Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Albums You Can Swear By

Bruce Springsteen

Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973, Columbia Records)
The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973, Columbia Records)
Born to Run (1975, Columbia Records)

Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978, Columbia Records)
The River (1980, Columbia Records)

Nebraska (1982, Columbia Records)
Born in the U.S.A. (1984, Columbia Records)

I never understood what the big deal was with Bruce Springsteen. I was born in '79 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a tourist town on the ocean that shares some similarity with Springsteen's Jersey Shore. Growing up in the 80s, I heard Springsteen's music everywhere and knew his face as the iconic symbol it had become. But the music never resonated with me.

Want to know why?

Because I had never heard any of his albums on vinyl.

Bruce Springsteen, being the towering giant of a rock star that he is, had the misfortune of being one of the first artists whose entire catalogue was released on compact disc just as the format was unleashed on the public. As many Boss fans will tell you, the vast majority of his back catalogue sounds like absolute shit and is in need of some serious remastering. The sound is muddy, the levels are all over the place, and the magic and power of his music are completely lost, resulting in a shrug from virgin ears.

I was one of those who shrugged until I recently took the time to explore his early albums on vinyl. Let me tell you, I now completely understand the religious fervor fans have for the man and his music. Forget Natalie Portman telling Zach Braff that the fucking Shins will change his life. Bruce Springsteen will alter your existence. His songs have the lyrical and musical impact of a nuclear bomb. They will completely and utterly destroy you.

I was so impressed that I had several Springsteen albums transferred from vinyl to CD. There's a record store here in Los Angeles that will do the job for you and it's worth every cent. The process is relatively simple. The vinyl signal is fed into a computer where the album is mastered and burned onto a CD. The end result is astounding, retaining the sound quality of the vinyl and easily surpassing the sloppy job done when the Springsteen albums were originally transferred to CD in the 80s.

Fans of both Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones have been spoiled recently with remastered editions of their entire back catalogues. Landmark albums like Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Let It Bleed, and Beggar's Banquet sound like they were recorded yesterday. The precision with which they've been restored is something to write home about. Truly beautiful work, especially when compared to the original vinyl releases. The engineers have finally translated the magic listeners experienced when hearing "Like A Rolling Stone" for the first time and captured it on CD.

With that said, where's our fucking Springsteen remasters?

We've been given a taste of what's surely to come with The Essential Bruce Springsteen. Thirty tracks spanning his entire career. Bob Ludwig did the remastering and they sound incredible, putting the original CD releases to utter shame.

We're waiting, Columbia. The 30th anniversary of Born to Run's release is this August. There have been rumors of an elaborate remastered edition with a slew of rarities slated to coincide with the anniversary but there's still been no official announcement.

There's a whole generation of snobby indie kids who are waiting to discover these albums. Bright Eyes, Ryan Adams, and even the Strokes have been outspoken for their love of all things Boss. With music this good, how could they not?

Springsteen's first seven albums are all essential recordings that any serious music fan should have in their collections. The only thing I have to do to convey to you what Springsteen is all about is quote one verse from his devastating "The River." That's it. It won't take anything more to do the job.

"I got a job working construction
for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain't been much work
on account of the economy
Now all those things that seemed so important
Well, mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don't remember
Mary acts like she don't care-
But I remember us riding in my brother's car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I'd lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse..."

Springsteen is one of our most gifted storytellers. He is the quintessential American artist. His concerns are our concerns. The stories he tells are our stories. Our parents understood that. It's time we did too.

Not to kick a dead horse or anything but...

Some remasters would help.


Blogger David Niall Wilson said...

Maybe that's it. When CDs came out, I lost track of Bruce, but I used to have them all. The River is a masterpiece, closely followed by Nebraska...

I have no religious fervor over it...but I've never followed most musical religions. Not into Clapton either, and I have friends who think HE is God (sigh).

But I had the vinyl. I still have piles of records (and sell them regularly) Anyone for a good vinly recording by Vanilla Fudge?

4:53 PM  

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