Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle

I know it looks beaten and heavily worn but somehow it suits the cover better. It adds to the close-up shot of Bruce Springsteen, now sitting deep in thought surrounded by an almost ghostly halo of scuff marks. The simple individualistic cover shot betraying the grand scope of the album's title and the band collaborations that, for me, make this the best album Springsteen and the E Street band ever made (sorry Born to Run.)

I know it looks rough but the vinyl sounds glorious, in fact it was one of the albums that convinced me of how much better vinyl can sound. I found this copy of Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle at the same place where I found a used CD copy, which I only listen to in the car, at the now closed and sorely missed Silver Platter record store in Fort Myers.

That store was the source for many of my earliest vinyl finds and some of the most surprising. I know this looks rough and if I find a similar looking copy now I probably wouldn't buy it. When I found it in July 2007, I was still new to the world of Springsteen and vinyl. I was eager to get into both and the cheap price was temptation enough.

I had heard Springsteen's hits; I loved songs like Born to Run and Brilliant Disguise, but this was completely different. Each song is a perfect little story, soundtracked with funky horns, adventurous keyboards and subtle guitar playing. Springsteen's sings and talks throughout in a gritty voice that sounds like he's always been your best friend. It all sounds much better on wax, where you can almost hear every instrument individually as it mixes with one another in your deliriously happy ear.

This is only his second album and it already sounds like he's grown so much musically since Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., both released in 1973. That growth still doesn't compare to the commercial and musical leap he would take in his next album, 1975's Born To Run. I like that album but to me the production is very different, you have the whole Spectoresque Wall of Sound there which can, at times, hide sole instrumental flourishes.

I decided to spin this today after hearing the news of Clarence Clemons's stroke and because it's summer, and this is a perfect summer album. My thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and friends.

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