"Born to Run" gets us closer … to what Bruce Springsteen is all about [than either of his first two albums]. The range is as wide as either of the earlier albums, from poignancy to street-strutting cockiness to punk poetry to quasi-Broadway to surging rock anthems. But all of it (except "Meeting Across the River," which works superbly on its own terms) is solidly rock 'n' roll.
Mr. Springsteen's gifts are so powerful and so diverse that it's difficult even to try to describe them in a short space. Sometimes his lyrics still lapse too close to self-conscious myth making but generally they epitomize urban folk poetry at its best—overflowing with pungent detail and evocative metaphors, but never tied to their sources in a way that is binding. This is poetry that attains universality through the very sureness of its concrete imagery. And Mr. Springsteen's themes perfectly summarize the rock experience, full of cars and love, street macho and desperate aspiration. Hearing these songs is like hearing your own life in music, even if you never lived in New Jersey or made love under the boardwalk in Asbury Park.
John Rockwell, "Springsteen's Rock Poetry at Its Best," in The New York Times (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 29, 1975, p. 11.