Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Review: Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run (30th Anniversary Edition)

Born To Run
Owner of one of the more neglected back-catalogs around (alongside the Beatles), Brooooce finally gets the reissue treatment for his legendary breakthrough album, 1975's timeless Born To Run. No need to talk more about the album itself (for my thoughts on Born To Run, you can see my Top 50 list). Suffice it to say it's an album that has definitely grown on me over the years. I've never been a huge Springsteen fan, and even today I don't listen to much beyond BTR and its follow-up, 1978's superb Darkness On The Edge Of Town, but it's hard to deny the classic status of this particular album. The remaster cleans up the sound a bit; it's not perfect, but it's a noticeable improvement on the original cd, which, like the rest of Bruce's catalog, doesn't sound a whole lot better than a hissy cassette. (Here's hoping they'll soon get around to remastering the rest of his classics, or at least Darkness, the River, and Greetings From Asbury Park, the only others I'd be likely to repurchase.)

The real reason to pick this up is for the DVD of a 1975 UK concert. The sound on the DVD is amazing -- if anything, a bit too clean, as the video itself is pretty raw and grainy, and the contrast between the sound & picture quality is a bit jarring at first. Still, it's a great document, and the first real chance (a few stray video clips aside) to see how the legend surrounding Springsteen's live shows grew so large so quickly.

In addition to the cd & the concert, you get a documentary DVD in which Bruce himself, plus several members of the E Street Band and manager Jon Landau, reminisce about the making of the album and the hype that grew out of its release. There are some fascinating bits -- most notably the parts showing how hard it was to actually record the damn thing -- and it's an interesting reminder of how Bruce changed from a third-tier journeyman rocker with a couple poorly-selling critical records into a guy who made the covers of Time and Newsweek the same week almost overnight. Unfortunately, it's a bit too self-congratulatory -- sure, it's a great album, and it was undeniably huge at the time, but it's not Pet Sounds, or Sgt. Pepper, or Bollocks, or Nevermind. Just an old-fashioned rock & roll record with some excellent performances and wonderful lyrics.

The biggest downside for me is the absence of bonus tracks on the cd. Yes, most of the outtakes from the era were included on the Tracks box set, but some demos or alternate mixes would have been appreciated, particularly for an album that went through so much work in the studio. It's especially upsetting when you watch the documentary and see them playing back some of the raw tracks to show how the album was constructed... with the master tapes still in such great shape, would it have killed them to let us hear a few? (But, hey, that's a quibble, and I'll have to settle for some of my bootlegs until they reconsider.)

Incidentally, though this is a Sony product (boo! hiss!), the cd lacks the evil copy protection program that has screwed purchasers of other Sony releases. So, while I hated giving any more money to Sony, at least it's not for a defective product.


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