Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Greatest Hits

2017 June 26
by John

The Boss; Springsteen in 2005

Musical Snobbery 101 dictates that – under no circumstances – can you admit that you got into an act after they enjoyed even the tiniest glimmer of success. It is the duty of the professional music snob to casually remark that he used to be into The Pixies until they released Come On Pilgrim, and to half-remember this awesome demo cassette he picked up at a flea market, containing original Broken Social Scene demos from back when they were totally post-rock. Imagine my pains in admitting that I was not only thirty years late to the Springsteen party, but my invitation came in the form of a greatest hits compilation.

For a long time I was dismissive of The Boss. I’d heard two of his earlier works – The Ghost of Tom Joad and Nebraska, neither of which are all that impressive – and, like every other person on the planet, the plethora of singles he released in his 1980s heyday when the acoustic guitar was set to one side in favour of big riffs and 100,000 seat arenas. So what, I thought. So what, the guy plays a few blues chords and pulls Courtney Cox out of a crowd for a dance, and suddenly the man’s a living legend. I didn’t understand why he was met with such widespread acclaim.

I now understand.

Greatest hits compilations are generally seen as lazy attempts to obtain money for old rope, bleeding hardcore completists dry without a great deal of effort. Some bands are good enough to include extra material – mclusky’s 3-disc mcluskyism set raised the boxset benchmark considerably, with an additional two discs of B-sides, demos, rarities, and their last headline show – but Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s greatest hits is simply a collection of singles from assorted albums. Lazy, right?

Well, yes. But frankly, you really should listen to this. Because that’s another wonderful function of greatest hits albums – it allows the inexperienced novice an easy way into the repertoire of somebody whose catalogue is as voluminous as that of The Boss. And if you’ve been operating under the same Springsteenian prejudices as I had been, you may want to invest in this – this record contains songs that can only really be described as “hits”, and I can safely say I have never been as wrong about a recording artist as I have about Bruce Springsteen.

Some of the singles are a bit eighties and will be known to you already, but for the most part, it’s an extremely impressive collection of pop songs. Anybody who appreciates a good tune, regardless of where it comes from, can easily cut these marvelous numbers loose from the tawdry sense of yankee patriotism that has come to envelope them over the years – images of hillbillies with five thumbs on each hand, eating chunks of catweasel with a bow knife, can be put to one side as the astute listener enjoys the selection of marvelous songs on offer. And they are marvelous songs; big, thundering, crowd-pleasers that should sit with pride on any connoisseur’s shelf, rather than being ashamedly hidden away in your iTunes library, tagged as an Interpol album so that nobody sees you listening to Bruce.

This will, of course, not be to everybody’s liking. Some of you will be so hardwired against Springsteen, through years of laughable music videos and redneck-pleasingly patriotic guff, that this album will not sway you. I understand that. But I can only advise that the reader, whose curiosity has been piqued at the idea that his or her own preconceptions of Bruce may be wrong, investigate the contents of this record at their nearest convenience. Maybe they too will understand, as I now understand, why Bruce Springsteen is one of an ever-depleting assortment of true living musical legends. I also understand what purpose greatest hits records really serve – they are excellent starting points for complete ignoramuses such as myself, who have too long ignored the likes of Springsteen out of some ill-advised sense of trepidation of big name mainstream acts. It’s rare I review anything, and rarer still I review anything positively, but this is a fantastic collection, and I recommend it with no reservations whatsoever.

For fans of: Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Cheap Trick, Mott The Hoople
Listen to: Radio Nowhere

To listen to the album on Spotify, click here.

John Tucker

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