Go­ing back down to the river

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC REVIEWS - JOE BREEN

sin­gle al­bum called The Ties That Bind, af­ter the song of the same name, was for­warded to CBS, only for Spring­steen to have sec­ond thoughts and take it back. He had more songs, bet­ter songs, so many that it would have to be a dou­ble al­bum. He was right.

The swing­ing bar-band sound was a sur­prise af­ter the in­ten­sity of Dark­ness and Born To Run, but the jaunty neigh­bour­hood pop of the likes of Sherry Dar­ling and Hun­gry Heart helped ob­scure a more omi­nous nar­ra­tive summed up in the haunt­ing clos­ing track, Wreck on the High­way. The road was no es­cape, there was no happy ever af­ter. Spring­steen, turn­ing 30, was also mov­ing be­yond his New Jer­sey shore heart­land. In­de­pen­dence Day was about fa­ther/son but also about place and be­ing “brought up to do the things your daddy done”, the fate of the male char­ac­ter in the key ti­tle track in­spired by his sis­ter’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

The River is a sprawl­ing al­bum, flawed but deeply felt and emo­tion­ally res­o­nant. It is about fam­ily, about friends, about him­self. It marks the end of one life and the be­gin­ning of an­other. It is the bridge to the stark Ne­braska and the uni­ver­sal­ism of Born in the USA and it is also wor­thy of this lav­ish pro­duc­tion.

The box set in­cludes the orig­i­nal dou­ble al­bum, plus the sin­gle al­bum that was pulled, and 22 other tracks from the same time, 12 not heard be­fore, mostly good songs but cru­cially not bet­ter. It also in­cludes three DVDs of live footage and a doc­u­men­tary on the record­ing, all of which I’ve yet to see, though clips look promis­ing. bruce­spring­steen.net

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