Tracks (1998)


Disc One 1. Mary Queen of Arkansas 2. It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City 3. Growin' Up 4. Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street 5. Bishop Danced 6. Santa Ana 7. Seaside Bar Song 8. Zero and Blind Terry 9. Linda Let Me Be the One 10.Thundercrack 11.Rendezvous 12.Give the Girl a Kiss 13.Iceman 14.Bring on the Night 15.So Young and So in Love 16.Hearts of Stone 17.Don't Look Back Disc Two 1. Restless Nights 2. A Good Man is Hard to Find 3. Roulette 4. Doll House 5. Where the Bands ARe 6. Loose Ends 7. Living on the Edge of the world 8. Wages of Sin 9. Take 'Em as They Come 10.Be True 11.Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own 12.I Wanna Be with You 13.Mary Lou 14.Stolen Car 15.Born in the U.S.A. 16.Johnny Bye Bye 17.Shut Out the Light Disc Three 1. Cynthia 2. My Love Will Not Let You Down 3. This Hard Land 4. Frankie 5. T.V. Movie 6. Stand On It 7. Lion's Den 8. Car Wash 9. Rockaway the Days 10.Brothers Under the Bridge ('83) 11.Man at the Top 12.Pink Cadillac 13.Two for the Road 14.Janey, Don't You Lose Heart 15.When You Need Me 16.The Wish 17.The Honeymooners 18.Lucky Man Disc Four 1. Leavin' Train 2. Seven Angels 3. Gave it a Name 4. Sad Eyes 5. My Lover Man 6. Over the Rise 7. When the Lights Go Out 8. Loose Change 9. Trouble in Paradise 10.Happy 11.Part Man, Part Monkey 12.Goin' Cali 13.Back in Your Arms 14.Brothers Under the Bridge

 

There are some musicians who, when writing and recording an album, never record any "extra" leftover songs for b-sides or "scraps". What you hear on their records are pretty much what they've written. Then you have those artists who may record a few more songs that they intend, and choose the best of the lot to be on the final product. Those couple of extra songs will usually end up on a box set somewhere down the line, or maybe on an "expanded" bonus disc edition. Usually those extra songs aren't quite the same level of quality as what was selected to go on the "main" record, but artists make them available for the dedicated fan who wants as much as he can possibly get his hands on.

Then you have artists like Bruce Springsteen. The artist who probably has as much quality material unreleased as he does released. He's just too talented to hold back all of the good ideas swimming around in his head and has masses of quality material that very few have ever heard - at least legitimately. With an artist like Springsteen, these unreleased songs become a bit of legend. The dawning of the information age (still a bit in its infancy when this was released) has made this material more accessible, but many still feel as though the songs would see the light of day on a legitimate package.

So someone probably whispered in Springsteen's ear that he simply had too much great material sitting in the vaults and, to some degree, was hurting the true fans. So much material (66 songs!) that the release comes out in a box set form. This is unlike any other box set I've ever encountered. This is all fresh material - a few demos and a couple of "alternate versions" but 90 - 95% of this has never been released. Had this album sounded like subpar material, it would have made this package somewhat attractable to the masses of dedicated fans, but the material here is first rate.

So why was this stuff unreleased for so long? Well, as stated above, he just has too much material. In the linear notes in the album, he explains the dilemma of choosing songs to fit an album. He states that in most cases, it's not necessarily a question of the quality of the songs, but more along the lines of whether or not the feel, atmosphere and message of a particular song fits in with the rest of the songs on the particular album, or the mood he was trying to achieve. Consider, for example, one of the best songs here, Janey, Don't You Lose Heart which was recorded during the Born in the U.S.A. sessions. It's just as good as anything on that album (and that alone says an awful lot), yet the lyrics and feelings emulated don't quite fit in, so he decided to leave it off that album.

This package, for the most part, is chronological, and it's fun to listen to the styles of himself and (mostly) the E Street Band evolve over time. The real irony here is that the last (fourth) disc in the set was from his time away from the E Street Band (the Human Touch, Lucky Town phase) that left most fans a bit disenchanted. Yet that disc is the best one here. You have to wonder why some of the songs on that fourth disc were left off those above mentioned packages. There are other surprises as well. Pink Cadillac doesn't sound that much different than the Aretha Franklin version (a tribute to both of these artists), yet the version of Born in the U.S.A. is so radically different to the "popular" one, that it's somewhat scary. The version that is here should have been released as is on the Nebraska album. The lyrics fit the mood much better in the version here, and it would have never been mistaken as jingonistic.

None of the "new" songs disappoint in any way. Every fan is bound to have their favorites, but there is absolutely no filler here. Ironically, this made the rabid fans salivate more, because Springsteen easily has enough hits in his catalog for a "Volume 2". Is this guy a genius, or what?

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