Friday, February 17, 2006

Bruce Springsteen - BootLeg City (CD)

"Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin' in the street"

- Racing In the Street, Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's early, classic songs captured the feelings of the generation that straddled the hippies and the yuppies. It was a generation caught between the self-less idealism of the 1960's and the selfish materialism of the 80's. Vietnam Veterans and flower children alike had turned their heads from the shame of their murdered ideals. Life had turned into a malaise of Watergate, factory closings, double-digit inflation, and apathy. Music turned inward. Introspective singer-songwriters became popular, while many young people turned to the nihilism of punk or the fantasy of disco. But then, from the restlessness of a small town in New Jersey, these four-barreled street-rod ballads of desperate hope came roaring across the land.

This week I've been listening to the above CD as I drive to and from work. Springsteen's songs describe a New Jersey that no longer exists in time or space. It's all over and gone now, and I don't expect these rock songs could possibly resonate with the youth of today.

The best cuts on the disk are three extended, exuberant-with-life, anthem-like live performances on of Racing in the Street, Because the Night, and Back Streets. The songs are a thematic continuum of failure, hope, guilt, redemption, and just plain-old, adolescent, busting loose. "Running for our lives at night on them backstreets." Thunder Road fits in perfectly, but it's performed more as a good time crowd pleaser than the engine-roaring escape from small town despair denoted by the lyrics.

James Taylor shares the vocals with Bruce on The River. It must have been a great live performance, but on the recording both men sound like they are singing with their heads inside a garbage can. It is a bootleg, after all. The other cuts on the CD are not worth the price of air. The Promise is a somber downer, although the lyrics standout. Empty Sky is lousy, but the lyrics hold up there as well.

The best cut of the CD is Racing in the Street. Bruce sings it with such passionate conviction that it becomes more than just about racing cars. It's about wanting a life and everything you ever wanted to do in your life. "Desire and hunger is the fire I breathe."

Springsteen has captured what it feels like to be an adolescent crossing the transom into adulthood. It's about getting a little money, a car, a girlfriend, the escape to the freedom of the road, and the excitement of all the unknown, pregnant possibilities of life ahead. "Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run. It's town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win."

The Song List:

1. Empty Sky (Guitar acoustic)
2. The River (w/ James Taylor)
3. The Promise
4. Hearts of Stone
5. Sad Eyes
6. Racing in the Street *
7. Thunder Road *
8. Because the Night *
9. Backstreets (Extended arrangement) *
10. Chimes of Freedom ^
11. Can't Help Falling in Love with You ^

* Winterland '78
^ Europe '88

I'd like to thank my friend  BB for making a copy of the CD for me about two years ago.


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