Friday, 1 June 2018

Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel Of Love (1987)


Released October 1987

Recorded mainly in Los Angeles

In 1987, the by now "stadium rocker" Bruce Springsteen ditched most of his E. Street Band for this "almost" solo album that saw him in reflective mood as his disastrous first marriage to actress Julianne Philips started to show cracks. The songs are often bleak, with minimalist production as opposed to the full band bombast of the "Born In The USA" album, but they are touching and melodic. This is a thoughtful, often sad album, but it is no "Nebraska" in terms of bleakness. To be honest, at times, I feel I prefer this to "BITUSA". It has more depth and it rarely gets mentioned when assessment's are being made of Springsteen's work.


1. Ain't Got You
2. Tougher Than The Rest
3. More Than Heaven Will Allow
4. Spare Parts
5. Cautious Man
6. Walk Like A Man
7. Tunnel Of Love
8. Two Faces
9. Brilliant Disguise
10. One Step Up
11. When You're Alone
12. Valentine's Day

The album kicks off with the short, Bo Diddley-ish "Ain't Got You" before we get one of the album's cornerstones, the lovely "Tougher Than The Rest". The lilting country rock of "All That Heaven Will Allow" (later covered nicely by The Mavericks) leads into the stark rock of "Spare Parts", about an unwanted pregnancy, with Springsteen's searing guitar part. "Cautious Man" is a sad, haunting solo acoustic number, while "Walk Like A Man" is a melodic, touching paean to his father. Most of the lyrics to these songs concern familiar Springsteen topics of ordinary people with ordinary lives, often caught up in whirlpools of no hope, responsibilities, growing up and yearning love. Whereas sometimes these topics at uneasily against a "good rockin'" backing, such as on "The River", here, the backing is subtle and understated, giving the lyrics more potency in many ways.

A quick digression - thinking about "Spare Parts" again, I can't help think that the E Street Band would have given the song a better, fuller backing than we get here.

The old "side two" kicks off with the fairground sounds, images, atmosphere and staccato rock backing of "Tunnel Of Love" before a raft of gentle country-styled songs - "Two Faces", the tuneful single "Brilliant Disguise", the beautiful "One Step Up" and the underrated "When You're Alone". The album closes with another high point, the mysterious, quiet "Valentine's Day", with its images of "driving a big lazy car rushing up the highway in the dark".

The album ends on a suitably sombre, reflective note as Springsteen gets into his car and drives off, who knows where. Despite touring this album in 1988, where the numbers were given the full E St Band treatment, a few (comparative) years in the wilderness beckoned. It would be 1992 before a two album release - "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town”.


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