Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bruce Springsteen - The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003)

E Street Band member Clarence Clemons died the other day at the age of 69. This reminded me that I have only one Springsteen release, this 3 CD set. This seemed like the right time to listen to it. I was never a big Springsteen fan, but I enjoyed his sound and energy from time to time. I admire his ability to maintain his 'working man' image while charging $200 for concert tickets and $40 for concert tees. Not many people could get away with that mess. This collection contains my favorite Springsteen song, Tunnel of Love, but I wish it also contained Pink Cadillac, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, and 57 Channels. The CD booklet just contains lyrics; I'd expected more from such a retrospective.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #14

Disc 1: For me, the highlights here are Blinded By The Light, Rosalita, Born To Run, and Hungry Heart, probably the first Springsteen song I ever heard. Has there ever been a better rock and roll song title than Thunder Road? I know I'm supposed to like Jungleland, but it's just too overly ambitious for my tastes. While I can appreciate the work, it's difficult to get through his dark, pessimistic work like The River, Nebraska, and Atlantic City.

Disc 2: The first four tracks, Born In The USA, Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark, and Tunnel Of Love are right in my wheelhouse. Human Touch is Tunnel Of Love redux, so I like it, but things soon go dark again with the Oscar & Grammy winning Street Of Philadelphia and continues with The Ghost Of Tom Joad, and songs from Springsteen's reaction to the events of 9/11/2001, The Rising. The song Mary's Place owes a great deal to Sam Cooke's Meet Me At Mary's Place; Springsteen should have given Cooke a writing credit at the very least. There's also a live version of American Skin, a song about the NYPD 1999 police shooting death of Amadou Diallo. This song is very moving and well done, but geez, I can't take much more of this. Very depressing. Fortunately, things turn optimistic for the final track, a live recording of Land Of Hope And Dreams, an upbeat this-train-is-bound-for-glory kind of song.

Bonus disc: I've said it before: I don't buy greatest hits compilations to discover new music. Yet here we've got live tracks, covers, b-sides, demos, soundtrack filler, and other previously non-released tracks. This disc no doubt included to give the hard core fans something new to buy from $pring$teen. I'll leave it for them, because it doesn't do much for us casual fans. There's a decent live cover of Jimmy Cliff's Trapped that originally appeared on the 1985 We Are The World album. There's also a fun cover of Viva Las Vegas, but that's a hard song to mess up. The rest, like I said, is for hard core Springsteen completists only (and there's millions of those). Contrary to the CD title, these tracks are hardly essential.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: The first Springsteen album I heard in its entirety was 1982's Nebraska. Since my taste at that time leaned more towards New Wave techno-pop, you can imagine how much I disliked Nebraska back then. Of course, I loved the mid '80s stuff, and even owned the Tunnel Of Love CD. I wonder whatever happened to that. After purchasing that CD, I starting wearing bolo ties because of the cover pic of Springsteen.

In the summer of 1985, my friend Brett worked at a K-Mart and had access to the huge 3'x5' promotional posters that record companies would ship to stores. Thanks to him, I had a huge Born In The USA poster in my dorm room for a year or two, but then gave it away for whatever reason. I shoulda kept it. I just looked on eBay and saw one being offered for $149. It looked like the one below.

Thinking of Clarence Clemons reminds me of his recurring role on the TV series Nash Bridges and his 1985 single You're A Friend Of Mine with vocals by Jackson Browne.

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