Nebraska (1982)


 
1. Nebraska 2. Atlantic City 3. Mansion on the Hill 4. Johnny 99 5. Highway Patrolman 6. State Trooper 7. Used Cars 8. Open All Night 9. My Father's House 10.Reason to Believe

 

Bruce dangerously rolled the dice on this record. Upon initial release, no one was quite sure what to make of this thing. It took awhile for fans and critics to digest what a strange record this was. Time has been friendly. Very friendly. It's common for up and coming artists now to do "tribute" cds to an artist. But how often to see artists do a tribute to one particular album? Such a thing was actually done for this record at what point.

Unlike most of his records, this one seemed to be more from an outsider's view, in terms of the lyrics/stories. There's very little teenagers going to a river on a street of fire in a rebuilt chevy, or whatever. But Springsteen is singing about other people, and their particular crises in life. As he came with a rough draft of the songs, he probably realized that the material was some of the darkest he'd ever written, and after listening to himself demo the songs, he probably thought "Well, these sound pretty good in demo form, so why not just stop there?"

So, essentially this is an album of demos. Springsteen recorded these songs with a portable four track recorder in his bedroom. You hear his guitar strummin' and an occasional harmonica and bass and his rough, battered voice emulating his subject matter. Had either the tunes or the stories been subpar, this could have turned into a miserable failure. He'd proved himself at this point of his career as someone who could handle lyrics and hooks quite well, so this didn't phase him, nor did it seem to bother the record brass as they released the album. While strange at first, his audiences soon revered this as a one of a kind classic.

One has to wonder how this album would sound if he made it into a proper record. He has performed some of these songs in concert with "full instrument" treatment and they sound just as incredible. Witness Atlantic City from MTV Plugged, Open all Night from Live in Dublin or the infectious Johnny 99 from any recording of his 2009 tour. None of this is to say he should have made this a "proper" album. No, it's too good the way that it is. It just goes to show you the quality of the songs and the artist when they can sound this good with so little need for enhancements.


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