Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Counting On A Package Deal, Part 3 - Born To Run

This album needs no introduction:

Simple.  Clean.  Iconic.  Timeless.  Rock & Roll.  An album cover hasn't matched its content quite like that of Born To Run.  While this is just the albums front, as every true fan knows, it is best viewed unfolded:

Yes, we get the Big Man, with his shirt significantly more buttoned-up than on Wild (his hat grew in size and style, too).  I do enjoy when an album package has a "gimmick", like the postcard on Greetings, and here we get the front-and-back spread.  This is the only Springsteen album where the front bleeds into the back - in fact, I'm having difficulty thinking of other albums that employ this technique (the only one that comes to mind is LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening).  To the left of Clarence, we get the track listing, as well as full credits for every performer.  The interior of the package is excellently done, too:

A shot of our star, and every lyric from "The screen door slams" to "Tonight in Jungleland", nicely spaced out and not hard to read.  Honestly, just on packaging alone, music fans in the 70s must have known they were in for something special.  I cannot heap enough accolades on this album design.  It is perfect in nearly every way (my only minor quibble is that I'd like to see more of the E Street Band than Clarence).  Greetings introduced you to Bruce, focusing on his roots and his lyrics.  Wild ditched the lyrics and focused on building the E Street legend.  But, here, on Born To Run, the world was introduced to Bruce Springsteen: Rock Star.

For completeness sake, here's the record.  Yes, another red circle in a larger black circle.  One day we may see another color.  One day...

Want a copy to call your own?  Purchase it here!

For more reviews of old records, check out part one and part two!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Great Moments In Springsteen Unexpected DVD Inserts History - The Simpsons Season 9 DVD Set

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this post will dive into the oft-discussed topic of DVD inserts.  You see, the other day, I was in a Simpsons-watching mood.  So, I pulled out The Simpsons season nine DVD box set.

While many Simpsons purists will say that this season is where the series started to show its cracks, I feel there are many essential episodes in here, such as "Lisa's Sax", "Lisa the Simpson", and "The Joy of Sect".  But, that's a topic for LegendsOfSimpsons.com. 

Since season six, the Simpsons' DVDs have been "themed", where the DVD package, discs, and menu screens are all tied together.  For season nine, they went with a musical theme.  And, to tie in with this theme, they included five postcards:

Apparently, these postcards were reprints of a series of November 2002 Rolling Stone covers.  Each cover parodies a famous album, but you can see which one immediately caught my eye:

Yup, it's Homer doing his best Springsteen impression.

And, um, that's it, I guess.  I mean, what more do you want me to say?  The Simpsons parodied the Born In The USA cover.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

One Year Later: High Hopes

It's been a little over a year since Bruce Springsteen released High Hopes, his 18th studio album. So, how is it holding up? Are people calling it a classic? Are people still listening to it? Do people even remember it came out?

Based on its limited cultural impact (it opened number one but fell quickly), I think it's safe to say it's largely faded from public consciousness. If anyone is still listening to it or talking about it, it's the super fans. But has it even had an impact there? E Street Radio seems pretty unmotivated to play its tracks.

When I wrote about my first impression of the album, I described it as… “A collection of covers, cuts, and remakes, the album is a curio in Springsteen’s oeuvre. I doubt that it will ever be treasured by anyone as one of his best. And I wouldn’t argue with the detractors who feel that the album is overproduced, but I would say that there are a couple of gems here and a lot of fun to be had.”

After recently listening to the album in its entirety for the first time in months, I'd say my initial assessment largely holds. Here are a few new observations that have come with the passing of time:

• “Just Like Fire Would” still brings an instant smile to my face.
• “Frankie Fell in Love” seems to be the one song that comes on randomly on my iPod the most. Maybe its just because it feels overplayed to me but its initial allure has started to wear.
• “Dream Baby Dream” – my initial critique has softened and the song has grown on me a good deal. At first I couldn't get over how overproduced it felt, but now I feel like I can look past it and embrace the reassuring simplicity of its lyrics.
• “High Hopes” feels like a strong rocker that gets my feet tapping, but it’s not a song I'd seek out.
• American Skin (41 Shots) - It took me some time to get used to the initial shock of hearing the song performed this way. But now that has settled, I can recognize it’s one of my favorite Bruce songs, no matter what version it takes.
• “The Wall” is the song that has stuck with me the most. It’s the one track that I've proactively listened to the most over the past year. I often find myself quietly singing my favorite lyric, “Well I’m sorry I missed you last year, I couldn't find no one to drive me.”

I don’t think anyone expected High Hopes to be a classic – not even Bruce himself – but is it just me or does it feel all but forgotten a mere 13 months after its release? If so, it’s a shame because I laud Bruce for experimenting with covers, remaking his past songs and bringing Tom Morello into the fold so prominently.

We'll see how the album continues to age over the years. Again, I can't downplay my appreciation that Bruce still finds ways to surprise us. Before last year, I don't think I ever would have imagined Bruce would release a song with the lyrics, “You don't fuck with Harry's money, you don't fuck Harry's girls; These are the rules, this is the world.”

What does everyone else think? Any staunch defenders? Any harsh detractors? Votes of neutrality?