The songs that will be new to most listeners are a fascinating, amped-up blend of inspiration, drama, mediocrity, and melodrama. Even the average songs— "Living On The Edge Of The World," "I Wanna Be With You," "Night Fire," "Chain Lightning," "Restless Nights," the instrumental "Paradise By The 'C'"—are enlivened and made urgent by excitable playing, and by arrangements that top spirited harmonies with bright keyboards, propulsive percussion with inventive drum or guitar patterns. And Springsteen—who turned 30 during the sessions—sings absurdly passionately throughout, even on the more generic numbers. Which is what I love and find moving about this collection: even when he's obviously pulled out his favorite rock and roll album from the 1960s and rewritten the third song on the second side, Springsteen's song sparkles because of his youthful hunger for and love of the music that inspires him.
|What song's going through his head? Bruce at Asbury Park, 1979. Photo by Joel Bernstein|
Here's Springsteen and the E Street Band performing "Meet Me In The City" on Saturday Night Live on December 19. He's a bit hoarse, and looks a little uncomfortable finding his way into the song. Could be his age, could be that the song's underrehearsed at this point. Either way it's still his:
There are only so many chords. Bruce knows that, and in the 1970s he renewed, shuffled, and powered those chords in such dynamic, emotional, desperately romantic ways that they sounded fresh in his and his band's hands. This is some great rock and roll. "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch") is one of my favorite Springsteen songs, and so I was especially keen to hear the radical re-working of the tune that appeared on the original The Ties That Bind album. It's a close race: the Sun Studio-reverb, stop-start arrangement kills, but finally the barreling version on The River, both anchored and sent into lusty overdrive by Gary Tallent's eighth-note bass playing, wins by a hair—the ones on the back of my neck that still stand when this killer rock and roll song comes on.
The Ties The Bind: The River Collection reminds me of something that I wish Bruce would go ahead and do already: rewrite the Nuggets album. He can bury it for another couple decades if he wants to.
Photo of Springsteen via 1stdibs.