Tunnel of Love (1987)


 
1. Ain't Got You 2. Tougher Than the Rest 3. All That 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

 

First thing's first - this is a terrific album. More on that later. This was a huge change for Springsteen. It's a bit easy to see why. In terms of success, his life had never quite changed as dramatically as it did from one album to the next as it did between Born in the U.S.A. and this one. He was a full fledged icon and Hollywood superstar of the big glam eighties. So how to you follow up in the same vein as every album you've ever done before? Quite simply, you don't. Or in Springsteen's case, you can't.

Even looking at the front cover of the album tells you that something is different about the man. I mean, he looks like a Hollwyood Stud, about to hit the high end bars in Malibou. Then the very first lines of the very first song, he sings "I got the fortunes of heaven in diamonds and gold/ I got all the bonds, baby, that the bank could hold....". This was a long way from the greasy haired teenager that wanted Rosalita to come out tonight. Even though he had changed through all the success though, at the heart of this man was still a guy who was restless and quite disillusioned. This as been dubbed as Bruce's "love" album. Not filled with syrupy adult contemporary songs, yet an honest look at what real love was supposed to be and then going "You mean that's it?". With history on our side, we now know about his short lived marriage to Julianne Phillips and that he left her for his new female singer of the E Street Band. So it's a bit easy to speculate on the relationship when digesting the material here. To be fair, this isn't really anything new in terms of style, he's just focusing on a new struggle.

Then you have the fact that the E Street Band is now gone. They're credited on the album, but he uses them sparsely and there's practically nothing here that emulates an E Street Band record. Spare Parts is maybe the only example of something that would fit the formula, but that's mostly due to the songs imagery of broken young love, oil patches, and "going down to the river". In some cases the music here is a bit eighties style in terms of its gloss and instrumentation which is another reason why not as many people fell in love with it. Then you add the fact that most artists can never top those rare masterpieces that only few achieve - especially on the very next album. So this one was much more low key in terms of how it was received by the public.

Getting all of that out of the way, it must be said the the songs, and the album as a whole is simply brilliant. Although it's very dissimilar in style to other Springsteen albums, the sound is unmistakably his, as is the voice and the themes. There's very little rock here, but all songs resonate well. There's a nice variety as well, from the punchy opener Ain't Got You to the shoulda been number one hit Tougher Than the Rest to the Nebraska-like Cautious Man. All the songs are brilliant.

Sadly, this album has become a bit of a "forgotten gem" in his catalog. He would continue to do "other" projects outside of the E Street Band, and some weren't very well received by critics or fans. This was one that needs to be heard. It's his best "other" album.

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