Bruce Springsteen

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Richard Williams

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It could be ten summers ago, a sunny truant afternoon … transfixed by "Freewheelin'" marvelling that this guy named Dylan could articulate so brilliantly the most secret emotions.

But it's not: it's 1973,… and here I am with an album by a totally unfamiliar fellow called Springsteen, and I'm getting exactly the same feelings. Even now that I know most of the words [on "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."], and can sing along with the record, the adrenalin rushes so hard that its headiness makes writing difficult, and I just want to listen to the record again. And again….

I first heard of [Springsteen] a couple of weeks ago in an American magazine which printed some of his lyrics. Just reading his verses was a buzz: taking their cue from the image-spitting Dylan of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," they leapt off the printed page with a vivid attack which was wholly contemporary. And now this album….

In brief, Springsteen is an outlaw wordslinger with a familiar half-sneer in his voice and a taut, lean little band through which he refracts dazzling verbal images. Like Dylan, he's a rock and roll poet who fills both roles perfectly, like the two forms were born for each other. The comparisons with Dylan will be inevitable, may even hurt him, and there's no denying the influence—but Springsteen is to Dylan as the 1973 Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer is to the 1961 Ferrari 250GT. One is simply a development of the other, using all the knowledge and techniques accumulated in the interim. Bruce uses a lot of what Bob laid down, mostly around the time of "Bringing It All Back Home," but his tunes and tales have a validity of their own. Remember, too, that "Subterranean Homesick Blues" wouldn't have existed without Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business," and Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light," with its similar accelerating build-up of rapid-fire phrases seemingly plucked ad-lib out of the air, is simply a continuation of the tradition….

[He] tells stories from his own personal Desolation Row….

There are some visible faults, and I'm told that he's much better now than when the album was cut. But they're only the faults of immaturity, and I hope he never loses that headlong madness which gives his work such an urgent excitement. For a debut, this is staggeringly good; and whatever happens next in music, I have a strong suspicion that Bruce Springsteen will be a big part of it. He may even be it.

Richard Williams, "A Dylan for the 70s?" in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), March 31, 1973, p. 24.

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Ken Emerson