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Rock - Released December 3, 2014 | Columbia

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Rock - Released August 25, 1975 | Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen's make-or-break third album represented a sonic leap from his first two, which had been made for modest sums at a suburban studio; Born to Run was cut on a superstar budget, mostly at the Record Plant in New York. Springsteen's backup band had changed, with his two virtuoso players, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Vini Lopez, replaced by the professional but less flashy Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg. The result was a full, highly produced sound that contained elements of Phil Spector's melodramatic work of the 1960s. Layers of guitar, layers of echo on the vocals, lots of keyboards, thunderous drums -- Born to Run had a big sound, and Springsteen wrote big songs to match it. The overall theme of the album was similar to that of The E Street Shuffle; Springsteen was describing, and saying farewell to, a romanticized teenage street life. But where he had been affectionate, even humorous before, he was becoming increasingly bitter. If Springsteen had celebrated his dead-end kids on his first album and viewed them nostalgically on his second, on his third he seemed to despise their failure, perhaps because he was beginning to fear he was trapped himself. Nevertheless, he now felt removed, composing an updated West Side Story with spectacular music that owed more to Bernstein than to Berry. To call Born to Run overblown is to miss the point; Springsteen's precise intention is to blow things up, both in the sense of expanding them to gargantuan size and of exploding them. If The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle was an accidental miracle, Born to Run was an intentional masterpiece. It declared its own greatness with songs and a sound that lived up to Springsteen's promise, and though some thought it took itself too seriously, many found that exalting. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop/Rock - Released June 2, 1978 | Columbia

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Coming three years, and one extended court battle, after the commercial breakthrough of Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town was highly anticipated. Some attributed the album's embattled tone to Springsteen's legal troubles, but it carried on from Born to Run, in which Springsteen had first begun to view his colorful cast of characters as "losers." On Darkness, he began to see them as the working class. One song was called "Factory," and in another, "Badlands," "you" work "'neath the wheel / Till you get your facts learned." Those "facts" are that "Poor man wanna be rich / Rich man wanna be king / And a king ain't satisfied / Till he rules everything." But Springsteen's characters, some of whom he inhabited and sang for in the first person, had little and were in danger of losing even that. Their only hope for redemption lay in working harder -- "You gotta live it everyday," he sang in "Badlands," but you also, as another song noted, have to "Prove It All Night." And their only escape lay in driving. Springsteen presented these hard truths in hard rock settings, the tracks paced by powerful drumming and searing guitar solos. Though not as heavily produced as Born to Run, Darkness was given a full-bodied sound, with prominent keyboards and double-tracked vocals. Springsteen's stories were becoming less heroic, but his musical style remained grand. Yet the sound, and the conviction in his singing, added weight to songs like "Racing in the Street" and the title track, transforming the pathetic into the tragic. But despite the rock & roll fervor, Darkness was no easy listen, and it served notice that Springsteen was already willing to risk his popularity for his principles. Indeed, Darkness was not as big a seller as Born to Run. And it presaged even starker efforts, such as Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Rock - Released July 30, 2002 | Columbia

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The many voices that come out of the ether on Bruce Springsteen's The Rising all seem to have two things in common: the first is that they are writing from the other side, from the day after September 11, 2001, the day when life began anew, more uncertain than ever before. The other commonality that these voices share is the determination that life, however fraught with tragedy and confusion, is precious and should be lived as such. On this reunion with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen offers 15 meditations -- in grand rock & roll style -- on his own way of making sense of the senseless. The band is in fine form, though with Brendan O'Brien's uncanny production, they play with an urgency and rawness they've seldom shown. This may not have been the ideal occasion for a reunion after 15 years, but it's one they got, and they go for broke. The individual tracks offer various glimpses of loss, confusion, hope, faith, resolve, and a good will that can only be shown by those who have been tested by fire. The music and production is messy, greasy; a lot of the mixes bleed tracks onto one another, giving it a more homemade feel than any previous E Street Band outing. And yes, that's a very good thing. The set opens with "Lonesome Day," a midtempo rocker with country-ish roots. Springsteen's protagonist admits to his or her shortcomings in caring for the now-absent beloved. But despite the grief and emptiness, there is a wisdom that emerges in questioning what remains: "Better ask questions before you shoot/Deceit and betrayal's bitter fruit/It's hard to swallow come time to pay/That taste on your tongue don't easily slip away/Let kingdom come/I'm gonna find my way/ Through this lonesome day." Brendan O'Brien's hurdy-gurdy cuts through the mix like a ghost, offering a view of an innocent past that has been forever canceled because it never was anyway; the instrument, like the glockenspiels that trim Bruce Springsteen's songs, offers not only texture, but a kind of formalist hint that possibilities don't always lie in the future. Lest anyone mistakenly perceive this recording as a somber evocation of loss and despair, it should also be stated that this is very much an E Street Band recording. Clarence Clemons is everywhere, and the R&B swing and slip of the days of yore is in the house -- especially on "Waitin' for a Sunny Day," "Countin' on a Miracle," "Mary's Place" (with a full horn section), and the souled-out "Let's Be Friends (Skin to Skin)." These tracks echo the past with their loose good-time feel, but "echo" is the key word. Brendan O'Brien's guitar-accented production offers us an E Street Band coming out of the ether and stepping in to fill a void. The songs themselves are, without exception, rooted in loss, but flower with the possibility of moving into what comes next, with a hard-won swagger and busted-up grace. They offer balance and a shifting perspective, as well as a depth that is often deceptive. The title track is one of Springsteen's greatest songs. It is an anthem, but not in the sense you usually reference in regard to his work. This anthem is an invitation to share everything, to accept everything, to move through everything individually and together. Power-chorded guitars and pianos entwine in the choruses with a choir, and Clemons wails on a part with a stinging solo. With The Rising, Springsteen has found a way to be inclusive and instructive without giving up his particular vision as a songwriter, nor his considerable strength as a rock & roll artist. In fact, if anything, The Rising is one of the very best examples in recent history of how popular art can evoke a time period and all of its confusing and often contradictory notions, feelings, and impulses. There are tales of great suffering in The Rising to be sure, but there is joy, hope, and possibility, too. Above all, there is a celebration and reverence for everyday life. And if we need anything from rock & roll, it's that. It would be unfair to lay on Bruce Springsteen the responsibility of guiding people through the aftermath of a tragedy and getting on with the business of living, but rock & roll as impure, messy, and edifying as this helps. ~ Thom Jurek
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Rock - Released March 31, 1992 | Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen has always been steeped in mainstream pop/rock music, using it as a vocabulary for what he wanted to say about weightier matters. And he has always written generic pop as well, though he's usually given the results away to performers like Southside Johnny and Gary "U.S." Bonds. Sometimes, those songs have been hits -- think of the Pointer Sisters' "Fire" or Bonds' "This Little Girl Is Mine." Occasionally, Springsteen has used such material here and there on his own albums; some of it can be found on The River, for example. But Human Touch was the first Bruce Springsteen album to consist entirely of this kind of minor genre material, material he seems capable of turning out endlessly and effortlessly -- the point of "I Wish I Were Blind" is that the singer doesn't want to see, now that his baby has left him; "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" is about TV; "Real Man" finds the singer declaring that, while he may not be an action hero like Rambo, he feels like a real man in his baby's arms. And Springsteen, having largely jettisoned the E Street Band (keyboardist Roy Bittan remained), enlisted some sturdy minor talent to play and sing, among them ace studio drummer Jeff Porcaro (on one of his final recording sessions), Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, and Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers. It's pleasant enough stuff, and easy to listen to, but it is not the kind of record Springsteen had conditioned his audience to expect, and its release brought considerable disappointment. The reaction was exacerbated by the drawn-out release schedule that by 1992 had become common to superstars: this simply wasn't the record Springsteen fans had waited four and a half years to hear. Though at nearly 59 minutes it was the longest single-disc album of his career (which is not even counting the fact that a second whole album was released simultaneously), and though it contained several songs that could have been big hits -- the "Tunnel of Love" sound-alike title track, which actually made the Top 40, "Roll of the Dice," an AOR radio favorite, "Man's Job," and even "Soul Driver," which belonged on the next Southside album -- Human Touch was an uninspired Bruce Springsteen album, his first that didn't at least aspire to greatness. Springsteen may have put out the more substantial Lucky Town at the same time in recognition of the relatively slight nature of the material here. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Pop/Rock - Released November 16, 2010 | Columbia

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Following Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen was proclaimed the savior of rock & roll classicism; it was hype that threatened to derail his career. In a bitter lawsuit with his former manager, he was locked out of a studio for two years but continued writing songs at fever pitch and rehearsing them on a farm in rural New Jersey. Some of these tunes -- composed during an economic recession -- reflect the tension between following one's dreams and her/his responsibilities. Still others reveal the deep influence of early rock & roll on Springsteen. When he was finally able to record, he cut enough material for four albums, and then pared it down to one. Darkness on the Edge of Town proved that Springsteen was no mere revivalist. The album was assembled from more sparsely produced, claustrophobic, and desperate "sound picture" songs, about lives broken by work, family and perceived societal obligations, and are haunted by questions of "what if?" They were a world away from the epic, busting-out-for-freedom maximalist tracks found on Born to Run. The Promise collects 21 unreleased songs written (and mostly) recorded between 1976 and 1978. They offer an aural view as to what might have been had Springsteen been able to record immediately after Born to Run. While some lyric themes here reflect the brokenness and hard choices found on Darkness, others are substantially more triumphant in their worldview; and musically, all the songs here contain more substantially production. These selections also lack the knife-edge, searing, angry guitar that saturates Darkness. Included are his versions of singles farmed out to other artists -- "Because the Night" (and while this version is terrific, it means something else in the end; Patti Smith's version remains definitive), the gritty, soulful "Fire," which eventually given to the Pointer Sisters who scored big with their classy version. The galloping "Gotta Get That Feeling" summons Jack Nietszche's production ears with its big mariachi brass. This tune and numerous others contain open homages to Phil Spector's "sha-na-na-na" choruses. Clarence Clemons' saxophone is much more prevalent on the songs of The Promise than it is on Darkness. His meat-and-potatoes tone adds heft and groove to these selctions. "Ain't Good Enough for You" is pure handclap, call-and-response, verse and chorus, approaching a doo wop celebration. The poignant love poetry in "The Brokenhearted" and "Spanish Eyes" could have been written by Doc Pomus, and reveals the influence of Jerry Leiber's "Spanish Harlem." "Candy's Boy" begins lyrically in the same place as "Candy's Room," but is a very different song melodically and thematically. "Racing in the Street" features different words; David Lindley's violin makes the track a bit less personal, more anthemic; it's absent the shadow of doubt that makes the Darkness version so devastating emotionally. "Come On (Let's Go Tonight)" is an early version of "Factory." "The Promise" is the only cut that might have added something to Darkness that isn't already there. Its sense of bewilderment, betrayal, uncertainty, and regret is total. That said, the addition of strings draws it outside Darkness' skeletal purview, underscoring the fact that Darkness is perfect as it is. The Promise stands on its own as a great Bruce Springsteen record; it feels finished, focused, and above all, offers definitive proof that Springsteen was even at that early date, one of the greatest rock and pop songwriters America had to offer. ~ Thom Jurek
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Rock - Released November 9, 1973 | Columbia

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Rock - Released January 5, 1973 | Columbia

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Rock - Released April 25, 2006 | Columbia

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Rock - Released March 31, 1992 | Columbia

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Rock - Released September 30, 1982 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released March 6, 2012 | Columbia

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Heavy lies the crown on Bruce Springsteen's head. Alone among his generation -- or any subsequent generation, actually -- he has shouldered the burden of telling the stories of the downtrodden in the new millennium, a class whose numbers increase by the year, a fact that weighs on Springsteen throughout 2012's Wrecking Ball. Such heavy-hearted rumination is not unusual for the Boss. Ever since The Rising, his 2002 return to action, a record deliberately tailored to address the lingering anger and sorrow from 9/11, Springsteen has eschewed the frivolous in favor of the weighty, escalating his dry, dusty folk and operatic rock in tandem, all in hopes of pushing the plight of the forgotten into public consciousness. Each of his five albums since The Rising have been tailored for the specific political moment -- Devils & Dust ruminated over forgotten Americans in the wake of the Iraq war; We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions was an election year rallying call; Magic struggled to find meaning in these hard times; Working on a Dream saw hope in the dawning days of Obama -- and it’s no mistake that Wrecking Ball fuses elements of all four into an election year state of the union: Bruce is taking stock of where we are and how we’ve gotten here, urging us to push forward. If that sounds a bit haughty, it also plays that way. Springsteen has systematically removed any element of fun -- "Mary’s Place" is the only original in the past decade that could be called a party song -- along with all the romance or any element of confessional songwriting. He has adopted the mantle of the troubadour and oral historian, telling tales of the forgotten and punctuating them with rallying calls to action. Wrecking Ball contains more of the latter than any of its predecessors, summoning the masses to rise up against fatcat bankers set to singalongs lifted from Seeger. There's an unshakable collectivist hootenanny feel on Wrecking Ball, not to mention allusions to gospel including a borrowed refrain from "This Train," but Springsteen takes pains to have the music feel modern, inviting Tom Morello to do aural paintings with his guitar, threading some trip-hop rhythms into the mix, and finding space for a guest rap on "Rocky Ground." As admirable as the intent is, the splices between old-fashioned folk protests and dour modernity become too apparent, possibly because there's so little room to breathe on the album -- the last recorded appearance of Clarence Clemons helps lift "Land of Hope and Dreams" above the rest -- possibly because the message has been placed before the music. Springsteen is so focused on preaching against creeping inequality in the U.S. that he's wound up honing his words and not his music, letting the big-footed stomps and melancholy strumming play second fiddle to the stories. Consequently, Wrecking Ball feels cumbersome and top heavy, Springsteen sacrificing impassioned rage in favor of explaining his intentions too clearly. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 27, 2009 | Columbia

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From its bright, brittle production to its tossed-off postage stamp cover art, Working on a Dream is in every respect a companion piece to Magic, an album that's merely a set of songs, both sprawling and deliberately small, songs that don't necessarily tackle any one major theme but all add up to a portrait of their time. Magic chronicled the dog days of Bush where Working on a Dream is designed as a keynote to the Obama age, released just a week after the inauguration of the U.S.'s 44th president and not coincidentally containing not a little optimism within its 13 tracks. This sense of hope is a tonic to the despair that crept into the margins of Magic but it's easy to posit Working on a Dream as pure positivity, which isn't exactly true: a hangover from W lingers, most vividly in the broken spirit of "The Wrestler," and Bruce mourning departed E Street Band member Danny Federici with "The Last Carnival." Springsteen peppers his tribute with images recalling the early days of the E Street Band but saves a revival of their wild, woolly sound for the opening "Outlaw Pete," a cavernous, circular, comical epic reminiscent of Springsteen's unwieldy portraits of rats on the Jersey Shore. "Outlaw Pete" is Working on a Dream at its best, playing like nothing less than The E Street Shuffle as reflected and refracted through Arcade Fire's naked hero worship, casually highlighting how producer Brendan O'Brien has gently nudged the Boss toward new musical avenues. Many of these new sounds are drawn from the past, often feeling informed by Little Steven's Underground Garage -- Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren's guitars chime like the Byrds; the band knocks out a tough little blues number on "Good Eye"; and Springsteen shows a knack for pure pop on "Surprise, Surprise" and indulges his ever-increasing Brian Wilson fascination on "This Life," whose percolating organs and harmonies rival the High Llamas. All this rests nicely alongside the Boss' trademarks -- galloping rockers that fill a stadium ("My Lucky Day") and their polar opposite, his intimate acoustic tunes ("Tomorrow Never Knows") -- which all make Working on a Dream read like a rich, inventive, musical album...which it is, to an extent. The ideas and intent are there, but the album is hampered slightly by the overall modesty of Springsteen's writing -- by and large, these are small-scale songs and feel that way -- and hurt significantly by the precise, digital production that muffles the music's imagination and impact. A large part of Springsteen's appeal has always been how the E Street Band has sounded as big and open as his heart, but Working on a Dream, like Magic before it, has a production that feels tiny and constrained even as it is layered with extraneous details. It's possible to listen around this production and hear the modest charms of the songs, but the album would be better if the sound matched the sentiment. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released April 22, 2014 | Columbia

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Outtakes from an album that's essentially a collection of leftovers aren't necessarily an enticing prospect but Bruce Springsteen's American Beauty -- an exclusive EP released for Record Store Day 2014, just a few months after the High Hopes LP; it wound up available digitally after its vinyl debut -- doesn't exactly feel like an afterthought. Maybe that's due to High Hopes not quite feeling as cohesive as the average Springsteen album. A collection of older tracks, covers, and songs that didn't fit a concept, there was an appealing shagginess to High Hopes, and so is the case with American Beauty. Make no mistake, its four songs also have the highly buffed sheen so typical of latter-day Bruce -- he likes what the studio can do -- but underneath that gloss is a quartet of oddities. The title song is slightly over-produced, relying on insistent fist-pumping rhythms underscored by synths; "Mary Mary" is a sober yet sweet, intimate love song that slowly builds in intensity; "Hurry Up Sundown" is a ringing anthem grounded in '60s pop delivered with the bombast of the '80s, the kind of thing that keeps Little Steven's Underground Garage in business; "Hey Blue Eyes" is a mournful acoustic folk ballad, suitable for Devils & Dust. Only four songs but there's something to suit every kind of Springsteen fan, and it's an appropriate coda to a record that also pleased all his constituencies while satisfying none. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released June 14, 2019 | Columbia

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A few months before his 70th birthday, the Boss has released an album that’s totally out of step with his usual sound. Bye-bye to the E Street Band, his loyal backing band that gets entire stadiums up and dancing, and hello strings, brass and choirs! With Western Stars, Bruce Springsteen transforms himself into a kind of third millennium Glen Campbell. In fact, the singer who died in 2017 often comes to mind; building bridges between pop, country and soul with a voice as iconic as that of Sinatra or Elvis, Campbell topped the charts with hits like Gentle on My Mind, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Rhinestone Cowboy.Much like his deceased elder, Springsteen detaches himself from the present and comes across as innocent and nonchalant rather than resistant or distrustful. In addition to a kitsch atmosphere that harkens back to California of the late sixties/early seventies (the Boss has clearly been playing Jimmy Webb, Harry Nilsson and Burt Bacharach on loop), we find an almost cinematic feel thanks to Ron Aniello's silky production. He’s not new to the job, having already worked with Springsteen on Wrecking Ball (2012) and High Hopes (2014). Here, Springsteen moves away from pure rock’n’roll and drenches his songs in melancholy. Western Stars is not just a compilation of thirteen tracks. It feels more like a novel or a film - one that you could watch over and over again and still find something new every time. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz

Rock - Released December 14, 2018 | Columbia

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A few months after the release of his autobiography Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen took to the stage of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York for a number of stunning concerts. The Boss performs tracks from his extensive music career acoustically on guitar and piano, intertwining his compositions with personal anecdotes. The result is this intense and unfiltered live performance, including the stripped-back and powerful versions of tracks from his albums Greetings from Asbury Park, Born in the U.S.A., Nebraska, Tracks, Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Tunnel of Love, Magic, The Rising and Wrecking Ball …It was through these albums that the New Jersey kid became an icon, both musically and ideologically. Following in the footsteps of his idol Bob Dylan, Springsteen remains one of the most remarkable representatives of America’s powerless, providing poignant snapshots into the harsh reality of the crumpled starred flag and the supposed American Dream. The stripped-back versions of his hits Thunder Road, The Promised Land, Born in the U.S.A., Dancing in the Dark, Land of Hope and Dreams and of course Born to Run give a new perspective to a repertoire that we know so very well but never grow tired of. There’s a reason why he’s called the Boss… © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Rock - Released October 16, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released June 4, 1984 | Columbia

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In 1982, The Boss amazed everyone with Nebraska. Leaving his powerful rock’n’roll band (the E Street Band) to one side, Springsteen went in the opposite direction; much to everyone's surprise, he released a masterpiece of all-acoustic purity, crafted from a guitar and a harmonica... How would he follow this album up two years later? By bringing out the heavy artillery! Leaving his acoustic guitar and cheap magneto in the basement, The Boss and his E Street Band returned with a bang: lumberjack drums, howling saxophones, bulging guitars and stadium anthems galore. Springsteen found his calling as a spokesman for the marginalised. Tackling themes such as unemployment, poverty, the aftermath of Vietnam and general doom and gloom, the electric poet from New Jersey made new sparks fly with his no-frills rock'n'roll, his relentless melodies and his choruses that packed a punch. There’s nothing chauvinistic on Born In The USA (what a title… and what an album cover!), just a deep instinct to be the voice for the marginalised masses, the neglected proletarians, all the people who make up the starred banner; even when it is rather wrinkled... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz

Rock - Released November 30, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 17, 1980 | Columbia

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