Posts Tagged ‘Tunnel Of Love’

Madison Square Garden 19'88

The final U.S. stop on the Tunnel of Love tour is a powerful showcase for the album along with rare Springsteen originals and covers. Bolstering core Tunnel tracks are non-album gems “Be True,” “Seeds,” “Part Man, Part Monkey” and “Light of Day,” while Bruce taps his R&B, rock, blues and folk roots for covers of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel,” Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” and even a couple verses of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.” Plus, a soundcheck bonus track cover of Ed Townsend’s “For Your Love

Thirty years after it rolled across America and Europe, we continue to view the Tunnel of Love Express Tour as a career inflection point, a period marked by heart-heavy shifts in Springsteen’s life even as the concerts were taking place. Professionally, key relationships were evolving, too, as it is well established that the decision to tour with the E Street Band in support of what was really a solo album was not a foregone conclusion.

Even as Bruce and the band took to the road in February ’88, conscious decisions were made to alter established E Street archetypes. Band members switched their usual spots on stage, swapping sides to presumably shake things up. There was a subtle yet telling change to the billing, too, as the long-standing “Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band” moniker was altered to “Bruce Springsteen featuring the E Street Band.” The core setlist for the tour served as another point of departure from the familiar (more on that to come).

Why making those moves seemed so meaningful at the time we can only infer, but Springsteen’s desire to do things differently was undeniable.

Today, the personal and professional changes surrounding Springsteen at the time (and what was to follow on both fronts) are inextricably tied to the Tunnel era and remain something of a filter through which we view the tour. Less considered is what powerful fuel both provided to 1988 performances.

Whatever switching stage positions or altering the billing effected, make no mistake: this was a full E Street Band outing, and the E Street Band has never played with more self-assurance than they do on the Tunnel of Love tour. The addition of the horn section only boosted the horsepower of their already mighty engine.

While one cannot presume to know what Springsteen was going through that year, an armchair psychologist might suggest that however traumatic and draining such a period of emotional upheaval may be, it can also trigger a profound recognition of what it means to feel alive. As you listen to Madison Square Garden 1988, there is a strong sense of a performer truly living in the moment. Pair that with a band playing at its peak and an ambitious setlist, and you have the stuff of the extraordinary.

How in the moment? Listen to Springsteen’s vocals on the final verse and chorus of “Boom Boom,” which careen between shrieking falsetto and full-throated bluesman. His scintillating guitar solo starting at 5:02 of “Born in the U.S.A.” and carrying on for well over a minute soars with the clarion ring of pure emotional catharsis. On the Darkness and River tours, Bruce laid it all on the line every night to convert the masses. At MSG ‘88, the motivation feels far more personal. Just maybe, performing itself is what provides a path through what he calls later in the show, “the goddamn darkness.”

And then there’s that incredible setlist. The Tunnel tour is notable for featuring so many non-album tracks and cover songs. MSG boasts five Springsteen originals not featured on a studio album: “Be True” (the River b-side, also released on Tracks), “Seeds” (a Born in the U.S.A. outtake, officially released in a live version on Live/1975-85), “Part Man, Part Monkey” (a Tunnel outtake, re-recorded during Human Touch and released as a b-side in 1992 and on Tracks in 1998), “Light of Day” (covered by Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox in Paul Schrader’s film of the same name, but never released in studio form by Bruce himself) and “I’m a Coward.” Some may consider “I’m a Coward” a cover, and while it was clearly inspired by Geno Washington’s “Geno Is A Coward” (penned by Ronald Davis), Springsteen’s song bears little musical resemblance to the original and shares only a couple of lyrics (perhaps making it more akin to “Johnny Bye-Bye”). There are no known studio recordings of the song; “I’m a Coward” only exists in its Tunnel tour performances.

All five songs are in the baseline Tunnel setlist, which by Springsteen standards was relatively rigid, especially for the first couple of months of the tour. Things started to loosen up around the time of the five-night LA stand (from which the April 23, 1988 performance was previously released as part of the live download series). As the tour worked its way north up the coast and across the country on its last leg, a few new additions (notably “Have Love, Will Travel” and “Boom Boom”) stuck.

The setlist for the final U.S. show at Madison Square Garden strikes an enthralling balance between core Tunnel tour material, recent adds, and a couple of specials just for the Big Apple. In contrast to opening night of the tour in Worcester in February, there are 13 variations between the two shows.

To those five originals, MSG ‘88 adds seven cover songs: John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” The Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel,” Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” and Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” Throw in two full verses and the chorus to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” inside of “Light of Day,” and the count pushes to eight.

On top of that, Tunnel arrangements of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and “Born to Run” are completely reimagined. “You Can Look” is performed in a rockabilly style similar to its earliest incarnation during the River sessions, while “Born to Run” is played solo acoustic, an affecting arrangement that survived all the way to Bruce on Broadway.

All told, nearly half the Tunnel setlist sits outside the core canon while also boldly eschewing such staples as “Badlands,” “Thunder Road” and “The Promised Land.” In fact, the only song that was a Tunnel tour regular from the stalwart Darkness on the Edge of Town is the pulsing, horn-driven version of “Adam Raised a Cain.” 1988 setlists were truly out of the ordinary, no more so than this night.

Madison Square Garden 1988 also features the first bonus track in the download series with the inclusion of “For Your Love,” recorded during the 5/23 soundcheck. The song was a modest hit for Ed Townsend in 1958. Springsteen’s interpretation moves the tune from earnest R&B ballad territory to something closer to light reggae. While that might seem like a stretch, on the Jersey Shore club scene just a year earlier, Springsteen sat in three times with reggae act Jah Love, and a bit of that vibe comes through here (and for that matter, in “Part Man, Part Monkey”).

“For Your Love,” like so many of the cover songs surveyed during the Tunnel tour, appears to be born from the kinship between Springsteen and the horn section. Led by Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg, the five-piece Horns of Love brought a shared musical knowledge that made them utterly simpatico with Bruce’s fondness for lost pop treasures. Even as early tour setlists went mostly unchanged, tour soundchecks often featured wide-ranging covers, and eventually some of the songs they were playing for themselves found their way into the set proper.

The Horns of Love are essential to covers like the barnstorming “Boom Boom” and the Northwest garage-rock nugget “Have Love, Will Travel,” but equally so to the unique Tunnel arrangements of songs like “Cover Me” (powerfully tagged with a few lines from the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”), the pile-driving “Spare Parts,” and, most strikingly, the aforementioned “Adam Raised a Cain.” “Adam” had gone un-played since the Darkness tour before being vivified in its 1988 edition. As impressive as the song was every night of the tour, the tag of Muddy Waters’ “I’m a Man” here adds even more declarative grit.

The sonic signature of the Tunnel tour is distinct, too, and Jon Altschiller’s mix accurately pushes Bruce’s and Nils’ guitars forward in the overall wall of sound. But the heart and soul of this Express are the horn section and Clarence Clemons, who together add exceptional texture, punch, and irresistible melodic runs all night long. The Big Man is on his game, and his showcase work on “Be True” remains a tour highlight, reigniting one of Springsteen’s finest b-sides. His hype-man vocal responses during Bruce’s evangelical intro to “I’m a Coward” are another slice of pure joy in MSG ‘88.

Let’s also credit the E Street Band for their sympathetic backing on Tunnel of Love tracks, some of which stand along Springsteen’s best songwriting ever. They may have begun as solo creations, but the live versions of “Two Faces,” “Brilliant Disguise,” “One Step Up” and “Tougher Than the Rest” are splendid, and in some ways more fully realized than their studio counterparts. Kudos, too, for the band’s ability to switch gears seamlessly, tackling Guthrie’s bluesy “Vigilante Man” (featuring Nils Lofgren on pedal steel guitar), Steppenwolf’s hard-rocking “Born to Be Wild,” and Jackie Wilson’s soulful “Lonely Teardrops” with equal flair. Special shout-out to Roy Bittan as well for his captivating piano introduction to “Spare Parts.”

The show goes into celebration mode after “Born to Run,” and even Jon Landau gets in on the fun, joining the band on guitar for the rest of the uplifting encore. The concert ends with “Lonely Teardrops,” one of only three performances ever. It’s a song about yearning and a fitting end to a performance that is equal parts heart-wrenching and exhilarating, two attributes befitting a ride through the Tunnel of Love.

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) *

DYNAMIC LATE 1980S BROADCAST FROM THE TUNNEL OF LOVE TOUR For Bruce Springsteen, the 1980s were as turbulent as they were rewarding and accomplished. The release of 84 s Born In The U.S.A. and the quintuple live LP collection Live/1975-85 were met with the kind of success very few music artists ever achieve. Selling in excess of 50 million copies combined (and counting), their respective triumphs and the subsequent media frenzy pushed Springsteen onto rock s top table, and between 15th June and 10th August 1985, every one of his seven studio albums featured on the UK Albums Chart, the first time in history that an artist s entire catalogue had charted simultaneously. His 1980s output concluded on a surprisingly sombre note however, with the release of Tunnel Of Love in 1987, an album on which Springsteen recorded most of the instruments himself with only occasional appearances from members of the E Street Band. The tone was more subdued than his mid-decade output, reflecting on his failing marriage to Julianne Phillips through slower, reflective ballads. But, while nowhere near as successful as Born… or Live…, the record still garnered a respectable four million sales worldwide. In 1988, Springsteen and the E Street Band embarked on the Tunnel Of Love Express Tour, which further bemused his faithful audience. In comparison to the Born In The U.S.A. Tour, each show began more theatrically with the band entering to the sound of a five piece horn section. The band s usual positions on the stage were switched, and backing vocalist Patti Scialfa – whose relationship with Springsteen would be made public during the European leg of the tour – took centre stage. Spontaneous onstage antics were also kept to a minimum. Many of Springsteen’s most popular live numbers were dropped completely from his now shorter sets, replaced by a selection of B-sides, previously unreleased tunes and covers. In spite of this though, the shows were warmly received by critics and fans alike, with Springsteen s Rocking The Wall performance in East Germany on 19th July, before an audience of 300,000, becoming recognised as one of the most historically important concerts of the era. The gig included on this CD was recorded on 3rd July 88 at Stockholm s Olympic Stadium. Simultaneously broadcast across FM radio in exceptional audio quality, Springsteen mixes some older numbers – The River , Adam Raised A Cain , Born In The U.S.A. – with a selection from Tunnel Of Love, as well as playing covers from the likes of John Lee Hooker and Edwin Starr. The result, which thanks to this release can now be heard by all, is a truly dynamic, albeit unconventional, live performance by Bruce and the E Street-ers.

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Upon its release in October, 1987, Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love proved an unexpected follow-up to the phenomenally successful Born in the USA. Musically it was a departure – The E-Street Band, who had been prominent fixtures on all but one of the New Jersey singer-songwriter’s albums previously, were present but only partly contributing to the material, most of which Springsteen performed himself using synthesisers and drum machines. More significant was the lyrical subject matter of this new material. Where he had made his name articulating the struggles of everyday, blue collar Americans, with Tunnel of Love Springsteen switched his focus to examine the intimate struggles of relationships, and this was apparently autobiographical.
In 1984, during the Born in the USA Tour, Springsteen had been introduced to actress Julianne Phillips. A whirlwind romance followed, with the pair wedding in secret on May 13th the following year. Yet just as quickly as it had been ignited, the passion between the couple subsided, and it would later become clear that Tunnel of Love was in part a document of the breakdown of this relationship.

The public was unaware of Springsteen’s marital discord when he and the E-Street Band embarked on the Tunnel of Love Express Tour in February, 1988, and both critics and fans were instead focused on the new stage show, which was as unexpected as the album itself. Backed by the ‘Horns of Love’, a five-piece ensemble, the bombast and raw energy of the past was replaced by a more muted and precise approach to performance, while the set-list proved static and surprising, Springsteen digging up rarely performed numbers and proving reluctant to simply run through established favourites. The private entanglements of the band leader would themselves come to light as part of the stage show, however, with backing singer Patti Scialfa, who had joined the E-Street Band three years previously, became an increasingly prominent part of the performances, her vocal partnerships with Springsteen brimming with sexual energy.
The show presented on Tunnel Vision, recorded in Stockholm and simulcast on radio stations across the US, captures this new formulation of the E-Street Band in what would be a live production unique to this tour, with Patti Scialfa coming to the fore on soaring versions of ‘Tunnel of Love’, ‘Cover Me’ and ‘Brilliant Disguise’. It is a remarkable document of Bruce Springsteen in the process of re-evaluating both his life and his music, with his band fully committed to this new approach.

1. Tunnel Of Love
2. Boom Boom
3. Adam Raised a Cain
4. The River
5. All That Heaven Will Allow
6. Seeds
7. Roulette
8. Cover Me
9. Brilliant Disguise
10. Tougher Than The Rest
11. Spare Parts
12. War
13. Born In The USA