January 1973. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was coming to a welcome end. The Supreme Court invalidated state laws banning abortion. George Foreman broke Joe Frazier's professional career undefeated heavyweight world boxing champion status. And in a nondescript town in New Jersey by the name of Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band were recording their debut album. Fueled by youthful exuberance and enthusiasm, Bruce Springsteen and his band had no idea what kind of impact they would have on American music. And they didn't care. They just wanted to play their music. They didn't expect to be the next big thing.
But the bottom line is: they were.
Though they wouldn't achieve much commercial success until they released the massively popular Born to Run, their debut helped them to get an initial strong fan base. The raw energy that drives this album has helped it to withstand the test of time.
Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band - Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
#379 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums List
I'll just do some highlights, instead of reviewing every song.
"Blinded by the Light" is the song that introduced the world to Bruce Springsteen, and it does a damn good job of it too. Starts off with a nice little guitar jingle, then the drums come in, then it gets quiet when Bruce starts singing. One thing you will notice is that Bruce's voice isn't the greatest, but his scratchy, youthful sound fits the music so perfectly. The verse goes along kind of quietly, and then the drums and saxophone come in. Ah, the saxophone. There is a lot of it in Springsteen's songs, and it adds so much. The song would be just fine without it, but it adds that extra something that makes the song that much better. The lyrics are kind of nonsensical, just rhyming random words together, but it works. The chorus just explodes with energy, and the backing vocals work to perfection.
And she was blinded by the light
Cut loose like a deuce another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
She got down but she never got tight, but she'll make it alright
Like I said, it doesn't really make too much sense, but it really doesn't matter. When I listen to Springsteen, one thing I notice is that I don't pay too much attention to what he's saying, but how he says it. Bruce has a way of delivering the lyrics in a way that nobody else can. What he's saying may not make sense, but I sure as hell believe it. The final track on the album "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" is another fast paced one. It starts out with some quiet piano twiddling, with an acoustic guitar strumming quietly over it. Then the vocals come into the song with the energy that Springsteen is known for. The lyrics in this song are very visual, describing a seedy downtown section of a city.
And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it's too hot in these tunnels you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop but they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin' faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you're outta that hole and back up on the street
While "Blinded by the Light" and "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" are fast paced songs driven by electric guitars, drums, and saxophones, "Mary Queen of Arkansas" is a slow song with just Bruce, his acoustic guitar, and his harmonica. The lyrics in this song contain repeated references to the circus, with lines like "I'm just a lonely acrobat," and "The big top is for dreamers." Every now and then, Bruce will start strumming like a madman while he speeds up his vocals slightly, which is a really nice touch. Unlike the nonsensical rhyming of "Blinded by the Light," this song has some rather heartfelt lyrics:
Mary queen of Arkansas, your white skin is deceivin'
You wake and wait to lie in bait and you almost got me believin'
But on your bed Mary I can see the shadow of a noose
I don't understand how you can hold me so tight and love me so damn loose
But I know a place where we can go Mary
Where I can get a good job and start all over again clean
"Mary Queen of Arkansas" is one of Springsteen's most beautiful songs, and it's one of my personal favorites. If you're a fan of quieter, acoustic music, check this one out. "For You" is a piano and percussion driven song with metaphorical lyrics about coming to "save" a woman who doesn't want you to save her.
I came for you, for you, I came for you
But you did not need my urgency.
I came for you, for you, I came for you
But your life was one long emergency
One thing I like about "For You" is that it builds itself up for about three and a half minutes to an amazing climax at around four minutes. It then goes into one last chorus, ending one of the best songs on the album.
There are five more tracks on this album, all of which I enjoy, but I felt that the four I described above are the standout tracks. Though not as popular as Born to Run, this album definitely still deserves a listen. It runs the gamut from fast paced electric songs to slow, acoustic driven songs, to everything in between.
Honorable mentions: "Growin' Up," "Spirit in the Night"