Personally supervised by Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau, the box set includes "Hammersmith Odeon, London '75," an astonishing film of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's legendary 1975 concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London; the new film "Wings For Wheels: The Making of Born To Run;" the classic album in remastered CD form; and finally, a 48 page booklet of previously unpublished photographs. With its two DVDs, the package offers approximately four hours of previously unseen footage. Spanning roughly two hours and ten minutes, the November 18, 1975 concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon finds an epic performance of sixteen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band classics, including 'Thunder Road', 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out', 'Jungleland', and 'Born To Run', as well as such other favorites such as 'Kitty's Back' and 'Rosalita'. The multiple-camera film of the complete concert will be available in its entirety and its original sequence, as newly edited by Emmy Award Winner Thom Zimny. "Hammersmith Odeon, London '75" is the only full-length concert film ever released of Bruce and the E Street Band's first 25 years. The ninety-minute documentary "Wings For Wheels: The Making of Born To Run" chronicles the definitive story of the creation of 'Born To Run,' from songwriting to production and beyond. "Wings For Wheels" boasts archival film never shown publicly, including substantial footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band recording the album, 1975 concert film and other footage shot between 1973 and 1975. The film also features exclusive footage of Springsteen playing solo piano and guitar versions of songs from 'Born To Run.' Sony. 2005.
The first retooling of any album in the mighty Springsteen catalog is an exemplary labor of love by Columbia. The original 1975 release was the make-or-break record of Bruce's career and arguably still his best collection of material. It is presented here on one disc unsullied by outtakes or inferior versions--just pristine digital remasters of those eight grittily romantic songs of street life that defined the artist's signature styles. The substantial bonuses are two new DVD programs, one featuring a full concert performance by Bruce and the E Street Band on their first date outside the U.S. at London's Hammersmith Odeon in November 1975, and the other a "making of" documentary including band interviews and contemporary concert footage. The whole handsome box truly honors a legendary recording while providing generous value for fans.
The meat of the bonus material is the London show. A mythology has built around it that the band were so disorientated by travel and culture shock and Bruce so enraged by label-generated hype that they gave one of the worst performances of their career. Primitively shot by today's standards, the footage captures the brilliance of the relatively new band's ensemble playing. Highlights include a "Thunder Road" accompanied only by keyboards that opens the show, fiery solos on "Kitty's Back," a dynamic "Saint in the City," and a number of songs that have long since been retired. It's certainly notable how pensive and joyless Springsteen appears when compared to his later, animated stadium persona, but it's also fun to see the far greater role as foil played by Clarence Clemons. As he now testifies in the sleeve notes, putting lie to the myth, on that night they had "gone for broke," and as this writer can bear witness, the British audience exalted the show as the arrival of the greatest live performer of his generation. --Rob Stewart
The Best of Bruce by guest editor Steve Perry
Steve is the editor-in-chief of City Pages newspaper in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (1973)
After a folk-rockish debut album that bubbled with ideas and dense lyrical play, this is where Springsteen began to find his voice as a rocker and as a songwriter. The prisoner-of-love romanticism of "Rosalita" and "Incident on 57th Street" hinted at what was coming, and this early version of the E Street Band--jazzier and more spare than later versions, thanks largely to David Sancious's piano--sounds great, if a little ragged, these many years later.
Born to Run (1975) and Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
These two records, which belong on any compilation of the top 100 rock albums of all time, sketched the themes that he would spend his whole career chasing, and defined the expectations fans would bring to his records ever after. The first chords of "Born to Run" sounded like freedom itself the first time I heard them on the radio, and the album lived up to them. "Thunder Road" is still the greatest rock & roll love song anyone's ever written. The record sounded so big and impassioned and propulsive it was easy to miss the dread running underneath it. Darkness... put the dread front and center. There are more of his best songs here than anywhere else, even if the sound is muddy and leaden at times.
After The River (the best record that didn't make this list) and the ensuing tour answered his rock & roll prayers--he was a big star now, not just a perennial critics' favorite--Springsteen holed up in a rented house on the Jersey shore, where he wrote these songs and sang them into a four-track recorder in his living room. The tape was supposed to be a demo for the band, but after several false tries he concluded that the tape he'd been carrying around in his pocket was the record. Quiet and bleak, Nebraska nonetheless grabbed you by the collar and made you listen as surely as his rock & roll records ever had.
Tunnel of Love (1987)
The glare and hubbub surrounding the Born in the USA tour (the tour was great--the record itself overrated) made him pull back again, this time to write a cycle of songs about love and fear and self-doubt. After this, Springsteen's first marriage broke up, and he started a family with Patti Scialfa, disappearing for the better part of 10 years, notwithstanding the pair of not-bad, just-disappointing albums he released in 1992, Human Touch and Lucky Town.
The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995)
Some call it Nebraska II, but his second acoustic album was not a repeat of his first--the characters and settings had changed, and their circumstances were more expressly desperate, and social--though it did share the same interest in what happens to people whose isolation or marginal status renders them invisible.
The Rising (2002)
Everybody, including Springsteen, seemed to think it was a record about 9/11, but the subject was broader--death and loss as seen from more than halfway down life's road. Dave Marsh nailed it: "A middle-aged man confronts death and chooses life" Brendan O'Brien's production sounds great.