An essential single disc encapsulating the essence of the man.
Daryl Easlea 2009
It is, remarkably, 14 years since Bruce Springsteen released his Greatest Hits collection (or five if you consider the more expansive Essential Collection). Yet there has never been a straight Springsteen/E-Street Band retrospective. That there are only four tracks here since the 1995 collection shows how incidental the band has become to Springsteen’s story. But when they get together, especially on 2007’s Magic, they remain unassailable.
Imagine if you will, you'd never heard any of these records. You're there as a 17-year old and 2009 is your first Glastonbury, and there's this bunch of old boys headlining of which you know not. What do these 18 tracks here say to you?
Listening to this, without recourse to the backstory, do you hear some classic pop records? Would you think that Blinded By The Light or Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) are just too wordy? The River too maudlin? Or reflect that's where U2 learnt about choruses, when you hear Born To Run and the majestic sweep of Thunder Road? Perhaps. What anyone can hear is this material’s obvious zest and exuberance.
The bulging, sweetened street anthems of Hungry Heart and Badlands rub along amiably with the relative introspection of the material from The Rising and Magic. For those coming to this fresh, it all sounds rather naïve and frequently sparkling.
The live versions of two of the greatest songs he wrote for others are here, previously buried deep in the 1975-85 box set: Because The Night, made famous by Patti Smith, recorded in Nassau in 1980, replaces the longing of Smith’s version with a passionate confidence. Fire (recorded by the Pointer Sisters) from Winterland in 1978 is nothing but a sketch, but a warm and direct one nonetheless.
So, a straight Springsteen best of, then – an essential single disc encapsulating the essence of the man, albeit one without the introspection and space of the solo Tunnel Of Love, Nebraska or Tom Joad. There could be few better ways for a new generation to hear Bruce and the gang at their commercial zenith. Apart from seeing him, of course.