Live 1975 - 1985 (1986)

Disc One 1. Thunder Road 2. Adam Raised a Cain 3. Spirit in the Night 4. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) 5. Paradise by the "C" 6. Fire 7. Growin' Up 8. It's Hard to be a Saint in the City 9. Backstreets 10.Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) 11.Raise Your Hand 12.Hungry Heart 13.Two Hearts Disc Two 1. Cadilac Ranch 2. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch) 3. Independence Day 4. Badlands 5. Because the Night 6. Candy's Room 7. Darkness on the Edge of Town 8. Racing in the Street 9. This Land is Your Land 10.Nebraska 11.Johnny 99 12.Reason to Believe 13.Born in the U.S.A. 14.Seeds Disc Three 1. The River 2. War 3. Darlington County 4. Working on the Highway 5. The Promised Lan 6. Cover Me 7. I'm on Fire 8. Bobby Jean 9. My Hometown 10.Born to Run 11.No Surrender 12.Tenth Avenue Freeze Out 13.Jersey Girl


After Born in the U.S.A. spent roughly a year and a half on the charts, produced a whopping 7 top 10 singles (and managing to plaster Bruce's face on every conceivable magazine cover), the secret was now out. This guy, in addition to recording incredible albums, put's on an amazing show. He had always been "The Boss" when it came to live shows, but now he was playing several sold out shows in selected cities, and his concerts were being sold out in a manner of minutes in some cases. So, yes, a live album seemed like the thing to do about now. But how can you possibly come up with something that does this artist justice?

Simple - you don't release a double album, or even a triple album, but a quintuple album. In case that's a new word for you, it means "5". A five album, or "box set" (as they were just beginning to be known as). With the compact disc being an evolving format, the consumer could go that alternate route instead and get a triple cd set. So it was 3 versus 5 depending on your choice with technology. But did this thing really need to be all that encompassing? Well, the short answer is "yes". Consider that the man was playing shows in excess of three hours during his physical peak. At 40 songs, this was pretty close to the amount of material you would get from one show.

This is not, however, one show. It is, instead, as the title suggests, pulled from various performances over his ten year performing career. When I first heard that, I must admit I was a bit disappointed. I usually don't like live recordings like that. I feel the atmosphere of the performances usually don't blend well when the songs jump from venue to venue - especially when the size of the crowd is altered by (in some cases) tens of thousands of people. I feel it loses something, and doesn't properly replicate a live show.

This one is carefully done, however, and manages to fit the pieces together rather nicely. The box set is broken into three live "sections" (note: they don't necessarily exactly correspond to each CD. This was probably made with the album format still in mind). The first is Bruce is his younger days playing smaller, intimate clubs. We then hear performances from his headlining arena rock days, and we then come the stadium shows. What's so great about this, is that each of the settings work very well. He doesn't seem intimated by stadiums, but manages to work them into a rock and roll frenzy. On the other end of the coin, the smaller shows are pleasant as well. Yes, he still rocks hard, but it's nice to hear him being intimate with the smaller audience. Particularly charming is his "drafted into the army" speech that he does as a prelude to The River. The story is so sweet and sentimental, that it could almost be a song by itself.

The music is pretty much exactly what you would expect. There are a few covers that are brilliantly done. He manages to cover everything from Woody Guthrie folk in This Land is Your Land to Edwin Starr's angry Vietnam protest song War without missing a beat. There's also a few unreleased originals that somehow were already fan favorites, and the rest is a nice size bulk of his catalog that pretty much sums up all of the styles and moods of his songs. Some of the hits are here. Surprising is that several of the biggest hits from Born in the U.S.A. are missing, yet all the obscure ones from that album seemed to have made the cut. Not really a big deal since everyone was kinda sick of some of those songs anyway.

It was really incredible that this thing managed to top the Billboard charts shortly after it was released. I don't know any other "box set" that ever managed to do that. Of course, maybe people were so taken in by the novelty that they were encouraged to make that hefty purchase. After all, what more could you ask for if you love Bruce Springsteen and/or incredible live shows?

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