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Rock - Released August 25, 1975 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released June 2, 1978 | Columbia

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Rock - Released December 3, 2014 | Columbia

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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 /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 9, 1973 | Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen expanded the folk-rock approach of his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., to strains of jazz, among other styles, on its ambitious follow-up, released only eight months later. His chief musical lieutenant was keyboard player David Sancious, who lived on the E Street that gave the album and Springsteen's backup group its name. With his help, Springsteen created a street-life mosaic of suburban society that owed much in its outlook to Van Morrison's romanticization of Belfast in Astral Weeks. Though Springsteen expressed endless affection and much nostalgia, his message was clear: this was a goodbye-to-all-that from a man who was moving on. The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle represented an astonishing advance even from the remarkable promise of Greetings; the unbanded three-song second side in particular was a flawless piece of music. Musically and lyrically, Springsteen had brought an unruly muse under control and used it to make a mature statement that synthesized popular musical styles into complicated, well-executed arrangements and absorbing suites; it evoked a world precisely even as that world seemed to disappear. Following the personnel changes in the E Street Band in 1974, there is a conventional wisdom that this album is marred by production lapses and performance problems, specifically the drumming of Vini Lopez. None of that is true. Lopez's busy Keith Moon style is appropriate to the arrangements in a way his replacement, Max Weinberg, never could have been. The production is fine. And the album's songs contain the best realization of Springsteen's poetic vision, which soon enough would be tarnished by disillusionment. He would later make different albums, but he never made a better one. The truth is, The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is one of the greatest albums in the history of rock & roll. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 30, 1982 | Columbia

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There is an adage in the record business that a recording artist's demos of new songs often come off better than the more polished versions later worked up in a studio. But Bruce Springsteen was the first person to act on that theory, when he opted to release the demo versions of his latest songs, recorded with only acoustic or electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals, as his sixth album, Nebraska. It was really the content that dictated the approach, however. Nebraska's ten songs marked a departure for Springsteen, even as they took him farther down a road he'd already been traveling. Gradually, his songs became darker and more pessimistic, and those on Nebraska marked a new low. They also found him branching out into better developed stories. The title track was a first-person account of the killing spree of mass murderer Charlie Starkweather. (It can't have been coincidental that the same story was told in director Terrence Malick's 1973 film Badlands, also used as a Springsteen song title.) That song set the tone for a series of portraits of small-time criminals, desperate people, and those who loved them. Just as the recordings were unpolished, the songs themselves didn't seem quite finished; sometimes the same line turned up in two songs. But that only served to unify the album. Within the difficult times, however, there was hope, especially as the album went on. "Open All Night" was a Chuck Berry-style rocker, and the album closed with "Reason to Believe," a song whose hard-luck verses were belied by the chorus -- even if the singer couldn't understand what it was, "people find some reason to believe." Still, Nebraska was one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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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 /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 5, 1973 | Columbia

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Bruce Springsteen's debut album found him squarely in the tradition of Bob Dylan: folk-based tunes arranged for an electric band featuring piano and organ (plus, in Springsteen's case, 1950s-style rock & roll tenor saxophone breaks), topped by acoustic guitar and a husky voice singing lyrics full of elaborate, even exaggerated imagery. But where Dylan had taken a world-weary, cynical tone, Springsteen was exuberant. His street scenes could be haunted and tragic, as they were in "Lost in the Flood," but they were still imbued with romanticism and a youthful energy. Asbury Park painted a portrait of teenagers cocksure of themselves, yet bowled over by their discovery of the world. It was saved from pretentiousness (if not preciousness) by its sense of humor and by the careful eye for detail that kept even the most high-flown language rooted. Like the lyrics, the arrangements were busy, but the melodies were well developed and the rhythms, pushed by drummer Vincent Lopez, were breakneck. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 16, 2010 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released April 25, 2006 | Columbia

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Rock - Released March 6, 2012 | Columbia

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Rock - Released March 31, 1992 | Columbia

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Reportedly, Bruce Springsteen recorded most of Human Touch in 1990, but left it unreleased. He returned to work in the fall of 1991, intending to add a song, but ended up recording a whole new album, Lucky Town, and then decided to release both records at the same time in the spring of 1992. He might have been better off pulling a couple of the stronger songs from the earlier album, adding them to the later one (which runs less than 40 minutes), and shelving the rest. While Human Touch was a disappointing album of second-rate material, Lucky Town is an ambitious collection addressing many of Springsteen's major concerns and moving them forward. Here was the rage and the humor, the sense of compassion, the loyalty and commitment that had been the stuff of Springsteen's best music from the beginning. Songs like "Better Days" and "Local Hero" commented on and deflated the commercial success with which Springsteen clearly felt uncomfortable; "If I Should Fall Behind" and "Book of Dreams" expressed romantic fidelity and generosity; "Souls of the Departed" contained scathing social commentary; and "My Beautiful Reward" was a meditative epilogue. The lyrics were better, the arrangements tighter, the performances more powerful than those on the companion release. If Lucky Town, like Tunnel of Love and Human Touch before it, sounded a little under-produced, it nevertheless had the mark of the major artist Springsteen is, and if he had released it alone, it might have had a more significant impact. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 27, 2009 | Columbia

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Rock - Released April 22, 2014 | Columbia

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Rock - Released October 23, 2020 | Columbia

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The arc of creative genius is predictable. In popular music, the simple answer is no one writes great songs forever. Success tends to dull raging emotions and satiate once endless hunger. In popular music few outside the Beatles can claim a run of success like that of Bruce Springsteen. From 1973's Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. to 1987's Tunnel of Love, The Boss wrote album after album's worth of truly great songs. His muse returned on 1995's acoustic The Ghost of Tom Joad and 2002's 9/11 influenced triumph The Rising but has been sporadic ever since. Always a searcher, Springsteen has now been re-energized as a songwriter by the twin calamities of loss and mortality. Letter To You, his 20th album, bears the impact not only of Clarence Clemons' passing but also the recent revelation that he is now the last man alive from his first band, The Castiles. The man who once launched himself off PA towers with wild abandon, proclaiming his stone desire, has become a 71-year-old who's finally played the ace card he's had all along: a return to the studio with the E Street Band. Recorded live with the band at his Stone Hill Studio near his New Jersey home, Letter To You—unlike marathon Springsteen sessions from the past—was tracked in a mere five days. The sound is not the crisp digital world of his solo projects but the full-bodied band sound chock-full of guitar chords, organs, glockenspiels, harmonicas, Roy Bittan's piano and the welcome pounding of the mighty Max Weinberg. Clarence's nephew Jake Clemons provides ghostly echoes of his uncle's horn. After opening with the acoustic solo number "One Minute You're Here" with the singer laying his penny down on the tracks, the E Street vibe floods in on the title track. The acoustic piano-led "House of a Thousand Guitars," speaks for "good souls near and far," while "Rainmaker" hints at politics where "folks need to believe in something so bad." Three old songs written in the '70s anchor the album. "Janey Needs a Shooter," written for Darkness on the Edge of Town and later loosely covered by Warren Zevon, has long been one of the strongest Bruce outtakes. He reaches back further, all the way to Greetings, for "If I Was the Priest," and "Song for Orphans." Both are solid and Dylanesque, filled with the dense often jabberwocky wordplay of his long-ago debut. Once exhilarating signs that a great talent was rising, these songs now indicate that after exploring many artistic sideroads, that same virtuoso has taken a step forward by returning to his roots. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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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
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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
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Rock - Released October 25, 2019 | Columbia

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Rock - Released October 16, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 17, 1980 | Columbia

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After taking his early urban folk tales of cars and girls as far as he could on Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen took a long, hard look at the lives of those same Jersey street kids a few years down the line, now saddled with adult responsibilities and realizing that the American Dream was increasingly out of their grasp, on 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town, an album that dramatically broadened Springsteen's musical range and lyrical scope. With 1980's The River, Springsteen sought to expand on those themes while also offering more of the tough, bar-band rock that was his trademark (and often conspicuous in its absence on Darkness), and by the time it was released it had swelled into Springsteen's first two-LP set. The River was Springsteen's most ambitious work to date, even as the music sounded leaner and more strongly rooted in rock & roll tradition than anything on Darkness or Born to Run, and though the album wasn't the least bit short on good times, the fun in songs like "Two Hearts," "Out in the Street," and "Cadillac Ranch" is rarely without some weightier subtext. As the romantic rush of "Two Hearts" fades into the final break with family on "Independence Day" and the sentimentality of "I Wanna Marry You" is followed by the grim truths of the title tune, nothing is easy or without consequence in Springsteen's world, and the album's themes of youthful ideals buckling under the weight of crushing reality are neatly summed up as Springsteen asks the essential question of his career, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?" Like many double albums, The River doesn't always balance well, and while the first half is consistently strong, part two is full of songs that work individually but don't cohere into a satisfying whole (and "Wreck on the Highway" is beautiful but fails to resolve the album's essential themes). But if the sequencing is somewhat flawed, Springsteen rises to his own challenges as a songwriter, penning a set of tunes that are heartfelt and literate but unpretentious while rocking hard, and the E Street Band were never used to better advantage, capturing the taut, swaggering force of their live shows in the studio with superb accuracy (and if the very '80s snare crack dates this album, Neil Dorfsman's engineering makes this one of Springsteen's best-sounding works). The River wasn't Springsteen's first attempt to make a truly adult rock & roll album, but it's certainly a major step forward from Darkness on the Edge of Town, and he rarely made an album as compelling as this, or one that rewards repeat listening as well. © Mark Deming /TiVo

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Bruce Springsteen in the magazine
  • Bruce has still got it!
    Bruce has still got it! The arc of creative genius is predictable. In popular music, the simple answer is no one writes great songs forever. Success tends to dull raging emotions and satiate once endless hunger. In popula...