It's The Boss' first record since Clarence Clemons passed away last June. "Land of Hope and Dreams" has been dedicated to Clemons who performs on the album. The rest of the E Street Band has also contributed to Wrecking Ball, which has been described as Springsteen's angriest record.
Bruce Springsteen has been making music for forty years and has recorded so many transcendent albums. Wrecking Ball might become a classic one day, but here are five bona fide masterpieces from The Boss.
Album: Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
Stand-out tracks: Blinded by the Light, Growin' Up, For You, & Spirit in the Night
Springsteen's debut album is in many ways an homage to one of his biggest influences, Bob Dylan: folk tunes, acoustic guitar, piano and organ, a unique voice, and an intricate lyricism that creates vivid imagery. While Dylan approaches his songwriting from a more cynical place, Springsteen's songs - at least on this particular record - are hopeful amidst tragedy and brimming with energy in a depleted world.
Album: Tunnel of Love
Stand-out tracks: Brilliant Disguise, Tunnel of Love, One Step Up, & Spare Parts
Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with a stripped down, understated, autobiographical record about the dissolution of his marriage, Tunnel of Love. Jason Warburg, editor of the Daily Vault, calls Tunnel of Love "one of the clearest and frankest views an artist has ever offered of what a crumbling relationship looks like from the inside." In 1987, The Boss was definitely at a crossroads in his life and career, "learning to live with what [he couldn't] rise above."
Album: The River
Stand-out tracks: Sherry Darling, Hungry Heart, Out in the Street, The River & I'm a Rocker
The River is a double album that feels like two disparate records. One album contains some of the same themes from Darkness on the Edge of Town - disillusionment of working-class life, familial conflicts, ordinary people trying to overcome their mundane lives, whereas the other album is lively, uptempo and rockin'. On "Hungry Heart" - Springsteen's first Top Ten hit - the songwriter blends elements of both albums by placing a somber lyric over some downright energetic music.
Album: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Stand-out tracks: Badlands, The Promise Land, Prove it All Night & Darkness on the Edge of Town
Darkness on the Edge of Town is, well, for lack of a better word "dark." Unlike Born to Run, Springsteen's cast of characters are less hopeful and have little chance at redemption. The stories are less romantic, less heroic, less hopeful, while Springsteen's angst is manifested in his furious guitar playing.
In the Rolling Stone review (July 27, 1978), journalist Dave Marsh wrote, "Occasionally, a record appears that changes fundamentally the way we hear rock & roll, the way it's recorded, the way it's played...I have no doubt that Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town will someday fit as naturally within that list as the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" or Sly and the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music."
High praise indeed!
Album: Born to Run
Stand-out tracks: Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Badlands, Born to Run & Jungleland
Springsteen said that he wanted Born to Run to sound like "Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Phil Spector." I'm not sure if Bruce sings like Roy, but the album has a distinctly big sound that is complemented by plenty of big songs. The result? An album that catapulted Bruce's career.
It was on Born to Run where Springsteen developed a "four corners" approach. The songs beginning each side ("Thunder Road" & "Born to Run") are uplifting, while the songs ending each side ("Backstreets" & "Jungleland") are tragic tales.