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An album by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

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Some Music Should Be Mandatory Listening!!!

  • Sep 4, 2000
Pros: Three CD's of pure magic

Cons: We are going to have to wait for part II

Few artist can put out a three CD live set and the major complaint you hear is that it does not have enough of his music! That is the case with Springsteen's Live/1975-85. This collection encompasses the glory years of America's premier singer/songwriter. His music is an extension of our lives and his voice is the voice of the masses.

Even though he has moved beyond the blue collar music of yesteryear, he will always be remembered as the man who could pen the songs that spoke to a whole generation. With his maturing of late, it is almost as if he has turned the page and started a new chapter in the Springsteen story.

This is not bad, it is the continuation of what he has sang about for years. The American Dream. He has finally reached it and is living it. More power to him.

But he is also a man that has never forgot his roots. The songs on this collection are as much a part of him as they are a part of rock and roll history. In this collection, Bruce touches on the subjects that everyone has had to deal with at one time or another. His music is so real that I can safely say that no one in this wide country will not be able to find at least one song they can relate to. That is the magic of Springsteen. There is no songs of mythical proportion. There is only true life guts and glory!

The first time that I saw Bruce in concert, I was completely unprepared for what was going to happen. I though of him as the guy that put on a very long show but I never expected the brilliance that I was about to behold.

The lights go down and a piano starts to play a very familiar melody. Then all of a sudden a darken figure starts walking out from the back of the stage playing a harmonica. As he reaches the microphone he puts down the harmonica and starts to sing the opening lines of one of the greatest songs in the history of rock and roll, "Thunder Road." With the first notes that he sings, chills run down your spine. I have never felt that way before at any concert. At that moment, I knew, I was witnessing something very, very special!!!

The version he does of Thunder Road on this album is a little different. It has only the piano as background music. This treatment gives the song a haunting and eerie quality. Even though the original song has a very powerful musical quality, this version gives emphasis on the equally dynamic lyrics. It does not get much better than this. Roy Bittan is wonderful in his piano arrangement. Bruce is remarkable in the way he delivers this tale of middle America. Truly a classic in every sense of the word!

After taking your breath away with that opening, Bruce straps on the stratocaster and jumps into one of his most electrifying songs, "Adam Raised A Cain." This is a song where you can hear the power of Bruce's guitar! He does not do many songs that are as loud and as hard rocking as this cruncher. His playing here is some of the best guitar work on any of his albums. (Electric that is.) But that is not the only thing that this song has going for it. Bittan again is awesome on the piano. The harmonies are superb and drummer Max Weinberg delivers a great performance also. This song is a real scorcher!!

Springsteen reaches back to his early days for the next song. The funky rocker "Spirit In The Night." This song which features the band at their East Coast jazzed up best. This song is one of those choppy bits of Jersey shore R & B that is infectious to listen to. Bruce can deliver a great little growl when needed! Clarence Clemmons does a fantastic job of injecting some fantastic sax playing into this quality good time piece!

The band stays with the old stuff on the next song, "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)." This is the first song where Bruce slows it down a bit. Bruce gives us a glimpse of life in New Jersey in this song that really gives you the feel of being down there on the boardwalk. The tinkling piano of Bittan again gives the perfect backdrop to this early song of Springsteen's. Listening to it now, you can see just how great of a songwriter he was even in the early days. He just didn't have the polish yet.

"Paradise By The "C" is one of the earliest of Bruce's show stoppers. This song is one where each band member gets his moment in the spotlight. It starts with Clemmon's fine sax, then we switch to Danny Federici on the organ. You get a little more Clarence before Bruce takes over on guitar and gives a fiery performance before the whole band takes it on home in this super instrumental song.

The next number is one that Bruce penned but it became popular by the Pointer Sisters. "Fire" starts out as a slow burning flame, with a thumbing bass line behind the whispered vocals of Bruce. Then the band slowly creeps in and takes this song to a high energy rocker! What a great torch song in this version that not many know is an original.

One of m favorite early Bruce songs is the next one, "Growin' Up." Bruce turns this song into a real scorching rocker here! I always have loved the way that Bittan maintained a very sedated keyboard while the music does this spiral all around him. What a great arrangement. On this album Bruce also adds a great little personal note in this song. His parents are in the audience and he tells a little tale about what his parents thought about his rock and roll dream. This is a nice little touch. It adds another dimension to this song.

A musical explosion takes you into the next song. A pumped up, 100mph version of the song "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City." This song is another song that blends the East Coast R & B with the tough edged rock and roll of Springsteen. He provides you with some of his most powerful guitar playing amidst the turmoil of the swirling piano and thumping bass. A great song that fires me up every time I hear it.

Another great song, (I will say that many times by the end of this review) is the dynamite tune "Backstreets." This song has such a great introduction. A great piano piece with Bittan playing for all he is worth. Weinberg provides a crescendo building drum line that takes this song into Bruce's guitar. At this point, the song has that anthem quality that is so prevalent in Springsteen's music. It is almost as if this music is on a higher level. I know of no other artist who can draw so much power out of a song!

One of the highlights to a Springsteen concert is the song "Rosalita." This song is a good time piece of rock and roll that is a Clarence Clemmons highlight reel. The sax work is stunning. He works the crowd into a frenzy with this song! Then the band winds up and throws the knock out punch when Bruce introduces each band member and leaves the big man, Clemmons till last. Letting the crowd work itself again to fever pitch before they explode and shower the audience with a finale to this song that just blows everyone away!! This is what a Springsteen concert is all about!

Next up is yet another song that gets the crowd involved. "Raise Your Hand" is nothing more than a R & B shuffle that has been pumped up to the max! Bruce gives it his all and the band is terrific, but the highlight of this number is the sing a long that is a standard part of this tune. The band and the audience singing as one! What a great and powerful version of this classic. I have seen J. Geils do this number also, and I am sorry, as good as they did it, there is no comparison!!

In his long career, Bruce has only had one #1 hit song. Hard to believe but true. Even harder to believe, it is the song "Hungry Heart." Not that I am saying this is a bad song, quite the contrary, but compared to his other work, it doesn't hold a candle. This song is a light bit of pop/rock that was designed to be a radio hit. A great melody with a super chorus. This song is classic 80's material. I love the way that the band lets the crowd sing the whole first verse of the song on this album. It seems to say to all...enjoy this song, it's for you!!

The last song on the first CD is the high speed love song, "Two Hearts." This is one of the really good songs off of The River album. The keyboard work that makes up the foundation of this song is as good as it gets! They are aided by the work of Weinberg, who delivers one of his best performances on the drums here. This is just another of the great light songs from that period in Springsteen's career. Maybe not of the caliber of his finest work, but still better than 90% of what is out there!!

The second CD picks up with another song off The River album. "Cadillac Ranch" This song has an almost country in flavor. If it came out today it would be called New Country! A foot stomping romp by Bruce and the boys. This is what good time music is all about. Fast cars and faster women. Then pump up the song some more and you have a great bit of rock and roll!

So after that rush, the band does not let up and they fly off into a very spirited version of "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" This song is as fast and furious as any that the band plays. The song winds down a little near the end, I think that is because all the musicians are exhausted!! Just listen to Little Stevie Van Zandt wail on his six string here! He is a man on a mission. To remove all wax from your ears!!

The band then brings it down for the ballad "Independence Day." This song is a look at the day when the son leaves home. This song makes you look into the lives of all those involved. A strong and powerful song that grips you hard! Thanks to the arrangement by Bittan one more time. What a perfect blend of music and story!!

I once had a chance to request a song by Bruce in a bar in Chicago. That is a long story but let's just say that I asked him to play the next song, "Badlands" This is what I would call a perfect song. Every element to it, is right on the money. Terrific stuff from Weinberg's drum playing to Bruce's fiery rendition of the lyrics. The building bass line that is accented by the guitar of Steve Van Zandt again is one of the best rhythm lines in any song I have ever heard. The organ and piano combine to make a really unique and dynamic sound. Clemmons adds just the right touch of sax. What more can be said. They don't get much better than this!!

10,000 Maniacs tried, but 100,000 Maniacs would never be able to wrench the emotional feeling from the song "Because The Night" that Bruce does here. This is just a draining song both physically and mentally. There is so much going on musically you cannot grasp it all in one sitting. It is too overwhelming. Then when Bruce sings the chorus and the audience echos him, it is very, very moving. This song is one of Bruce's gems that never received the airplay that it deserved. A great song and this version is fantastic.

The next song, "Candy's Room" takes the Springsteen formula to the extreme. A piano is the only backing to his vocals at the start, then as he speeds up the song, a crunching bass and drum line kicks in. Following that the guitars start their assault and again the song has built to such a fever pitch by this point, you cannot keep up. This is another in the long list of great rockers on this album. Just enjoy it.

"Darkness on the Edge of Town" is one of the classic songs in Bruce's catalogue. Bruce again takes us to the wrong side of the tracks and tries to show us how to escape from there! The grandiose feeling that they produce is astounding. The layers of guitars over the subtle keyboards is such a great technique. It elevates this song to something that is truly amazing! One of my favorite Springsteen tunes.

"Racing In The Street" is a ballad about, what else, auto racing. I cannot think of another song that is as tender in it's feel, that is about drag racing. It has the feel of a love song but that is one thing that makes this unique. Maybe even more powerful than if it was a rocker. For some reason, every time I hear this song, I think of James Dean. It has that type of feel. A haunting and lonely song that captures your imagination.

Bruce pulls out the acoustic guitar and goes to the roots of America for the next song. His rendition of Woody Gutherie's "This Land Is Your Land." He does nothing more than pay homage to a man he respects and admires. I also like to think that he is trying to make sure that we don't forget our past! This rendition will not let us forget! A great adaptation to this bit of American history.

Bruce next gives us his own bit of American folk music with his song "Nebraska." This song about a true crime spree by two teenagers across the central states of the U.S.A., is a haunting portrait of America gone bad. Springsteen can sure paint a vivid picture with just his guitar and his voice. This song is down right scary in it's stark portrait of a murderer.

He uses a similar theme for his next song "Johnny 99." This folk ballad is also about a killer. This time he is sentenced to life in prison and wishes that he could be executed. This is Springsteen at his story telling best. It is also some of his most overlooked music, which is a shame. It is some of his most intriguing work.

"Reason To Believe" is a churning folksy type song that is really about hope and dreams and everyday life. How after all that each of us, after all that goes on each day, can still have hope when it is all done. This is another quality song by Bruce from his Nebraska period. He also shows his ability on the harmonica on this song.

It is now time to for his most recognizable and misunderstood song, "Born In The U.S.A." This song has become an anthem for America but is really a protest song about all that is wrong with this country. From the injustice of being in the Vietnam war, to the evils of corporate America. Bruce is using the line "born in the USA" in a very sarcastic way. But even with the misconceptions, it had the desired effect. Besides that, this is one fine piece of rock and roll!!! Loud and proud as all of Bruce's anthems are. This is a song that will live forever and rightly so. A great song and this version is as good as it can get!!! There is an added guitar solo that is magnificent.

The last song on the second CD is a burner called "Seeds." This song is a hard edged rocker that still has it roots in the East Coast funk that is Bruce's heritage. Danny on the organ provides a thunderous attack throughout this number, until Bruce unleashes his own shock wave when he let's the stratocaster sing!! Great rock and roll again by the man who defined what rock was during this period.

The start of disc 3 is a song that carries with it a very deep and thought provoking message. "The River" is a song that really packs a wallop. Here Bruce tells a little story about himself and his dad before he starts the song. This story he tells, really adds a personal touch to this powerful ballad. When he starts off with that harmonica, the chills start again. This song is one that tells the story of so many in America. Young lovers, she gets pregnant, they marry too young and they are forced to change their dreams of the future, because of the realities of today. This is one of Bruce's most potent songs. This one hits you right in the gut!!

The next song is a cover tune. Bruce and the band take a stance against world politics with their absolutely fabulous version of the great song, "War." This song just flat out rocks with the band taking it to the limit. The exchange of vocals on this song makes you sit up and take notice just as you were listening in to a conversation between two people. This song is one of the loudest protest songs and Bruce makes sure that everyone within earshot gets the point!!!!

"Darlington County" is another song that reminds me of J. Geils Band. The whole feel of this song is have fun! The sing-a-long quality and the driving beat makes this one song that will get every audience member up out of their chairs for sure!! If that ain't enough, then Clarence will blast them the rest of the way with his sax! Take heed, this song is infectious and will demand repeated playing.

The band continues in this footstomping vein with the song, "Working On The Highway." This song was a lot of fun to watch the band perform. Bruce sets his guitar down and really works the crowd playing front man with just a mic. This song was one of the hidden gems of a rocker on the Born in the U.S.A. album. At least those that have that album or this one, knows just how good of a song it is!

"The Promised Land" is another of Springsteen's anthem rockers that starts out subdued and then drifts into a chorus that is both powerful and instantly recognizable. The way that Bruce constructs songs so that you will be singing along and pumping your fist when you hit the refrain, is one of the secrets to his popularity. Songs that are anthems to everyday life with a simple catchy hook that you will sing long after the tune is over!! This is one of those songs and now I will be singing it for the next few days!!!

"Cover Me" is another song off the Born In The U.S.A. album that received some airplay but did not catch on like some others. This song is one of their most guitar laden pieces. Especially this live version. It just smokes. Both Bruce and Van Zandt rip it up with a dueling guitar finale that is incredible!! Then when Bruce sings using the echo at the end, it has a very hypnotic effect! This is just a great treatment to a fabulous song!!

The next song is the haunting ballad, "I'm On Fire" Bruce sings this song as if he is burning up! I hope Patty is close by when he gets done with this song!! What a torch song. This one is one of those that I would make sure I had with me in the car if I was dating again. Oozing with sensuality, this song is a must for any Springsteen fan or for that matter, any guy looking to get ....

"Bobby Jean" is a song that captures the essence of the Springsteen experience. It is about the guy who takes for granted his friend and forgets to tell her how he really feels about her until it's too late! The vocals of Bruce and the sax of Clarence makes sure that you will not leave this song without feeling for this guy!

"My Hometown" is a look at small town life through the eyes of a guy who never leaves. You get the sense that he is looking at the lost opportunities by staying there. This song is beautifully done with a subtle guitar playing background to the organ that mimics Bruce's vocals throughout this piece. If you want to hear a good dose of heartland America in about 4 minutes, this is the song. Brilliant songwriting and perfect delivery makes this one a definite keeper!

Now comes the song that put Bruce on the cover of Newsweek and Time. The song that labeled his as the new messiah of rock and roll, one of the greatest songs of all time, "Born to Run." This song has so much going for it, the great rock and roll lyrics, the dynamics of the rhythm section. The keyboard part that is magical and the guitar of Bruce driving his message right into your soul! This bombastic attack on your nerves will not stop till some time after the song has ended. When I first saw this one performed live, it was almost like a religious conversion. I saw the future of rock and that future was Bruce Springsteen! (Yes I did steal that last line!!) But it says it better than any I have ever heard!

"No Surrender" is treated as a slow ballad here. Bruce again lets the lyrics do the talking. Sometimes when he does these "unplugged" versions, they well for lack of a better term, suck! But this time it comes off very well. The stark and cold feel of just an acoustic guitar backing, turns this into a song of hope! This is a very good version of a great song.

I am very glad that they included this next song, "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." Eat your heart out Peter Wolf, this is the one song I think of when I think of the East Coast sound. The dynamic keyboard work and terrific sax work makes this song one powerhouse! The female backing singers only add to the overall effect. This is rock and funk at it's very best. I defy you to sit still through this number. If you can, check your pulse please!!

This package ends with kind of a surprise. The song "Jersey Girl" is not one of Springsteen's best known works. But as you look at this package, you take off down Thunder Road and then finally work your way back home. Bruce has come home and home is Jersey no matter where he hangs his hat! This song is about more than a girl, it is about the whole Jersey experience. The Jersey girl is just the eyes you look through to see this slice of life on the shore. A perfect ending to this CD by a Jersey guy!

This package more than any other, defines the early 80's. Springsteen became the driving force in rock and roll at that time and is still one of the most revered and respected musicians and songwriters. This is not only a retrospective of Bruce, it is a look at us all. The good and the bad. It is also a dose of history. The history of a generation. Every time that I listen to this compilation, I get inspired. The message that Bruce conveys is one of hope and determination. So do your self a favor and get this package, plug it into the player and enjoy a master at his craft!! The best, at his best!!!


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Scott ()
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I am an avid music buff and write reviews for many sites. I have managed bands and frequent concerts in Michigan and photograph them. If it is good music, I will be there!
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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Bruce Springsteen (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, harmonica); Steve Van Zandt (acoustic & electric guitars, background vocals); Nils Lofgren (acoustic & electric guitars, background vocals); Clarence Clemons (saxophone, percussion, background vocals); Roy Bittan (piano, synthesizer, background vocals); Danny Federici (organ, accordion, glockenspiel, keyboards, background vocals); Patty Scialfa (sunthesizer, background vocals); Max Weinberg (drums). Flo & Eddie: Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan. Miami Horns: Stan Harrison (tenor saxophone); Eddie Manion (baritone saxophone); Mark Pender (trumpet); Richie La Bamba (trombone). Producers: Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin. Recorded live between 1975 and 1985. There's one song from a 1975 show, which makes the title of this box set true in the literal sense, and eight from a 1978 appearance at the Roxy in Los Angeles, but in essence this is Bruce Springsteen in the '80s--physically huge, politically charged an...
Song List: Disc 1
1. Thunder Road
2. Adam Raised a Cain
3. Spirit in the Night
4. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
5. Paradise by the "C"
6. Fire
7. Growin' Up
8. It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
9. Backstreets
10. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
11. Raise Your Hand
12. Hungry Heart
13. Two Hearts
Song List: Disc 2
1. Cadillac Ranch
2. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
3. Independence Day
4. Badlands
5. Because the Night
6. Candy's Room
7. Darkness on the Edge of Town
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Label: Legacy Recordings
Release Date: August 06, 2002

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