the Edge of Town album.  This month, he jumps forward three years to a gig to promote The River album: June 5th, 1981 at Wembley Arena in London, England.

The River was released on October 17th, 1980.  Springsteen and the E Street Band spent nearly a year on tour to promote the double album which had been their first to top the charts.  The first two legs of the tour had concentrated on the U.S. and Canada.  The third leg, which kicked off in April, 1981 saw the band playing dates in western Europe.  This was their first foray overseas since 1975 and the first time they had played a significant amount shows in the area.  Many European fans were introduced to Springsteen during this tour and he and the E Street Band have played overseas frequently in the decades since.

The June 5th concert was the final concert of a six-show stand at Wembley Arena and came at the very end of the European leg of the tour (only two shows in Birmingham, followed this concert).  The setlist of course features many cuts from The River album, but also throw in some interesting covers.  The first is a re-imagined version of Elvis Presley’s “Follow That Dream,” taken in a stark fashion with some new, original lyrics and an interpolation of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.”  Springsteen would record a studio version the tune during the Born in the USA sessions but ultimately leave it in the vaults.  Bruce would then further eulogize Presley with “Johnny Bye-Bye.”  The song is based upon Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny,” taking a few lines from that tune.  A studio version would later show up as the B-side to “I’m On Fire.”

The band also tackles Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain?,Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” another Presley tune with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “I Fought The Law,” made famous by The Bobby Fuller Four and covered by The Clash just a couple of years prior.  Another cover was that of the traditional Cajun song “Jole Blon.”  Springsteen had played on and produced Gary U.S. Bonds’ version of the song for Bonds’ Dedication album earlier in 1981.  The show wraps up with the familiar “Detroit Medley.”  Please note that the last 95 seconds of this medley are taken from a fan recording as the multi-track recording had stopped.

Perfect mix, super powerful performance. Almost every song sounds fresh and new. The ballads are full of feeling, the rockers are sung like there is no tomorrow. Bruce phrases the lyrics different at times, the band plays slightly different riffs

The concert was recorded live with the Mobile One Recording truck by Andy Rose with assistance from Tim Wybrow.  It has been mixed by Jon Altschiller from a 24 track 2″ 30 IPS tape source with additional engineering by Danielle Warman.  It has been mastered to DSD and PCM by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering in Portland, ME.

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocals, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, glockenspiel; Garry Tallent – Bass, backing vocal; Stevie Van Zandt – Guitar, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums

All previous volumes of The Bruce Springsteen Archive Series are available at Springsteen’s official live store for download and physical purchase.

Bruce Springsteen, Wembley Arena, London, 1981

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen has ended up every performance of his Springsteen on Broadway with “Born To Run” since the show launched in October 2017, but on Tuesday night, he decided to deviate from the script. “You’re a beautiful audience,” he told the crowd after finishing “Born To Run.” “You’re so good, you get the first encore ever…Feel free to take a picture.”

He then launched into “This Hard Land,” a song he originally recorded during the Born in the USA sessions in 1983 but wouldn’t play in concert for a decade. Springsteen would eventually release “This Hard Land” in 1995 on his Greatest Hits LP and it’s since become a semi-regular part of his live show and a fan favorite.

The decision to add in an additional song to the tightly-scripted, 15-song Springsteen on Broadway set came from Patti Scialfa’s inability to perform her usual duets “Tougher From the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise” with Springsteen. Springsteen has made extremely minor setlist variations to his Broadway show during its long run, most notably when Scialfia is absent and he removes their two duets in favor of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Long Time Comin’.” But he recently added “Joad” into the main set regardless of if Scialfa appears or not. With one song to fill in, Springsteen added the “This Hard Land” encore to not short-change the crowd.

Springsteen on Broadway is slated to end on December 15th, but in a new interview , he hinted that it might continue after that in some form. “I’m here until December,” he said when asked about the possibility of taking the show on the road. “We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see.

A new hardcover photography book focused squarely on Bruce Springsteen’s legendary Harvard Square Theatre performance on May 9th, 1974. With the E Street Band including Ernest “Boom” Carter, Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, David Sancious, and Garry Tallent, it’s also the night that inspired Jon Landau’s famous Real Paper review.
The evening of May 9th, 1974, is legendary in the annals of rock ’n’ roll. It was the night the little-known Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band opened for Bonnie Raitt at Harvard Square Theater, dazzling the critic Jon Landau into writing “I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen’’ in the local alternative weekly The Real Paper, one of the most revered gigs in rock history.
Springsteen’s band at the time of the Harvard Square booking featured a pianist with strong jazz and classical leanings, David Sancious. (He left in August 1974.) It is Sancious who makes the band’s first impression so strong, opening with a long, melancholy, and ruminative solo on “New York City Serenade’’ It slowly leads into Springsteen’s yearningly searching vocal, with the impressionistic, romanticized lyrics that seem part Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row’’ and part Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side’’ The song was aiming for theatrical grandeur and also reverent intimacy, and the effect it has on hushing an audience can still be felt today.

But then he moves away from that territory on “Spirit in the Night,’’ a song that still has its cryptically spooky Dylanesque lyrics but also builds into a more traditional soul shout-out, thanks to Clarence Clemons’s saxophone solo. The band then goes into soul-oldies heaven with a cover of “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,’’ which had been a 1962 girl-group hit. On these three songs and five others, it’s evident that Springsteen and his tightly rehearsed ensemble were trying simultaneously to draw from the music’s past and to create a future. This is the night they came to be forever recognized for it.

Rock and Roll Future is a collaboration between Backstreets Publishing and Barry Schneier, the only photographer in the venue that night 44 years ago. This is our first foray into online crowdfunding; it was quickly tapped as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter, and we reached our initial funding goal less than a week into our 30-day campaign.

Now that we’ve reached the minimum funding we needed to publish, our focus moves from the chance to make a book to how to make the best book we possibly can.The more backers we have by the campaign’s close on July 13th, the better we can make the finished product.

For the next 17 days, you can get exclusive Kickstarter rewards: early-bird pricing on the book… signed copies… beautiful photographs from the night as exclusive, signed prints, from 8×10 to 16×20… these are all still available when you pledge at various levels to support Rock and Roll Future.
Actually, Landau — who went on to become Springsteen’s manager — didn’t see the performance that can now be heard at the hall of fame. He went to the second show that night, when the set list not only was somewhat changed — Springsteen opened with “The E Street Shuffle’’ — but showcased a new song, “Born to Run.’’ Landau had seen Springsteen at a Cambridge club called Charlie’s Place just a month earlier.

Bruce Springsteen's 'Darkness on the Edge of Town': 10 Things You Didn't Know

On June 2nd, 1978, Bruce Springsteen released the album Darkness on the Edge of Town his first since 1975’s Born to Run had made him a big draw, it arrived after a lengthy lawsuit with his former manager Mike Appel where he was unable to enter a recording studio.

With three years on the sidelines because of the lawsuit with Appel an eternity at that time for a musician – Springsteen has said that he felt he needed to reintroduce himself. To make another dense record rooted in rock’s past,  In the three years between Born to Run and Darkness, he’d simply learned a lot and during this time he played some of the best live shows of his career. He spent a great deal of time in court, for one thing; he began listening to Hank Williams and old-time, class-conscious country music. He’d seen the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks and John Huston, and read the novels of John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos that Jon Landau had given him. The concerns of the lower-middle class became the concerns about which he began feeling most passionate, and those things are reflected in his writing, and his writing became more compact and direct as a result.

Although the lyrics didn’t directly reference the suit, his bitterness showed in the songwriting. Gone was the cinematic romanticism of his first three albums, replaced by stark portraits of blue-collar American life that would form the basis of Springsteen’s writing for the next decade.

Darkness On The Edge reached No. 5 on the Billboard albums chart, and the tour, where he and the E Street Band made their first ventures into headlining arenas, The tour solidified his reputation as one of the most exciting live acts in rock n’ roll. Many of its tracks, including “Badlands,” “The Promised Land” and “Prove It All Night” as well as the outtake “Because the Night” have still to this day continued to play an important role in his concerts to this day.

But the 10 songs released on Darkness represented a fraction of the music recorded for the album, with 57 song known titles recorded during the sessions, . Is “Darkness on the Edge of Town” Bruce Springsteen’s best album?.

Several other artists wound up benefiting from his surplus; Southside Johnny, Robert Gordon, Greg Kihn and Gary U.S. Bonds all recorded songs from this period that Springsteen felt didn’t jibe with the album’s bleak mood. But while “Prove It All Night” was the only single , two artists enjoyed massive hit smashes with his Darkness castoffs: The Pointer Sisters went all the way to Number Two with their recording of “Fire” – a song Springsteen claimed to have originally written in 1977 for Elvis Presley and Patti Smith scored the biggest hit single of her career with “Because the Night,” which reached  Number Five in the U.K charts.

Smith, who was recording her album Easter with Jimmy Iovine at the same time the latter was working on Darkness, took the unfinished “Because the Night” and added a verse inspired by her long-distance relationship with future husband Fred “Sonic” Smith. “I knew that I wasn’t going to finish the song, because it was a love song, and I really felt like I didn’t know how to write them at the time,” Springsteen recalled in The Promise, explaining his decision to give the song to Smith. “A real love song like ‘Because the Night,’ I was reticent to write; I think I was too cowardly to write at the time. But she was very brave. She had the courage.”

Darkness is the first Springsteen album where he sounds like the Springsteen whose legend was secured around this time. Springsteen finally found a way to match the yearning of youth with a grounded sense of adult experience, and it happened toward the end of a period of broad excess when the genre so badly needed it. The production is a wonder of amalgamation, too: He melded the West Coast’s spacious, very polished style with the power and force of Middle American and punk rock.

By the summer of 1977, the E Street Band – then consisting of guitarist Miami Steve Van Zandt, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, pianist Roy Bittan, organist Danny Federici, bassist Garry Tallent and drummer Max Weinberg  had become a road-hardened unit capable of bending almost telepathically to any of Springsteen’s musical whims, so it made perfect sense for Springsteen to record the songs for Darkness live in the studio with his band. Unfortunately, Springsteen’s endless search for the ultimate sound completely counteracted any efficiency that might have otherwise resulted from such an arrangement. Unhappy with the sounds they were getting at New York’s Atlantic Studios, Springsteen moved the recording sessions to the Record Plant, where he, co-producer Jon Landau and engineer Jimmy Iovine spent interminable weeks trying to capture the perfect drum sound.

Every song on the first side has a corresponding track on the second in the same sequence. “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” are about America, “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Factory” are about father-son relationships and so on.

Darkness on the Edge of Town is consistently among my top album from Springsteen’s catalog. I think the excruciating editing process he went through with this album speaks volumes about the focus and quality of the story he was telling at that time. What is the best song on the record?

As the opening song, “Badlands” not only sets the tone for everything that follows, it’s also a hell of an introduction to the album with those massive drums barreling into the picture. Every song on the album, more or less, stems from “Badlands.”

 “Racing in the Street,” because it turns the bombast of what came before completely inside out. If Born to Run was about the desperate desire to be free of your old life, your hometown and every preconceived notion, this album – and, my goodness, this song – was about what happens to those who were left behind. Even the expected early-career “car songs” tend to feature people lost in a cul-de-sac of regret. “Racing in the Street” is my favorite song by anybody. it was the perfect anthem  cruising around town, only realizing later that it had this other meaning. How anyone can comprehend how Springsteen wrote that last verse, given that he hadn’t yet been in a serious relationship. “Racing in the Street” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The story he tells in the former is so specific and evocative that it really haunts the listener. That’s why it’s not even surprising when the couple from “Racing” ages a decade or two, and reappears, as I see it, in “Darkness.” Springsteen couldn’t get them out of his head any more than I could, and the stunning outro gives the listener time to contemplate their fate. It also remains phenomenal to me that early versions of the song didn’t even include the little girl he drove away.

“Racing in the Street” is a great narrative and a great song. The lyrics speak of desolation, lost chances and the things the desperate do just to live, both in the world and with themselves. Springsteen gives those words life and breath, and puts his voice in the middle of it all; there’s no separating it from either the story or the telling of it. The music is stark and brooding — it’s a keyboard song on a guitar album, and Roy Bittan and Danny Federici refuse to leaven the mood as they might on other songs. Bittan’s piano figure that runs through the song is every bit the match for the lyrics, and then Federici wraps an organ countermelody around the piano. … God, it gives me chills to this day.

The outtakes found on Tracks and The Promise show him writing very different material than what was released on the final album, the best tracks, sound like more chapters to the Darkness story. While the outtakes were informative, in particular for completists, they only confirmed Bruce Springsteen’s brilliance as an editor Darkness on the Edge of Town still sounds perfectly balanced. He was writing all these great songs rooted in ’60s pop and R&B like “Talk to Me,” “Save My Love” and “Ain’t Good Enough for You.” The finished product only reflected one side of him. And I like the idea of Jon Landau whispering in one ear about the art of the rock album and Steven Van Zandt in the other about more hit singles.  It gave me an even greater appreciation for his creative vision. He went through an agonizing period of writing and editing to arrive at the final product that was true to the feelings he wanted to evoke. He writes fantastic songs, and there are quite a few in those outtakes, but they didn’t fit the theme. When you have so many songs, and great ones at that, those are tough decisions to make. Dilute the album’s message or let the songs languish in the vault? But I’ve always felt that one of Springsteen’s gifts to his fans is that he has allowed us to look back at his editing process. I’ve always appreciated a peak at his rewriting, and how he’s not afraid to hold onto a a piece of music or lyric when he doesn’t think he’s done justice to it yet.

I’d read interviews with him in the past talking about how he’d write something like “Fire” or “Rendezvous” or “Bring on the Night” and have to set them aside, because they didn’t fit the tone of the work he was recording. To hear some of those songs on Tracks and The Promise was great, The overarching thing I take away from them (and from the outtakes from The River) was just how mind-blowingly prolific a songwriter he was at the time. Like, two-albums-a-year prolific.

Almost every other song on Darkness sounds epic, both in the lyrics and the music. “Factory” is a quiet, personal ode to his father that scales down the album’s bigger themes. If replaced with “The Promise” which is way closer to what Darkness is all about. Plus, they’re both slower cuts, so it would fit into that missing slot perfectly.

The other songs tend to feel like they were left off for a reason because of differences in production values, because they are clearly unfinished or (quite often, actually) because upbeat tracks like “Save My Love” and “Gotta Get That Feeling” just don’t fit thematically. That said, the brilliantly ambiguous “Breakaway” might just have made the cut.

“The Promise” belongs on there, but you couldn’t find anything better that’s thematically similar to go in its place (“The Brokenhearted,” “City of Night”?). It could have another kinda love song, “Don’t Look Back.”

I do think “The Promise” would have made a great addition. It’s among his most heartbreaking, and fits well with the tone of the record. In addition “Racing in the Street” I’d surely go with the one he chose for Darkness, but the sped up recording on The Promise really hits the spot sometimes.

“Hearts of Stone,” is another great song which Springsteen gave to Southside Johnny, but which also was a standout cut on the Tracks box.

The new remasters collection Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996 makes a strong case for the artistic value of Springsteen’s E Street-less, mid-period output. Starting with 1987’s Tunnel Of Love, it was no longer really Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Despite the occasional presence of various bandmates on the album and subsequent tour, the signs were already there for his creative restlessness and decision to separate from the group to pursue different avenues of making music. (He made the split official in 1989.) And to hear tell of it in various biographies and assessments of his career through the years, Springsteen spent most of the next decade wandering the artistically frustrated desert, on albums and tours that lacked the passion and vision of his earlier work. The limited-edition release Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996 probably isn’t going to convince anyone that the Boss was better off without his once and future band than with it, but what it does do is make a cohesive and convincing argument for the merit of his work during this creatively searching era—yes, even the stuff with the really crappy production values.

When Springsteen published his memoir Born To Run in 2016, it was clear he didn’t want to talk much more than he already had in interviews about the hiatus of the E Street Band or the interpersonal and creative tensions that led to his decision. He barely spends two pages on it, admitting his own role in the issues, but seems to summarize it with, “I felt I’d become not just a friend and employer for some, but also banker and daddy.” The recording of the simultaneously released Human Touch and Lucky Town is omitted entirely, and aside from discussions about his personal life, much of these years is dismissed by him as his “mid-’90s drift.” It’s too bad he glosses over it, because as is made clear by the engrossing 60-page book of photos, press clippings, and interviews accompanying this new collection, there’s a lot to be said about what he was trying to achieve with each of these albums.

Tunnel Of Love is perhaps the most contentious of these records. Hailed as a masterwork of a newly mature artist upon its initial release, it was subsequently criticized for its production and lack of consistent E Street input, with Springsteen playing many of the instruments himself. (The only thing he never attempted was drums, with Max Weinberg providing the sporadic percussion.) But while the cheesy keyboards and digitally fussy drums do indeed make some of the songs harder to listen to with fresh ears, one of the best elements of the newly remastered edition of this long-out-of-print vinyl is the very deliberate minimization of the hokier instrumentation, and teasing out the guitars wherever possible. Even “Brilliant Disguise,” an excellent song that became a hit for a reason, sounds a little crisper and less late-’80s smooth. But to take the time to study Tunnel Of Love closely is to again marvel at some of the finest lyrics of Springsteen’s career. From the solo vocal performance that kicks off “Ain’t Got You” to the muted angst of “Valentine’s Day,” the subtlety and depth of these songs about complicated adult love shine. It’s a strange beast for a record from the Boss, but it’s a hell of a successful one-off experiment.

From there, things admittedly get a little muddled. Human Touch and Lucky Town are the twin pillars of his respective artistic tactics: the former an agonized and fussed-over result of several years of obsessive workaday grind, the latter a three-week burst of raw and loose inspiration. Lucky Town is undeniably the superior of the two simultaneous releases, suggesting Springsteen was indeed at loose ends over the direction his music should take, finding more success in the fuck-it attitude of just unleashing some rock and hoping it worked. It’s the sound of him trying to genuinely create the feeling of rock ’n’ roll as a revivalist celebration, chasing that near-religious fervor his concerts are often credited with having. Hence the three backing female singers, shouting out refrains like they were gospel—he wanted it to sound like the gospel of rock. At the time it mustn’t have been clear he was pushing this angle too hard, chasing it too blatantly, as opposed to the vibe arriving organically from the music. The bluesy American roots rock that pops up is solid, but too often harnessed to his church-hymnal instincts. (“Souls Of The Departed” is just a hair’s breadth away from being an all-time killer rock song.) It’s a good album that should’ve been great.

Human Touch, by contrast, does many of the same things as Lucky Town, only milder and with less success. While some of it can be chalked up to his insistence on playing so many of the parts himself, thereby denying himself superior musicianship on the instruments, his session players did him no real favors either, especially Randy Jackson’s uninspired bass. Similarly, the songs often sound like the result of a guy in an echo chamber, demoing to a 4/4 beat on a drum machine and then not being pushed to vary those beats in the rhythm section. Great songs intermittently appear—“Gloria’s Eyes” cooks, and “I Wish I Were Blind” overcomes its generic-ballad orchestration to deliver a moving elegy—but it’s not enough to overcome dreck like “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” Human Touch, as he discusses in the lengthy Rolling Stoneinterview functioning as the accompanying book’s centerpiece, was who he was in the wake of his post-Tunnel divorce; Lucky Town was the direction he was moving. It was clearly the better direction to go.

But even with the albums being this uneven, the accompanying live record and EP demonstrate Springsteen’s power remained largely undimmed. 1993’s In Concert: MTV Plugged is an hour straight of killer live music, showing how even weaker studio tracks like “Man’s Job” get a rush of energy and power from the Boss in full onstage swagger. Plus, it provides previously unreleased tracks “Red Headed Woman” and the spectacular “Light Of Day,” long a set-closer during the era. But it also showcases what people don’t like about this era of Springsteen: He basically cedes lead instrument duties to keyboardist Roy Bittan, the keys taking pride of place in mixing and songwriting, never more apparent than in the full-band version of “Atlantic City.” It’s a hell of a show, but it does minimize Springsteen’s ax work far too much. The EP Chimes Of Freedom (from the Amnesty International charity tour in ’88) features four killer performances, one of them a cover of Bob Dylan’s title tune.

The Ghost Of Tom Joad stubbornly resists alteration in remastering. The record is an odd admixture of spare Nebraska-style minimalism (even more so, really, with the acoustic guitar barely audible at times) and the swooning high-gloss production that has always been his weakness. It’s a two-pronged strategy that would find better synthesis—if uneven results—on Devils & Dust, but that nonetheless contains some moments as good as anything he’s done. Songs like “Highway 29” and the title track find a fusion of wordy poetry and sparse melodism that elevate the material, but it’s occasionally too flat musically to really land, stripped-down folktales easier to admire than enjoy. Still, it stands as a coda to this era of Bruce’s wandering muse, finding meaning in the stories of the Mexican-American borderlands that feel more relevant than ever.

Blood Brothers(his much-vaunted E Street reunion to provide new tracks for the Greatest Hits release) is a superb five-song blitz, even if it now looks like little more than a tease for the reunited greatness to come. Still, taken as a whole, these records function as a kind of musical travelogue that saw the guy who made the world-conquering Born In The U.S.A. spend a creatively frustrating decade reinventing himself into the again-master songwriter and bandleader that would see the 2000s deliver on the promise of his former excellence. The path to get there was rocky, but filled with enough magic to make it worthy of appreciation in its own right.

The Album Collection Vol 2.  This release spans the period of 1987-1996, picking up where Volume 1 – released back in November 2014 – left off.  It’s due on May 18th from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings on vinyl only.  Unlike the previous box set, no CD release has been announced.

Volume 2 contains four studio albums, one live album, and two EPs on 10 vinyl LPs – all remastered by Bob Ludwig and Toby Scott from the original analogue masters.  The set chronicles Springsteen’s adventurous, experimental period during and following the dissolution of The E Street Band.  While the band’s members are all present in guest spots on 1987’s Tunnel of Love(and the band would tour the album) it was a mostly solo, introspective affair highlighted by such standout tracks as “Brilliant Disguise,” “Tougher than the Rest,” “One Step Up,” and the title track.  Tunnel Of Love is followed by the pair of albums released by Springsteen on the same day, March 31, 1992: Human Touch and Lucky Town.  Though Roy Bittan was on board as a musician and co-producer, the only other E Streeters to make an appearance on Human Touch were Patti Scialfa and former member David Sancious.

The album instead welcomed studio veterans like Jeff Porcaro and Randy Jackson as well as background vocals from Sam Moore of Sam and Dave and Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers.  Human Touch scored hits with its title song and “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).”  Lucky Town employed a sparer sound and seemingly a more personal approach than Human Touch.  Bittan and Scialfa were on hand, along with drummer Gary Mallaber, Randy Jackson, The Faces’ Ian McLagan, and future E Street touring member Soozie Tyrell.  The album yielded favorites such as “Better Days” and “If I Should Fall Behind.”

The box continues with 1993’s live album In Concert/MTV Plugged (featuring Bittan, Scialfa, and Bruce’s touring band) and then with 1995’s The Ghost of Tom Joad, a dark, stripped-down spiritual sequel to Nebraska that was hailed by many as his best album in years, and certainly his most adventurous.  Garry Tallent, Danny Federici, Scialfa, and Tyrell all contributed to the album.  Two EPs round out the box’s contents.  1988’s Chimes of Freedom was released in support of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! tour.  Anchored by a cover of Bob Dylan’s title song, it also featured live versions of “Tougher than the Rest,” “Born to Run,” and the rare B-side “Be True.”  Blood Brothers, the second EP, was originally released in 1996 to coincide with a film of the same name chronicling The E Street Band’s temporary reunion to record additional tracks for Springsteen’s Greatest Hits LP (which isn’t included in this box set but will be released on vinyl for Record Store Day on April 21).  Blood Brothers has five tracks from the reunited band – four from the studio sessions and one (“Murder Incorporated”) live, as heard in the song’s music video.

In Concert/MTV Plugged makes its U.S. vinyl debut in this box set, while Blood Brothers is a worldwide vinyl premiere.  A 60-page book featuring memorabilia, photos, and period press clippings is included with the set.

Look for The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996 from Columbia/Legacy on May 18th.

Bruce Springsteen, The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996 (Columbia/Legacy, 2018) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada Links TBD)

LPs 1-2: Tunnel of Love (Columbia OC 40999, 1987)
LPs 3-4: Human Touch (Columbia C 53000, 1992)
LP 5: Lucky Town (Columbia C 53001, 1992)
LPs 6-7: In Concert/MTV Plugged (Columbia CK 68730, 1993) **
LP 8: The Ghost of Tom Joad (Columbia C 67484, 1995)
LP 9: Chimes of Freedom (Columbia 4C 44445, 1988)
LP 10: Blood Brothers (Columbia CSK 8879, 1996) *

Springsteen 11/8/96

This memorable homecoming stop on the Tom Joad tour sees Springsteen return to Freehold and his parochial school, St. Rose of Lima  Gymnasium in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey on November 8th, 1996.. Joined by special guests Patti Scialfa and Violinist Soozie Tyrell joined in on six songs including “The River” and “Racing in the Street.”  Patti Scialfa added backing vocals to three songs with Springsteen and Tyrell, including the second-ever performance of “When You’re Alone” from the Tunnel of Love album.  It has only been performed live 10 times since this concert.   Bruce reminisces and tears up the set list for nine tour debuts, including “The River,” “Two Hearts” “Racing in the Street,” and a rare “When You’re Alone” and the only tour performances of “Open All Night,” “Used Cars” and “My Hometown.” The concert was capped off by the premiere of a song Springsteen had written especially for the occasion: “Freehold.”  The nine-minute number has Bruce recollecting some of his experiences growing up in the town.  It has never had a studio version released and has only been performed infrequently since its debut at this show.

Springsteen offered reminisces about his time growing up in Freehold during the concert.  Most of the concert featured Bruce going through the core of his his normal setlist from the Joad tour, but there were some variations especially chosen for the night.  Out of the 25 songs performed, nine were making their tour premieres.

This concert came in the middle of Springsteen’s solo acoustic tour for the Ghost of Tom Joad album.  However, this performance was even more intimate than most on the tour.  With all proceeds benefitting the Latino community center at the St. Rose of Lima Church, the concert was held in the church’s gymnasium with all attendees sitting in bleacher or folding chairs.  Tickets were only available to Freehold residents.

All volumes of The Bruce Springsteen Archive Series, plus concerts from 2014, 2016 and 2017, are available at Springsteen’s official live store for download and physical purchase.