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  • Bruce Springsteen

As I began the writing, listening, and reading for this list, I started to think about a weird quality of Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue that I hadn’t previously considered. For someone I’ve grown up knowing as an already well-established icon, it’s surprising to look at his body of work and realize the bizarre patterns within: it’s all kind of fits and starts, multiple “make or break” moments, long stretches of inactivity blowing open with sudden and sustained productivity. You don’t really consider this when you’re just presented with a list of his classic albums and how they ranked on all these “Best Albums of” whatever lists in whichever magazine in whichever year, but Springsteen did a lot of things that you’d assume should’ve sunk his career.

After finally breaking through with Born To Run in 1975, circumstances prevented him from releasing another album until 1978, and he chose to go harder and more bitter, and gave everyone Darkness On The Edge Of Town. In 1980 he released a double album, The River, that rather than being bloated and overblown was a collection of sharply written and fervently performed pop songs that heightened his mainstream profile. Surely, then, he would keep that momentum, release another rock album? Not exactly — he put out the dark, primarily acoustic Nebraska instead in 1982. The same went down with Born In The U.S.A. in 1984 and the mellower, more personal Tunnel Of Love in 1987. And so on. When you’re dealing with a retrospective like this for an artist like Bruce Springsteen, it’s hard to find your entry point, to figure out who you’re writing for. It’s harder still when confronted with a recording career spanning four decades that has more twists and turns than are readily apparent.

There have been two narratives in Springsteen’s career that have long interested me. The first is the perpetual pull between romanticism and realism within his career, his shifts between mythologizing and reporting. People have written about this, but I think the borders are more permeable on many of his albums than you’d initially suspect. Where relevant, I try to trace his oscillations between the two modes, in the process trying to figure out what each moment means not only to his career but also to a larger cultural narrative.

The second is the uniqueness of Springsteen’s artistic trajectory. He was a young, rising rock star, with a hot streak that ran from his early twenties to his late thirties. And then, he stopped putting albums out frequently, largely sat out the ’90s, and effectively skipped the middle-aged soul-searching and listlessness of an aging pop star. When Springsteen was fully back on the radar, he was in his fifties and already an elder statesman, a cultural icon, but one who was also (frequently) making new music that people still deemed important. He’s also taken on a kind of second life as a luminary for particular wings of the contemporary indie rock world. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else who has had a career quite like that, though there are a few parallels with Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Particularly for the entries on Springsteen’s ’00s work, I’ve tried to dig into what it means that this has been the shape his career has taken.

With Springsteen’s tour in support of last year’s Wrecking Ball soon drawing to a close, thus ending this chapter of his career, it seems as good a time as any to dig into the rich history of the man’s music. This week also brought the release of the documentary Springsteen & I, making Bruce an even timelier subject. This is a list for Springsteen’s studio recordings. That means all the E Street Band and solo records, the Seeger Sessions album, as well as the collections The Promise and Tracks. I’ve left off live material for multiple reasons, one of which is that a lot of diehard fans will cite certain bootlegs as being superior to any official live release, and that’s just a whole messy world for another list to address. The other is that most fans will tell you that you need to see Springsteen live to fully experience his music, and they’re right — it’ll change your life. I’ll mention how certain songs are translated live, but I’m most concerned with how he’s structured his albums and what their stories are, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on here. For people unfamiliar with Springsteen, I’ve tried to give an overview of his career through the stories of the albums — an admittedly incomplete introduction, but maybe one that will help you find your way into Springsteen’s music. For longtime fans, hopefully I’ll be able to present you with some new ideas. If there’s a contrarian out there who wants to argue the merits of Human Touch, take it to the comments.

Start the Countdown here.

Comments (86)
  1. pretty much spot on, but between born to run and darkness, i pick darkness every time. of course, some could make the argument that born in the usa is peak springsteen.

    including tracks and the promise is a bit of a cop-out. springsteen himself might make the claim that these count too, but then why not include all the live albums as well? the 1975-1985 double live record is probably the greatest thing he ever recorded.

  2. snarfblat  |   Posted on Jul 26th, 2013 0

    you guys planned this!

  3. Holy shit, what an undertaking. I’ll actually read it, but as far as rankings go, I’ve got to put Darkness above Born To Run. There are just to many overthought, overdone moments on Born To Run that it causes some low spots. And I just for the life of me cannot get into “Jungleland.” It’s just a total jumbled mess for me.

    Love me some Tunnel Of Love though.

  4. The Seeger record’s really, really great if you don’t bring your Springsteen baggage with you.

    • It was great for so many reasons, that Springsteen took risks and chances and they all totally worked. I remember I was not crazy about seeing him on a tour where he played mostly covers and without the bulk of the E Street Band but my dad had tickets and I went with him and I was blown away (MY OKLAHOMA HOME WAS BLOWN AWAY, okay sorry). However, I think that the songs did work better in a live context and for that reason, I prefer the Dublin album to the actual studio sessions. But the bottom line is that the project in general got me listening to these legendary songs that I probably never would have cared to otherwise and made me a great admirer of Pete Seeger as well.

    • Love that album. You have to kind of appreciate that format of music. I grew up on 50-60-70 music, country, some Bluegrass and Americana. American Land is full of energy and fun.

  5. Touché , Ryan! Check my countdown list here: http://www.nerve.com/music/bruce-springsteen-albums-from-worst-to-best Yup, we agree on a few of ‘em!

  6. As great as some of the songs on there are, I think it’s hard to argue putting “Greetings” that high. It does still suffer from having “The Angel” on it (which even Bruce has more or less disavowed). As for “BTR” vs. “Darkness” you have to gravitate towards “BTR” because the epics are just more “epic.”

  7. Also, am I the only one that actually really likes “I Wish I Were Blind”?

  8. I agree with the placement of everything, except I would put Magic above Wrecking Ball.

  9. Pretty spot on, especially top 10, Born to Run and Darkness are interchangeable…tough call because his state of mind was so opposite for both recordings and each had its own amazing personality. What a discography. True American Legend.

  10. Don’t really understand people saying that “Darkness” is better than “Born To Run,” to be honest. Darkness has some great songs, but Born To Run is a consistent masterpiece, with the possible exception of “Meeting Across The River.” The production especially I think is much stronger on Born To Run, and with classics like “Thunder Road” and the title track which are lyrically brilliant and musically interesting I really don’t see how people think it’s not the stronger of the two.

    • I’d say this: Born To Run has the best songs, but Darkness has more good songs. Of course I’ll take BTR’s title track over anything and everything, but I jump around on that album. I have no problems listening to Darkness front to back.

    • I would never bash BTR, but I personally prefer Darkness. To me, BTR seems a bit contrived at times, especially with some of the production. If “contrived” is too harsh, then “fussed over”. Darkness seems like an album that, while not unaware of the audience, is not as conscious of the implications of criticism. Also, I’m not sure that Bruce has written a better song than “Racing in the Streets”. (Since there was a recent Townes list, his version of that song is even better than Bruce’s.)

      My age certainly has an influence over my appreciation of Bruce. I came to Springsteen from hearing his songs on the radio in the 80′s. Listening to his albums from that perspective, I tend to enjoy Darkness & Nebraska a bit more as whole pieces. They don’t necessarily have the “epic” tracks, but I don’t find myself skipping around a lot, either. While I agree with the commentary below regarding the influence of Nebraska, I often notice a lot of Darkness in current indie tracks, as well.

      As an aside, I would have put Greetings a bit higher.

  11. Springsteen best record is BUSA. Every song charted and seven made the top 25. Greetings and Wild are hard to listen too and any song on those albums are covered in better form on LIVE75-85. All of the records in the Nebraska mode are at the bottom of list along with everything released since 2000.

    Springsteen’s best albums are backed by the full E Street Band, which is only eight records. Even the 1992 HT/LT fare better because they are rock albums and Bruce Springsteen is at his best with a full band supporting him. River, LIVE, Darkness, and Tracks round out the top five. I do not listen to anything prior to 1975, the solo records, and anything since 2000, except Essential, which is basically from the 1980s.

    • chart success doesn’t always equal quality. born in the usa is a fine album but i’d put it 3 or 4 spots lower in the list than where it is here.

      and are you seriously suggesting human touch and lucky town are better albums than nebraska???

    • I sort of feel a bit sad for you, but if it works for you that way, then … all good. I guess.

  12. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Springsteen’s music, but man do I love me some Nebraska.

  13. Am I the only one that things Girls In Their Summer Clothes sounds like The Magnetic Fields? It’s uncanny. I can’t explain why.

  14. Totally need to check out more Springsteen. Nebraska is an incredible album, gives me chills.

    • I love that we live in an era where Nebraska is now the go-to first Bruce album. Like, there are all those young, hip kids going “Hey, I want to get into Bruce Springsteen. I know, I’ll listen to his stark, non-commercial, hardly representative album first.”

      • At one point I was going to talk a lot more about Springsteen’s influence and status within the ’00s indie world, and connected to that was going to be a point about how Nebraska has become this kind of entry point for more alternative-minded fans. On the other hand, I actually have a friend who only knows that album and can’t stand “Born in the USA,” so she’s avoided checking out his other stuff, lest she ruin her perception of Nebraska. Obviously I love the album, but it does strike me as an odd/interesting phenomenon, too.

      • well, you recommend the one that’ll be more palatable first. Nebraska is the one that kind of sounds like a few other indie acts and has been covered by Arcade Fire. Therefore it’s the perfect first listen.

        Plus, and I can’t emphasize this enough,there aren’t saxophones on it, which I think date certain songs to modern listeners who are hearing them for the first time.

        In this vein, I also recommend Tunnel of Love as a good early listen.

        • Oh, no, I totally agree. Sonically, Nebraska (and after that, maybe, Darkness) would be the obvious one to send indie-oriented listeners to. The National covered “Mansion on the Hill,” Arcade Fire did “State Trooper” with him, and it’s an easy spiritual antecedent to things like Dirty Beaches. It’s just an interesting turn of events. Oddly, it seems Born in the USA might loom large as well—I know when Win Butler listed his favorite Bruce songs in Rolling Stone about half of them were off of that album, and I feel like I’ve heard other indie artists namecheck it. Matt Berninger (of the National, again) cited “I’m on Fire” as an influence on “Sorrow,” for another example.

          I definitely agree about the sax. I love the way Springsteen uses it and I love Clarence Clemons, but I think the instrument alone can be a turn off considering its prevalence in rock music is definitely rooted in the past. But you don’t think a lot of Tunnel of Love sounds a bit dated in a different way? More so the production than the instrumentation.

          While I’m on the topic of indie artists being influenced by Springsteen, I’ve always loved Junip’s cover of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5j6IIbZFeU

  15. Not trying to bash your list but I have to agree more with Randy’s list on Nerve.com, which is pretty close to perfect. I’m not sure if the box sets should be included but regardless, I think you missed the boat on “Magic” & “The Rising”. Both albums are about as good as we’re going to get from Bruce in today’s world. “Wrecking Ball” and “Working On A Dream” are the worst we’re going to be subjected to.

  16. Nebraska > Born in the USA.

    IMO.

  17. Always disliked Springsteen. But listened to Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J this year and was really impressed. It finally connected. Surprised you have it so low, may check out the stuff you rated higher.

  18. Thank you for this Stereogum. I shall now read, and vehemently disagree.

  19. Am I the only one that things Asbury Park should be Top 3, at least?

  20. I might be alone in thinking this, but Tunnel of Love is genuinely my favorite. Nebraska’s great, but it loses the plot sometimes. Darkness on the Edge is number two. Born to Run has some great tunes but i can barely listen to tenth avenue freeze out and a few others. You shouldn’t skip songs on an eight song album.

  21. I’ll be another of those guys and just say that nothing compares to live. Even the live recorded stuff — Hammerstein Ballroom 1975 is easily attainable and utterly transcendent.

    • Shit. I meant Hammersmith Odeon.

      • That was one of the main recordings that got me into Springsteen. Those versions of “Lost in the Flood,” “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,” and “Spirit in the Night” are what spoiled me for the studio versions on Greetings. “Backstreets,” “She’s the One,” “Kitty’s Back,” and “The E Street Shuffle” are all great on there, too. I feel like I’ve seen some of the real hardcore bootleg fans write the Hammersmith recording off, but I recommend it to people all the time.

  22. I really didn’t get Springsteen until I saw him live on the Wrecking Ball tour. It was a truly near-religious experience unlike any other concert I’d ever seen. The records still don’t do it for me as much as the live show, but damn “Jungleland” and “Backstreets” are some powerful songs that speak to something deep in the human experience.

  23. //”Glory Days,” which otherwise I still dislike//

    You can’t announce that you dislike “Glory Days” and then not tell us why. We deserve an explanation, damnit.

  24. Greetings from Ashbury Park is, for me, is a perfect record front to back. Can’t believe that it’s not top three!

  25. Thank you so much. I’ve written on about three or four of these countdowns that they should do one for Bruce and now you finally have. I’m a huge springsteen fan as well, I wrote my final paper in one of my classes last year on Nebraska, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Deindustrialization in the American Midwest. My list would be pretty similar to yours, with similar views, except I would have ranked The Rising much, much higher, for it’s historical significance alone. My top five would have been The Rising, Born to Run, Nebraska, Wild, Innocent, The E Street Shuffle, then Darkness at number one. Glad to see Springsteen appreciated as not only a showboat but the quintessential American songwriter he is.

  26. I just wanna praise this article’s writer for such a wonderfully informed, written , and executed piece. I’m guessing we’re about the same age, and got into springsteen at the same time- when he wasn’t that cool, and wasn’t touring with e-street and hanging out with presidents and bowling in Ireland with Bono. any artist where you can still put his worst work up against the best of his imitators (bon jovi, or Bryan adams or something) is a legend. i might swap around something in the top five, but in reality, all the albums in the TOP 10 have been my favourite at some point, and i’ve championed them all to my friends. I love it when i put on an obscure track from “tracks” to someone, (Roulette or Loose ends…) and they’re like “whoa, it’s definitely bruce, but SHIT, this is actually cool”. yeah. He’s the Boss. Good job on this list guy, good job.

  27. I agree with a lot of what you said but Magic is was to low on your list. Its easily his best album since Tunnel of Love. My rankings not that anyone cares.
    1, Darkness – Its Nebraska with the band. Its his angriest and loudest album.
    2. Disc two of tracks- I cant believe he threw these songs away. An album of discards better than a lot of artists best albums.
    3. Born to Run-
    4. Nebraska.
    5. Born in the USA- Yes the synthesizers make the album sound outdated and musically its sounds his most upbeat record but listen to the lyrics. Vietnam, working on a chain gang, prostitutes, divorce, depression, racial tension, and towns being destroyed. There is some dark stuff here dressed up in pop songs

    Honorable mention to Live at Hammerstein- Born to Run is a little rushed but Lost in the Flood, Spirit in the Night, Shes the One, E STreet Shuffle are played in a way he could never duplicate on record.

  28. So… I’d have Nebraska at two, Magic a LOT higher, and possibly E Street Shuffle even higher as well, but that’s just cos Rosalita is just so….. wonderful. I appreciate at massive amount of pure THOUGHT that’s gone into this list… more so (it feels, and this is probably wrong) than others. Nice job.

  29. i stopped reading when i got to magic. i found this list suspect from the start. but magic so low just shows a severe lack of perspective and knowledge of music.
    i dont need to see whats number 1 etc i can guess. the problem with people who do this lists is they are made out of nostalgia for the past. while not really judging from a quality point of view.

    lets be honest the production on the first two albums suck, the songs them selves are great but the albums are not good. only live they really show their power , the albums are mere demos compared.
    they should be lower as no way are they better than magic /rising as a album musically vocally etc.
    albums should be judged as a whole.

    people tend to judge albums by how they hear them live and not the albums themselves. but its ok to trash human touch. comon the production is slick but some of the songs beat the likes of the whole of devils & dust and working on a dream etc.
    and tom joed is a work of genius whether you like the minimal approach or not. there is no other album like it by anyone,
    poor list.

  30. Born in the USA had some pretty good songs but not the best album to us old time Bruce fans. It did turn on a whole new generation onto him and that’s cool.

  31. I have seen Bruce almost 100 times from 1970 until last week so I find it impossible to create my own list because what I see in concert has clouded my judgment on what is recorded. I think the list is fine, as at times I would likely graded it similarly. Given that, if I had all of them in front of me, the only two I would never listen to would be Human Touch and Working on a Dream. The latter includes Bruce’s worst song Outlaw Pete. It was painful to watch him try to win the crowd with that monstrosity. Even I left to get a drink when that 10 minute mess was performed. Other than those two, all the others could be jumbled into this list or that depending my mood. Lucky Town is vastly underrated, as is Magic and the Seeger Sessions. The last one suffers with purists because of the genre switch for Springsteen but it was a complete joy to see the concerts. The E Street Band is how it appears today because of that album and today’s concerts are so special because of that tour. I also think Tunnel of Love is fabulous. Given all this, I would rate Darkness the best over BTR simply because the tour that followed remains the most scintillating example of Rock n Roll I have ever seen. Bruce was so phenomenal it defies description and when Badlands bolted like lightning off that stage, like for me at least has never been the same. I might also say that if you selected the ten best songs from the two-record The River, you just might have Bruce’s best Album. I will end by saying that Springsteen’s albums are best taken as a whole. Each of us is colored by how brilliant we are as critics. The Wrecking Ball, which I rate highly, is where it is in a natural progression that started with Greetings. I have no doubt that Bruce will never write another Born to Run. He writes for the times we live in. His recent albums suffer because his body of work is so impressive. But look at his concerts, they include over 90 songs taken from just about every album and some that Bruce wrote but are not on any album. Now that might be the next activity, to build the perfect setlist. If building this fine
    album list is hard, a setlist would prove impossible.

  32. I agree with about 90-95% of the order of this list. Darkness and BTR is a photo finish in a very close race, but my vote goes to Darkness.
    “Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town broke new ground for The Boss in 1978. A counterpoint to the operatic elegance of Born to Run, the album was an angry, raw record that burst forth after a three-year hiatus. Because of its darker tones, some might call Darkness a difficult album, but despite this, it’s a cherished gem for many.” My biggest objection is third place, do not believe BITUSA deserves this spot, I would replace with Nebraska, Wild, or the River. cheers, L http://www.theLightinDarkness.com

  33. 1. Nebraska

    19 (tie). everything else

  34. If this was Rolling Stone’s list, all the albums would be number one. They would also be the number one entry in the lists for every other band.

  35. I’ve long maintained that Springsteen’s music needs to be affirmed rather than merely listened to or written about. I imagine I maintain this because I’m too goddamn lazy to undertake an honest review of the Boss’ full discography. Contextualizing even a single album can be daunting. The task of ranking nearly 20 is a project fit for “none but the brave.” I congratulate Mr. Leas on a job well done. His selections more or less accord with mine.

    Still, a few minor quibbles and bits:

    1) “Magic” should be several spots higher. I prefer it to “The Rising,” probably because Bruce spends much of “The Rising” trafficking in tired metaphor (bridges, rivers, kisses, and such). As an aside, “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” is a terribly underrated track — it nails the Wall of Sound aesthetic that “Working On a Dream” aspired to repeat, but couldn’t.

    2) “Devils & Dust” isn’t a spectacular album, but its closer, “Matamoros Banks,” is among the best songs ever written about the immigrant experience. Really poignant, with no overt villain to poison the well.

    3) We should acknowledge Suicide’s impact on “Nebraska.” Bruce’s hoots and wails were inspired in part by Alan Vega’s primal screams. I don’t think “State Trooper” happens without “Frankie Teardrop.” And “Johnny 99″ nakedly borrows its subordinate chords from Suicide’s “Johnny.” (It was homage, not sheer theft. But the wink is instructive in that it shows Springsteen’s musical curiosity — an appetite that helped keep him relevant as his contemporaries, many of them “dinosaur rockers,” met the meteors of punk and New Wave.)

    4) When asked to choose between “Born to Run” and “Darkness,” I wait for the inquisitor to blink, then slip both LPs into my backpack. But I grab “Darkness” first. It’s just a preposterously brave album. It imagines what might have happened if Mary had said no to pulling out of the “town full of losers” so memorably invoked on “Thunder Road.” Or if she’d said yes, only to see the romantic dream collide with the stark reality. Yes, it’s a less hopeful record. But hope is still there — in “the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain’t no sin to be glad your alive”; in the distinction between the guys who “just give up living, and start dying little by little, piece by piece” and the guys who “come home from work and wash up, and go racing in the streets”; in the protagonist who’ll “be on that hill, with everything [he's] got.” Backstreets until the end! No retreat, no surrender! Etc.!

    Springsteen allows disappointment but not demoralization. That’s why he left “The Promise” off of “Darkness” — it was too bleak. More to the point, it had a despair that remained unredeemed. Bruce likes to give his characters a chance. Or at least a chance at a chance. Even when the highway is blocked, the dream doesn’t die. “Darkness” is important because it argues that this freedom is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a lot of work, keeping hope alive, particularly when you’re surrounded by stasis or decline. That’s why the act of carrying on needs to be affirmed, repeatedly.

    And that’s why this comment is so fucking long. There are no half-measures with Springsteen. Either you’re a casual fan or an absolute diehard. I’m pretty sure you can tell where I fall.

  36. Mr. Leas

    What an absolute pleasure it was to read you well written and thoughtful essay.

  37. I’m glad Born to Run got #1 – my favorites are that and The Wild, The Innocent….., but if I had to make a “greatest” list I’d put BtR first, too.

    Obviously then my #2 would be The Wild, The Innocent, & the E-Street Shuffle. I just love the freewheeling funkiness to it and think the songs are spectacular. I’m glad Max wasn’t on it, too, because while I like him, he wouldn’t likely have played as loose-sounding. Darkness would be my #3.

    I would have liked to see both Wrecking Ball & The Rising Higher – going by my preference they’d both be top ten.

    Never could entirely get into Born in the USA, though, which is honestly true of a lot of his ’80s stuff for me.

    Lastly, good call on “Maria’s Bed” being an underrated classic.

  38. Perspective and experience is everything. If you were trying to listen to the radio in 1975 in the hopes of experiencing the vitality and originality that defined music in the 60′s, and you heard BTR slam into your car, tin can that it probably was at the time, then you were reborn into the magic that is rock and roll at its most seminal. Balls to the wall. That’s what it was then, and that’s what it is now.

    I don’t know that we get anywhere with the ratings thing. This band has been around for so long t hat most of us “got them” at very different ages against different sociopolitical backdrops. The records are products of the times, for better or worse, and so are our perceptions of them. To get these guys in the moment is to get them forever. Go see them, and listen to the boots. That’s where the heart of the music is, in the live performances.

  39. Ryan, any thoughts on what Hurricane Sandy and the damage to Jersey does to songs like “Atlantic City,” “Wrecking Ball,” and (obviously) “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”? Do they become bigger? Too overt? Just different? I hear the line “Maybe everything that dies/someday comes back” and I get more chills. I didn’t think that was possible.

  40. I would have ranked “The Ghost of Tom Joad” higher.

  41. The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle – am I really the only one to think it’s one of the greatest rock’n'roll albums of all time?

  42. This is a really wonderful list…despite the fact that you are tackling one of the top five important musical figures in the history of rock (and one who, unlike many others, is still completely relevant) you actually managed to make his body of work something that is very much worth engaging. Kudos to you, sir! In fact, this is one of the best of these lists that stereogum has published. Now, since every one of us will be compelled to offer our $0.02, I think that Nebraska should be #1 since it is one of the greatest albums ever released. It manages to get to a level that few albums ever do…an engagement with something essentially human, messy, dark and eternal that most music today (which seems content to remain on the level of the surface–which can be both exhilarating and, frankly, empty) fails to do. And as for #1 and 2: I believe the order should be reversed (as many people have already suggested) since, it seems, that “Darkness” was the beginning of Springsteen’s real engagement with class…something that is still in its embryonic stage in “Born to Run.” BTR is about escape but, in our country, as is becoming painfully obvious with each passing year, the limitations of class is something that few can escape. But who can judge? Who would deny those who have been left behind their dreams of escape? Perhaps it is this paradox that makes Springsteen such an absolutely essential artist. Thanks again!

  43. Good list, can’t really disagree with much here although I would have Working on a Dream and Devils and Dust in the bottom two places, never listen to those. Human Touch has ‘I Wish I Were Blind’ which is one of my favourite Springsteen songs and Lucky Town is a solid album from start to finish. Also Tunnel of Love always shares my number one spot with Darkness/BTR and Nebraska depending on the day of the week.

  44. Much as I love it, I’d never really considered BITUSA as a tighter synthesis of his themes than what had gone before – that’s a great point. ‘Point Blank’ into ‘Cadillac Ranch’ (or ‘Independence Day’ into ‘Hungry Heart’) on The River is album sequencing to give you whiplash, whereas on BITUSA, I agree the tragic stories and pop hooks are skilfully combined, so there’s that consistent tone. By the way, I’m not complaining about The River, I do love the range of songs and general blowout feel of it.

    Also you’re spot-on about all the left turns he’s taken and big breaks he’s had to create. He’s an extremely wilful artist and does at times take the path of most resistance, if that’s the one that interests him. Having watched the Promise/Darkness film and pored over the box set’s facsimile of his notebook, in which he scrawled dozens of potential track listings for LP #4 (discarding song after amazing song), I have even more respect for this side of him.

    The placings didn’t always seem to quite tally with your explanation – Greetings comes in for more criticism than The Promise and a few others, but you place it higher…I’m sure you have your reasons. Also, I’m sad to see Seeger so low, but I understand how it is a divisive album. It’s certainly not the best entry point, and has never really been embraced by his fans in general. Personally, I love it and I think it’s had a good influence on subsequent work.

    Anyway, good article!

  45. For the most part, I guess you can’t quibble much with this list. I’m a huge fan of Wild and The Innocent, and would make that #3 (probably my personal #1). And I’m with the folks that might flip flop Darkness and Born to Run – but that’s a tough call.

    I’ve always thought that Human Touch and Lucky Town would have been one really good record; but he made them two, so they deserve a low ranking, but NOT below Magic, Wrecking Ball and Working on a dream. Those albums are god awful.

    And if you’re going to include Tracks and the Promise, you should include the live albums, in which case Live at Hammersmith Odeon 1975 and the box set 75 – 85, would be way up there – ahead of Tracks and the Promise, for sure.

  46. My top five favorite moments from Born to Run

    1. The first “WHOA!!” after “stepping out over the line” on the title track
    2. The opening 28 seconds of “10th Avenue Freeze Out”
    3. Clarence’s sax on “Meeting Across the River”
    4. The insane build and release in the second half of “Thunder Road”
    5. and my all time favorite from this album and favorite Springsteen moment: when the guitars cut loose from the 3 minute mark to 3:34 on “Jungleland”. 30 seconds of pure overblown 70s rock perfection.

    Also, is it me or is “State Trooper” pretty much responsible for Dirty Beaches entire career? And that’s not a bad thing either.

  47. Nebraska is unquestionably my favorite Bruce album and Greetings… is number 2. I love most of his catalog but that’s how it is for me. I do feel that, objectively, BTR is probably his “best” but ranking Greetings… so low hurts! Lost In The Flood alone makes that album a world beater.

  48. There is old people reading this blog.

  49. Wonderfully written article. First, first class journalism!

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