Friday, 1 June 2018
Bruce Springsteen - The River (1980)
Released October 1980
Recorded at The Power Station, New York City
Released in 1980, before Bruce Springsteen had truly broken “big” (certainly in the UK) and when punk, new wave and two tone were the popular genres, this slightly bloated double album of Searchers/Byrds-style guitar-driven rock actually turned to do pretty well. Tracks like “Hungry Heart” and “The River” have proved to be durable in their appeal. It is still an enjoyable double album listen despite there being just a little bit of “filler” in there. Strangely, there are many, many superior tracks to be found on retrospective collections of unreleased material that Springsteen unaccountably rejected from the final album at the time.
As someone who has lived with Springsteen’s music since 1978 and has been lucky enough to see him live on 18 occasions, I have to say that I have always had a big problem with the sound on this album. This latest remaster, by the vastly experienced Bob Ludwig, does the job as best as he can, and it certainly sounds as good as it has ever done. However, no amount of remastering will repair the tinny, treble-heavy sound that the original recording had. Bob Ludwig’s work thankfully realises that Garry Tallent played bass on this album and finally we are allowed to hear him. As I said, this is the best I have heard the album so far. It makes it a better listen by far but it still doesn’t paper over all the cracks.
Springsteen, never the master of the studio, intended to capture a sixties jangly guitar sound on many of the tracks, so fair enough, but the original recording’s production did leave a lot to be desired. Just my opinion. I still love so many of the songs. The upbeat rock of “The Ties That Bind”, the fun of “Sherry Darling”, the emotion of “Independence Day”, the rock n roll good time of “Cadillac Ranch”, the yearning “The Price You Pay” and the extended promises of undying love of “Drive All Night”. Killer saxophone solo in the latter, too. Not forgetting the Drifters meets Mink De Ville on a street corner soul of “I Wanna Marry You”. Or the bleakness of “Point Blank”. The rocking beat of “Ramrod”. Lots of good stuff. However, one listen to the “rejects” from these sessions to be found on the “Tracks” box set makes one question Springsteen’s choices. There again, he’s “The Boss”, so he gets away with it.