Bruce Springsteen – Tracks

Tracks (1998)

A-

1. Mary Queen Of Arkansas 2. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City 3. Growin’ Up 4. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street? 5. Bishop Danced 6. Santa Ana 7. Seaside Bar Song 8. Zero And Blind Terry 8. Linda Let Me Be The One 9. Thundercrack 10. Rendezvous 11. Give The Girl A Kiss 12. Iceman 13. Bring On The Night 14. So Young And In Love 15. Hearts Of Stone 16. Don’t Look Back 17. Restless Nights 18. A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Pittsburgh) 19. Roulette 20. Dollhouse 21. Where The Bands Are 22. Loose Ends 23. Living On The Edge Of The World 24. Wages Of Sin 25. Take ‘Em As They Come 26. Be True 27. Ricky Wants A Man Of Her Own 28. I Wanna Be With You 29. Mary Lou 30. Stolen Car 31. Born In The U.S.A. 32. Johnny Bye-Bye 33. Shut Out The Light 34. Cynthia 35. My Love Will Not Let You Down 36. This Hard Land 37. Frankie 38. TV Movie 39. Stand On It 40. Lion’s Den 41. Car Wash 42. Rockaway The Days 43. Brothers Under The Bridges (’83) 44. Man At The Top 45. Pink Cadillac 46. Town For The Road 47. Janey Don’t You Lose Heart 48. When You Need Me 49. The Wish 50. The Honeymooners 51. Lucky Man 52. Leavin’ Train 53. Seven Angels 54. Gave It A Name 55. Sad Eyes 56. My Lover Man 57. Over The Rise 58. When The Lights Go Out 59. Loose Change 60. Trouble In Paradise 61. Happy 62. Part Man, Part Money 63. Goin’ Cali 64. Back In Your Arms 65. Brothers Under The Bridge

 

A four-disc box set of outtakes (plus a few previously released b-sides) that actually goes a long way towards explaining why Boss fans are such obsessive freaks when it comes to their hero’s catalog, extreme obscurities and all – this guy has written more great songs that have been relegated to the cutting room floor than most songwriters come up with in their entire lives! I’ve heard greatest hits album that looks like total shit compared to this! And yes, all of those were by Red Hot Chili Peppers, but who’s keeping track?

Tracks is not only a great collection in terms of pure musical enjoyability (well, for the most part… some of the early stuff and the later stuff is frankly terrible, but that’s to be expected), but also a fascinating study in Bruce as a self-curator and persona-shaper. Because discs 2 and 3 are pretty darn compelling evidence that if he hadn’t spent so much time during the ‘70s and ‘80s trying to be the Workingman’s Prophet and Voice of a Generation, he could have become known as the world’s premier scribe of fun catchy pop songs! But no, he had to go and release fuckin’ “Drive All Night” instead so critics would cream themselves over how deep and smart he was. I could easily compile an alternate version of Born in the U.S.A. using some of these songs that would be a hell of a lot more fun and would probably get an A, but alas, we got the one with “Cover Me,” “No Surrender,” “Bobby Jean,” and “My Hometown” on it. Fortunately, though, Tracks exists, so I can still listen to those fun songs anytime I want.

Anyway, there’s like four and a half hours of music on here, so let’s bullet point this bitch, shall we?

Highlights include:

  • “Seaside Bar Song,” a boozy, breezy rocker that’s so dang fun it would have stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the complex fusion-y weirdness on The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • “Iceman,” a Darkness outtake featuring a cold, palpably terrifying atmosphere straight out of a Scorsese flick
  • “Roulette,” a fast tension-filled rocker that almost punk but not really
  • “Dollhouse,” “Where the Bands Are,” “Living on the Edge of the World,” “Take ‘Em as They Come,” and “I Wanna Be With You,” a batch of fantastic garage rock tunes that got left off of The River because “I Wanna Marry You” is surely a much better song
  • An early “Born in the U.S.A.” from the Nebraska sessions! It’s all dark and brooding and minor key and shit
  • “Cynthia,” a J. Geils-style garage pop joy
  • “Lion’s Den” and “Car Wash,” a couple of bright, hooky two-minute U.S.A. outtakes that I can’t get out of my head
  • “Pink Cadillac”! Aw, yeah! Rightly became an AOR hit in its own right as the b-side of “Dancing in the Dark,” as it was 1984’s best song about a vagina!

Total dogshit includes:

  • Four acoustic demos of Greetings songs that Bruce did as auditions for Columbia. They are dull as paint and the fact that John Hammond still wanted to sign Bruce after hearing “Mary Queen of Arkansas” leads me to assume he was senile by that point
  • The novelty acoustic/accordion stomp “Bishop Danced,” one of the worst pieces of garbage I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and that’s coming from someone who has listened to U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in its entirety
  • “Sad Eyes,” which when I was just listening to made me think, “Man, this song is awful. It sounds like Enrique Iglesias or something.” Guess what? Turns out it was later recorded by Enrique Iglesias. The moral of the story? I’m an extremely insightful music critic and “Sad Eyes” is terrible
  • ”Part Man, Part Monkey,” a hideous reggae-infused abomination about the Scopes Monkey Trial, because that was such a timely subject in 1990

Other points of interest:

  • ”Thundercrack,” a winding epic that’s sort of a cross between “Rosalita” and “Incident on 57th Street,” and which was thus wisely left off E Street Shuffle since there were already enough winding epics on that album and those other two songs are better anyway
  • An early version of “Stolen Car” that actually has a discernable melody and tempo
  • Though most of the Human Touch leftovers predictably suck, a couple ain’t half bad! I could almost get down to “Leavin’ Train” and “Seven Angels” if they weren’t marred by that plegmy shout-singing thing that Bruce was doing at the time. Did he just have a giant loogy lodged in his throat for the entirety of the early ‘90s or what?

There’s a ton more stuff where that came from, too! It’s rather mind-boggling, really. Just start it at track 6 and skip the last disc and you’ll be in Bruce heaven! Have fun! I won’t be joining you, as there are no intoxicants allowed and it’s located in New Jersey.



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