Bruce Springsteen

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Greg Mitchell

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Above easy classification and beyond casual comparison, [in The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle] Bruce Springsteen now clears his path with creations of his own device: electric mind music for the spine and body. Signed as a singer/songwriter and recorded first as a hesitant folk-rocker, Springsteen lets loose here with aural authority, apparently trading in his Divine Right to sit at the throne of Dylan for a less lyrically ambitious but more musically mature and eclectic rock 'n roll Boss sound. It's becoming apparent that Springsteen has been influenced as much by Gary U.S. Bonds and Wilson Pickett as by Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

After an unevenly astounding debut album, Springsteen's almost entirely successful second shot somehow adds up to much more than the sum of its parts: not a conceptual album but a complete one….

For The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, Springsteen has taken some of the craziness but none of the tension out of the kind of lyrics that made Greetings From Asbury Park a frantic rush of manic intensity. The streetwise stories are now told from the cooled-out consciousness of someone who's realized that he will be given time to tell all his tales after all. Only one song remains provocatively obscure—it's the closing tune, the food for thought at the end of a sumptuous banquet—and none hold the eerie imagery that stands right up and shoots through you (as on the first album's classic "Spirit in the Night"). Most of the songs offer original observations on uncommon themes but the stories are more often funky than freaky; compelling, but in a less outrageous way than the cuts on Asbury Park which cried out, sometimes confusingly, with delightfully lunatic logic. E Street is more panoramic, less personal….

Asbury Park was Springsteen's "growing up" album; on E Street Bruce is not so wild and decidedly less innocent—apparently with one of the characters on the album, he's "left the corner, thrown away all his switch blade knives." Springsteen now describes street life more as an observer than a participant; clearly, his roots still crack the concrete—and most of his friends do too—but he seems to be writing about it now from a safe second story apartment, passing on to the teenage tramps what he's learned from the handsome hitters and hot boy-prophets: "You better move fast when you're young or you're not long around." You just know that his midnights in Manhattan are more in his past than in his present….

Springsteen's new songs aren't as individually extraordinary as one might have hoped considering the diamond-in-the-rough brilliance of those on the first album. E Street nevertheless, emerges as a stronger album, complete unto itself as a presentation of an artist and his milieu…. Lyrically and musically each song, taken in succession, offers a completely different scene; at the end of the album you're left with the feeling that you've been just about everywhere and there's still much more to see….

Contrary to early expectations, Bruce Springsteen, at this writing anyway, hasn't yet Made It Big. Perhaps it's because while everyone else is going up the country, Bruce is still scuffling around the city, "hanging in them dusty arcades, banging them pleasure machines," seeking out the dark difficult corners others have abandoned for the rounded edges of the Easy Life. On Springsteen's mad dog promenade there's no time to get cute. It's challenging music, not for the faint of heart nor for those weak in the kind of spirit that only comes out at night.

Greg Mitchell, "'The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle'," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1974 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), March, 1974, p. 71.

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