Friday, March 31, 2017

Album Review: Human Touch and Lucky Town

Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of Springsteen's most dubious career moves to date: the release of both Human Touch and Lucky Town.  These albums were Bruce's first away from the E Street Band, and missed out on the top spot on the billboard charts to the Wayne's World soundtrack.  Widely considered the nadir of Springsteen's popularity, Bruce didn't even mention these albums in his autobiography.  But, a generation later, it's time to look back and ask the question: was it really that bad?

Human Touch is a beast to review.  It's hard to say anything complimentary about any song without noting how much the music is a product of the time.  In the late 80s and early 90s, the "white dude rock world" (for obvious lack of a better term) was dominated by the ballad:

On Human Touch, Bruce was working too hard to find that type of sound.  While there's definitely some solid songs on here, they are buried under a 90s gloss.  "Soul Driver" has the new jack swing drum splash (think a slower Bell Biv Devoe).  "Cross My Heart" is the epitome of 90s country, seeming to draw from the then-uber popular Garth Brooks.  While songs like "Roll of the Dice" and "All or Nothin' At All" are energetic rockers, could you imagine them being done in a jazzier, looser E Street style?  They'd be instant classics!  The album is a long listen, and gets bogged down by numerous generic songs that just bleed into each other.

However, time has been much kinder to Lucky Town.  While Human Touch was a scattered attempt to find the "ballad", Lucky Town is a much more focused, personal, and catchier.  The album starts incredibly strong with the joyous "Better Days", the angry "Lucky Town", and the wedding classic "If I Should Fall Behind".  Unfortunately, the back half of the album sounds like remixes of the first: "Living Proof" is another "Better Days", "Book of Dreams" is another "If I Should Fall Behind", "Souls of the Departed" is another "Lucky Town".  However, the sound is definitely less dated than Human Touch - if this is what Bruce's long-rumored country album sounds like, I'll be very pleased.

Ultimately, I'd give Human Touch 2 out of 5 stars, and Lucky Town 3 out of 5 stars.  Human Touch is only for the Bruce completists, but the casual rock fan should be able to find a couple songs on Lucky Town that they'd enjoy.  Either way, I think we can all agree that the Wayne's World soundtrack definitely deserved the number 1 spot that week.

As for the question of Bruce's worst album of all-time - I'd still give that to Working On A Dream.  While I gave them both 2/5 scores, I can imagine a Human Touch E Street "remix" that could save a lot of the songs.  And, finally, the last thought exercise for this album: how would you make it one album?  Here's my Lucky Touch (Human Town?) playlist:

1. Better Days
2. Roll of the Dice
3. Real World
4. All Or Nothin' At All
5. Lucky Town
6. Man's Job
7. I Wish I Were Blind
8. If I Should Fall Behind
9. Leap of Faith
10. Human Touch

So, what are your thoughts on these two albums?  What would be your Lucky Touch? Let us know in the comments!

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