Bruce Springsteen &amp The E Street Band – [Album]

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The lasting impact that a musician makes on pop culture is almost impossible to gauge at a certain point because,  when you really think about it, eventually a trait or approach once considered to be a signature characteristic to a particular artist’s sound diversifies into sounds and sensibilities so far removed from the original that, while a long-time fan can still pick out those elements, they end up being instrumental to the success of other bands but no one realizes the original source. Take, for example, the influential reach of Bruce Springsteen. Having first into the mainstream line of sight in 1973, “The Boss” put New Jersey on the global music radar with Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. but, while all of the basic fundamentals that would eventually make the singer a household name were there, the going didn’t get great until the release of The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. It was at that point that the hits started to roll in and even the most cynical detractors and rock snobs started paying attention. As time has worn on, with the right set of ears, one can clearly weigh Springsteen’s influence on bands like Son Volt, The Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, Wilco and even Billy Bragg, but it doesn’t stop there; punk rock acts including The Gaslight Anthem (who also hail from the Jersey shore) harbor ghosts of The Boss in singer Brian Fallon’s choked and wry vocals, Anti-Flag would probably die before admitting that they owe a debt of respect to Springsteen as they lift his patriotic pragmatism and even Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin has a bit of Bruce mixed into his stripped solo rumination Cold As The Clay. That is, of course, just for starters as Springsteen’s voice has echoed into other corners of the pop spectrum as well – everyone from Emmylou Harris to Solomon Burke to Pete Yorn to Patti Smith to Donna Summer to Mojo Nixon to 10000 Maniacs to Roger Daltrey to Elvis Costello to Cowboy Junkies to Warren Zevon to Link Wray to Rage Against The Machine to David Bowie and countless others have raided the Springsteen catalogue for a choice nugget to knock out live or in the studio as the B-Side to a single. A lot of those songs that get covered most often appear on this greatest hits package in fact.

As the album’s moniker states, this compilation focuses only upon material that Springsteen has recorded with The E Street Band (nothing from Asbury Park appears because, while the band played on the record, they were unaccredited) but, in spite of the fact that the E Streeters took the better part of a decade off from being the singer’s backup (from 1988 to 1998), this single-disc comp doesn’t feel at all spare. Collecting twelve of the ultra-hits that the group has unleashed over the last thirty-five years that everyone – everyone – knows including “Born In The U.S.A.,” “Thunder Road,” “Born To Run” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” Greatest Hits plays about like a full-course meal of nothing but the meatiest delicacies ever to come out of the band’s kitchen – no filler, no waste – and, because the singer had the sense to rely only on timeless imagery, the songs still brim with the same energy they did when they were originally released. Collected as a set as these songs are here though, it instantly also becomes apparent that Springsteen and The E Street Band knew exactly what they were shooting for, what was working for them and were nothing but professional in execution. While other bands might, as they work through a time period as large as the one covered by Greatest Hits, hit a point where they try something a little different and end up faltering for at least an album’s worth of time, listening to this set reveals that few if any alterations were made to the formula along the way. Not so in the E Streeters’ case – each track here brims with hope in the face of adversity and always rings with a golden chime implying that the meek shall, once again, inherit the earth. That isn’t to say that the band has been guilty of writing the same song over and over for the last three and a half decades, only that with (basically) the same personnel have come the same results. Detractors could say that what Greatest Hits successfully illustrates is what they’ve always suspected: the band has exactly one subject in them and they play it out the same way every time someone hits record without fail. Realistically though, some aspects of the human condition have always remained constant and Greatest Hits could be looked upon as an exposition of the E Street Band simply remaining rooted in that; when hardship becomes a trial and the hope that a change is coming is apparent falls out of favor, the E Street Band might find themselves in a position that would force them to change but, until that day comes, they will have a very warm place in pop to occupy.


Bruce Springsteen's web site

Bruce Springsteen myspace


Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Greatest Hits is available now at Walmart

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