Bruce Springsteen - The Essential - Essential listening

2006-03-29 18:37

Kicking off with the Dylan fuelled electric folk rock of "Blinded by the Light" and "For You" (off Greetings from Asbury Park) the journey moves from the jazzy E-street Shuffle of "4th of July" and "Rosalita" to the epic rock glory of "Thunder Road" and the swaggering "Born to Run". But by the time of the working class disillusionment of "Badlands", "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and "The Promised Land" you realise that Springsteen was clearly following an anti heroic path to rock redemption. It's something that found full voice in the stark lyricism of "Nebraska and "Atlantic City" which makes the triumphant trio of tracks from 1984's Born in the USA all the more liberating listens. "Dancing in the Dark", "Glory Days" and the title track finally testify to the birth of the Boss as a bona fide rock star investing working class hero themes with a rampant anthemic flow.

While hardcore fans might quibble the absence of the retro rock 'n roll ditty "Pink Cadillac" or the aching "I'm on Fire", desolate acoustic ballads like "The Ghost of Tom Joad", the liberating romp "The Rising" and the Oscar winning "Streets of Philadelphia" all showcase Springsteen's stirring songcraft. Of course, this is nowhere more evident than on the gut wrenching live renditions of "American Skin (41 Shots)" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" both previously only available on Live in New York City (2001).

A third "bonus" disc proves to be a perfect companion piece of previously unreleased tracks, B-sides ("None but the Brave"), covers (Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped") and movie themes ("Dead Man Walking"). But it's the snapshots of Springsteen as a jukebox rocker ("Viva Las Vegas"), a folk singing balladeer ("County Fair") and a country blues picker ("Countin' on a Miracle") that make this such essential listening.

- Miles Keylock

Take a listen to some of the tracks mentioned in this review. Click the track to hear it. You'll need a soundcard.

Read our review of 2005's Devils & Dust

If ever a compilation matched up to its own marketing tag, then this triple disc, 42-track overview of Bruce Springsteen's 30 year and 16 album strong career is it. Far more than merely a "greatest hits" collection, The Essential looks beyond familiar chart-topping anthems mapping the diverse scope of the Boss' musical output.

Goda 2004/01/26 9:54 AM
Boys love him Seriously, why is it that every guy has this massive soft spot for Bruce? They're nuts about him. Sometimes they pretend they're not and then one day, you've having a perfectly normal evening and suddenly they start going on about either Nebraska, or The River. I prefer the Nebraska ones, but every guy likes one of the other. I reckon I'm doing well if I never date anyone who's favourite album is Born to Run. I set achievable goals. Dave Matthews' latest
Quinton 2004/01/28 8:50 AM
The Boss Have the previous compilation on a 5 LP box set (yes I'm THAT old :-) Hope "Fire" that he wrote for the Pointer Sisters is on the CD - the Boss @ his best! If you don't have Nebraska, you don't have culture
Gert 2004/01/28 10:21 AM
The Boss is Boss An excellent compilation spanning Springsteen's whole career. How could one choose 30 songs out of 30 year career? As Springsteen says in the sleevenotes..."one man's coffee is another man's tea, one man's whiskey..." Springsteen and the E Street band Live 75 - 85
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