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Rock - Released November 30, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released November 21, 1995 | Columbia

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In 1982, with Ronald Reagan in the White House and much of America torn between a newly fierce patriotism and the dispassionate conservatism of the dawning "Greed Is Good" era, a number of roots-oriented rock musicians began examining the State of the Union in song, and one of the most powerful albums to come out of this movement was Bruce Springsteen's stark, home-recorded masterpiece Nebraska. In 1995, Bill Clinton was president, America was congratulating itself for a new era of high-tech peace and prosperity, and Springsteen returned to the themes and approach of Nebraska with The Ghost of Tom Joad, an album that suggested little had changed in the past 13 years -- except Americans had gotten better at ignoring the increasingly sharp divide between the rich and the poor, and that illegal aliens who had come to America looking for the fabled Land of Milk and Honey were being forced to shoulder a heavy and dangerous burden in America's underground economy. With several of its songs drawn directly from news stories, The Ghost of Tom Joad is more explicitly political than Nebraska (more so than anything in Springsteen's catalog, for that matter), and while the arrangements are more full-bodied than those on Nebraska (five cuts feature a full band), the production and the overall tone is, if anything, even starker and more low-key, with the lyrics all the more powerful for their spare backdrops. While there's an undertow of bitterness in this album's tales of an America that has turned its back on the working class and the foreign-born, there's also a tremendous compassion in songs like "The Line," "Sinaloa Cowboys," "Balboa Park," and the title cut, which lend their subjects a dignity fate failed to give them. Individually, these songs, either angry or plaintive, are clean and expertly drawn tales of life along this nation's margins, and their cumulative effect is nothing short of heartbreaking; anyone who pegged Springsteen as a zealously patriotic conservative in the wake of the widely misunderstood Born in the U.S.A. needs to hear this disc. The Ghost of Tom Joad failed to find the same audience (or the same wealth of media attention) that embraced Nebraska, but on it's own terms it's a striking and powerful album, and certainly one of Springsteen's most deeply personal works. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released October 9, 1987 | Columbia

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Just as he had followed his 1980 commercial breakthrough The River with the challenging Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with another low-key, anguished effort, Tunnel of Love. Especially in their sound, several of the songs, "Cautious Man" and "Two Faces," for example, could have fit seamlessly onto Nebraska, though the arrangements overall were not as stripped-down and acoustic as on the earlier album. While Nebraska was filled with songs of economic desperation, however, Tunnel of Love, as its title suggested, was an album of romantic exploration. But the lovers were just as desperate in their way as Nebraska's small-time criminals. In song after song, Springsteen questioned the trust and honesty on both sides in a romantic relationship, specifically a married relationship. Since Springsteen sounded more autobiographical than ever before ("Ain't Got You" referred to his popular success, while "Walk Like a Man" seemed another explicit message to his father), it was hard not to wonder about the state of his own two-and-a-half-year marriage, and it wasn't surprising when that marriage collapsed the following year. Tunnel of Love was not the album that the ten million fans who had bought Born in the U.S.A. as of 1987 were waiting for, and though it topped the charts, sold three million copies, and spawned three Top 40 hits, much of this was on career momentum. Springsteen was as much at a crossroads with his audience as he seemed to be in his work and in his personal life, though this was not immediately apparent. ~ William Ruhlmann

Rock - Released March 29, 2019 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released November 10, 1986 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released April 26, 2019 | Columbia

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Rock - Released February 27, 1995 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released September 25, 2007 | Columbia

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Hailed as Bruce Springsteen's return to rock upon its release in fall 2007, Magic isn't quite as straightforward as that description would have it seem. True, this does mark another reunion with the E Street Band, only his second studio album with the group since 1984's Born in the U.S.A., giving this a rock & roll heft missing from his two previous albums -- the dusty, literary Devils & Dust and the raucous We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions -- and unlike The Rising, the first E Street Band album of the new millennium, there is no overarching theme here. It's just a collection of songs, something that Bruce hasn't done since Human Touch, or maybe even The River. All the ingredients are in place for a simple, straight-ahead rock album, except for two things: Springsteen didn't write a lot of flat-out rock songs, and with his producer Brendan O'Brien, he didn't make an album that sounds much like a rock & roll album, either. Magic is bright and punchy, a digital-age production through and through, right down to how each track feels as if it were crafted according to its own needs instead of the record as a whole. Underneath this shiny veneer, the E Street Band can still lift this music toward great heights, infusing it with a sense of majesty, but this is an E Street Band that was recorded piecemeal in the studio, pasted together track by track as the group fit sessions into their busy schedules. This approach gives the album a bit of a mannered, meticulous sound not unlike The Rising, but such careful construction was appropriate for Springsteen's cautious, caring 9/11 rumination; on Magic it tends to keep the music from reaching full flight. Then again, the songs here don't quite lend themselves to either the transcendent sweep of Born to Run or the down-n-dirty roadhouse rockers that cluttered The River. There's a quiet melancholy underpinning this album. It's evident even on the hard-driving "Radio Nowhere," whose charging guitars mask a sense of desperation, or the deceptively breezy "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," which grows more wistful with each passing chorus. "Girls" is also indicative of how Magic doesn't quite feel like classic E Street Band, even when it offers reminders of their classic sound: like "Born to Run," it trades upon Phil Spector, but here the band doesn't absorb the Wall of Sound; they evoke it, giving the song a nostalgic bent that emphasizes the soft sadness in his melody. This oddly bittersweet vibe that is shared by "Your Own Worst Enemy," whose baroque harpsichords -- uncannily reminiscent of the Left Banke -- are the biggest curveball here. That is, it's the biggest specific curveball outside of the overall feel of Magic, which is far too somber to be called just another rock & roll album. The solemn, sepia-toned picture of the Boss on the cover is a pretty big tip-off that there may not be a whole lot of good times coming on Magic, but it's a surprise that this is not only not as joyous as We Shall Overcome, it doesn't have as many moments of sunny relief as The Rising, which had "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and "Mary's Place" among its quiet, artful grief. Here, the joy and the sadness are fused, skewing such otherwise lively numbers as "Livin' in the Future" -- which otherwise sounds like it could sneak onto the second side of Born in the U.S.A. -- toward the sober side. Springsteen also targets war and politics throughout the album, either through metaphors (the title track, where the audience is suckered by a con man) or blunt declarations ("Last to Die"). All this toil and tension doesn't make for a very fun album, but 2007 isn't a very fun time, so it's an appropriate reflection of the time. The thing of it is, despite some fine moments of craft -- both musical and lyrical, whether on "Gypsy Biker" or "Long Walk Home" -- the songs aren't written with the keen literary eye that made Devils & Dust play like a collection of short stories. Like the music, the words just feel a shade too deliberate, rendering Magic just a bit too overthought -- hardly enough to make for a bad record, but one that isn't quite grabbing, even if it is helped immeasurably by the E Street Band in old pro mode. And what's missing comes into sharp relief as the album draws to a close with "Terry's Song," a quickly written and recorded tribute to Terry Magovern, Springsteen's longtime friend and assistant. Compared to the rest of the album, this simple tune is a bit ragged, but it's soulful, moving, and indelible, immediate where the rest of the album is a shade distant. After hearing it, it's hard not to wish that Bruce would record this way all the time. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released June 5, 2007 | Columbia

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Rock - Released April 26, 2005 | Columbia

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Every decade or so, Bruce Springsteen releases a somber album of narrative songs, character sketches, and folk tunes -- records that play not like rock & roll, but rather as a collection of short stories. Nebraska, released in the fall of 1982 during the rise of Reagan's America, was the first of these, with the brooding The Ghost of Tom Joad following in 1995, in the thick of the Clinton administration but before the heady boom days of the late '90s. At the midpoint of George W. Bush's administration, Springsteen released Devils & Dust, another collection of story songs that would seem on the surface to be a companion to Nebraska and Ghost, but in actuality is quite a different record than either. While the characters that roam through Devils & Dust are similarly heartbroken, desperate, and downtrodden, they're far removed from the criminals and renegades of Nebraska, and the album doesn't have the political immediacy of Ghost's latter-day Woody Guthrie-styled tales -- themes that tied together those two albums. Here, the songs and stories are loosely connected. Several are set in the West, some are despairing, some have signs of hope, a couple are even sweet and light. Springsteen's writing is similarly varied, occasionally hearkening back to the spare, dusty prose of Nebraska, but often it's densely composed, assured, and evocative, written as if the songs were meant to be read aloud, not sung. But the key to Devils & Dust, and why it's his strongest record in a long time, is that the music is as vivid and varied as the words. Unlike the meditative, monochromatic The Ghost of Tom Joad, this has different shades of color, so somber epics like "The Hitter" or the sad, lonely "Reno" are balanced by the lighter "Long Time Comin'," "Maria's Bed," and "All I'm Thinkin' About," while the moodier "Black Cowboys" and "Devils & Dust" are enhanced by subtly cinematic productions. It results in a record that's far removed in feel from the stark, haunting Nebraska, but on a song-for-song level, it's nearly as strong, since its stories linger in the imagination as long as the ones from that 1982 masterpiece (and they stick around longer than those from Ghost, as well). Devils & Dust is also concise and precisely constructed, two things the otherwise excellent 2002 comeback The Rising was not, and that sharp focus helps make this the leanest, artiest, and simply best Springsteen record in many years. [Devils & Dust was released only as a DualDisc, a disc that contains a CD on one side and a DVD on the flip. The DVD contains a 5.1 mix of the album, plus a 30-minute film containing interviews with Springsteen and footage of him performing five songs live in the upstairs of a house; in other words, it's a staged performance, not a concert. The interviews are enjoyable, if not particularly interesting, while the live acoustic performances are not strictly unadorned -- "Reno" has pianos and synthesizers discreetly murmuring in the background, "All I'm Thinkin' About" has synths and backing vocals. It's a fine little film, but not something that merits frequent repeat viewings. The CD side appears to be copy-protected -- it did not read in either a PC with Windows XP or a Mac with OSX, so it cannot easily be ripped as MP3s.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 14, 2014 | Columbia

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There isn't another Bruce Springsteen album like High Hopes. Cobbled together from covers -- of other songwriters along with the Boss himself ("American Skin [41 Shots]" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" are both revived) -- and outtakes from the last decade, High Hopes doesn't have the cohesion or gilded surfaces of Wrecking Ball, but neither is it quite a clearinghouse of leftovers. Inspired in part by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who has proven to be a brother in arms to Springsteen, as well as a substitute for Steven Van Zandt in the E-Street Band, High Hopes certainly bears the proud stamp of Morello, both in its workingman's politics and in its cinematic sound. Much of this record oscillates between the moody and militant, particularly in the politically charged numbers, which are often colored by percussive guitar squalls. Here, the RATM guitarist often resembles a Nils Lofgren stripped of blues or lyricism -- think of the gusts of noise on "Tunnel of Love" without any melodicism -- and that's a bracing change for Springsteen, who has shown interest in atmospherics but usually when they're coming from keyboards, not six strings. Such sociological talk suggests High Hopes is nothing but rallying cries and downhearted laments, but the fascinating thing about this unkempt collection is how these protest songs and workingman's anthems are surrounded by intimate tunes, ranging from a cover of the Saints' latter-day "Just Like Fire Would" to a strangely soothing interpretation of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream." Morello reportedly had as much to do with the inclusion of these covers as he did with the record's set pieces -- a stirring "The Ghost of Tom Joad," "American Skin" (which can't help but seem like a reference to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in this context), and "High Hopes," a Tim Scott McConnell song first recorded in the '90s -- and there's a certain sober passion that ties all these songs together but, in turn, it makes the rest of the record all the more compelling because the pieces simply don't fit. There's the rousing Gaelic rock of "This Is Your Sword," sounding a bit like a rejected closing credit theme for The Wire; "Down in the Hole," which rides the same train-track rhythm as "I'm on Fire;" the complicated waltz of "Hunter of Invisible Game," softer and stranger than much of the rest here; "Harry's Place," a bit of synthesized Sopranos noir that sounds much older than its ten years; and the absolutely glorious "Frankie Fell in Love," as open-hearted and romantic a song as Springsteen has ever written. Strictly speaking, these 12 songs don't cohere into a mood or narrative but after two decades of deliberate, purposeful albums, it's rather thrilling to hear Springsteen revel in a mess of contradictions. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released November 10, 1998 | Columbia - Legacy

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For years, decades even, Bruce Springsteen was legendary for the amount of recordings he did not release. Every time he cut an album, he recorded a surplus of songs and left some out, not always on the basis of quality, but often because they simply didn't suit the mood of the record. It was inevitable that dedicated fans and collectors would bootleg these recordings, and for many years, he was one of the most popular bootlegged artists, rivaling even Bob Dylan. Dylan released a box set of unreleased songs in 1991, paving the way for the long-overdue appearance of a similar Springsteen set, Tracks, in 1998. Spanning four discs, it isn't entirely devoted to unreleased material -- a few B-sides pop up here and there -- nor is it truly definitive, since it misses a number of key outtakes, plus his original version of "Because the Night," the sole hit for Patti Smith. Instead, the compilation is an unassuming sampling of what's in the vaults, from his early acoustic demos to polished outtakes from Human Touch and Lucky Town. Along the way, there are a number of great songs -- "Bishop Danced" is every bit as terrific as its legend, as are "Thundercrack," "Give the Girl a Kiss," "Hearts of Stone," "Roulette," and many others. Tracks merely offers fans an enjoyably sequenced selection of what was left behind. If the end result isn't as revelatory as some may have expected (even the acoustic "Born in the U.S.A.," powerful as it is, doesn't sound any different than you may have imagined it), it's because Springsteen is, at heart, a solid craftsman, not a blinding visionary like Dylan. That's why Tracks is for the dedicated fan, where The Bootleg Series and The Basement Tapes are flat-out essential for rock fans. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released September 23, 2016 | Columbia

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Designed as a companion to Bruce Springsteen's 2016 memoir Born to Run, Chapter & Verse provides something of an aural autobiography, tracing Springsteen's development from a Jersey garage rocker into one of the great American songwriters. Springsteen compiled the 18-track disc himself, intending his selection to mirror the themes in his book, so he balances epics with intimate miniatures since both kinds of songs can capture his quests for deliverance and escape. He alternates his well-known anthems ("Born to Run," "Badlands," "Born in the USA"), with a few other popular singles ("Brilliant Disguise," "The Rising") and a host of deep cuts, all of which tend to downplay both his romantic and hard-rocking sides. Those aspects of Springsteen's musical personality are reserved for the opening act of Chapter & Verse, a five-song stretch of unreleased recordings that capture his early days. First up are two songs by the Castiles, his '60s garage band. On "Baby I," the Castiles fuse the Byrds and the Yardbirds, creating a great bit of unholy noise, and they also slam through Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover." This is a rough preamble to Springsteen's career -- the basic grammar that fueled the E-Street Band -- but Steel Mill's post-hippie 1970 hard rocker "He's Guilty (The Judge Song)" shows the first sign of how Springsteen could fill arenas. Rambling and ragged, the Bruce Springsteen Band's 1972 "Ballad of Jesse James" provides a transition from this sound to the kind of winding lyricism of "Henry Boy," a solo 1972 side that fits right alongside the 1972 version of "Growin' Up" from Tracks." These two songs feel like the foundation for the gorgeous "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," the 1973 song where Springsteen's talents come into full flower. On Chapter & Verse, "4th of July, Asbury Park" is positioned between "Growing Up" and "Born to Run," the fulcrum between the early years and the maturation, and that helps fuel the story Springsteen wants to tell with this album: he's not only illuminating the themes from his memoir, but illustrating how he grew as an artist. That he's able to tell that tale within the course of an 80-minute compilation is remarkable. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released March 27, 2001 | Columbia

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Pop - Released February 28, 2006 | Columbia

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Rock - Released May 17, 2019 | Columbia

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Rock - Released August 1, 1988 | Columbia

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Rock - Released January 25, 2019 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 17, 1980 | Columbia - Legacy

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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