TOP TEN SPRINGSTEEN NON-ALBUM TRACKS / RARITIES

 Most great artists have at least one great “lost song” – that unused album cut that was somehow dismissed upon its creation, only to find itself coveted and revered by bootleggers and die-hard music fans for generations to come. Bruce Springsteen has about a hundred of these songs (I shit you not). Here are ten of the best…

Honourable Mentions: “Bishop Danced”, “Zero And Blind Terry”, “Winter Song”, “Give The Girl A Kiss”, “Cynthia”, “Trapped“, “Held Up Without A Gun“, “Jersey Girl”, “Chain Lightning”, “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart”.

10.

“High Hopes”

Amongst the small batch of songs recorded with the temporarily reunited E Street Band in 1996, “High Hopes” (originally recorded by the Havalinas) marks the high point of the Blood Brothers EP that was briefly bundled with the VHS release of the documentary of the same name.

9.

“Crazy Rocker”

“Crazy Rocker” is an unfinished Darkness On The Edge Of Town outtake, recorded in 1977. The song trades that album’s grounded and insular aesthetic for the more care-free odes to rock and roll and rockabilly that would eventually crop up on The River. The lyrics are far from being completed (with indecipherable mumblings occasionally standing in for actual words) and the song structure was clearly still in the process of being worked out (as evidenced by Springsteen audibly calling chord changes on the fly) but despite that – or maybe even because of it – the song still stands as one of the better Darkness outtakes yet to be officially released in any capacity.

8.

“Roulette”

“Roulette” marks Springsteen’s first foray into the political protest song. Written in the wake of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, “Roulette” tells the tale of a family being forced from their home after a nuclear catastrophe. Despite being written in 1979, the song wouldn’t see the light of day until 1988, appearing as the B-side to Tunnel Of Love‘s “One Step Up”.

7.

“My Love Will Not Let You Down”

An outtake from the Born In The USA recording sessions, “My Love Will Not Let You Down” might easily have found its way on to that album and sat comfortably alongside songs such as “Bobby Jean” and “No Surrender”. That it didn’t could perhaps be attributed to the notion that it maybe sounded a little too much like those songs to warrant inclusion. Taken on its own though, a case could be made for “My Love Will Not Let You Down” being one of Springsteen’s finest moments of the 80s.

6.

“The Fever”

Recorded in 1973 during sessions for The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, “The Fever” (despite somehow missing the cut for that album) saw an extremely limited release on 7” single and was sent to radio stations to play in anticipation of the release of Born To Run. Why it was never released on a studio album (it would have been perfectly suited to either E Street Shuffle or The River) is anyone’s guess.

5.

“Santa Ana”

Another outtake from The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, “Santa Ana” sees Springsteen falling back on the Bob Dylan and Van Morrison influences that informed so much of Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey to great effect.

4.

“The Promise”

The story behind the recording of Darkness On The Edge Of Town is well documented. Unable to step foot in a recording studio as a result of a contract dispute with then-manager, Mike Appel, an angry, coming-of-age Springsteen spent three years writing songs he was unable to record. By 1978 – and with the lawsuit behind him – Bruce and the E Street Band set about recording three year’s worth of songs and narrowing them down to only the ten which would eventually comprise Darkness On The Edge Of Town. This meant dozens of songs recorded in those Darkness sessions – oftentimes songs that most songwriters would be proud to call their best work – being unceremoniously discarded. “The Promise” is perhaps the most famous of these songs, and not without cause.

3.

“Frankie”

Written in 1976 and recorded in 1982, “Frankie” is maybe the finest song recorded-for-but-not-used-on Springsteen’s 1984 radio-baiting, stadium-sized, Born In The USA album.

2.

“Janey Needs A Shooter”

That this song never saw an official release on either the rarities collection, Tracks, or on the Darkness outtakes collection, The Promise is a crime, and a heinous one at that. “Janey Needs A Shooter” is by far the most glaring omission from the aforementioned Promise album, and a song that compares favourably with the likes of “Thunder Road” and “Racing In The Street”. Originally recorded in 1972 – then a stripped down composition featuring only piano and vocals – the song was revisited and re-recorded with the E Street Band in 1978. Never making it past the demo stage, “Janey Needs A Shooter” was never mastered (let alone remastered) and the imperfect, muffled recording presented here is the only known recording of this version of the song.

1.

“Thundercrack”

For my money, “Thundercrack” is the greatest Springsteen song to never find its way onto any of The Boss’ main albums. Recorded during the Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle sessions, the song is driven by “Mad Dog” Vini Lopez’s hyperactive drumming (a stark contrast to Max Weinberg’s machine-like thud), features a sax solo, an elongated guitar solo, about three different false finishes, and maybe the best intro of any Springsteen song ever written. That it didn’t feature on E Street Shuffle is an absurdity (“Thundercrack”, “Santa Ana” and “The Fever” being included on that album would have surely pushed it into contention for ‘best album ever’).

Bob Russell

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2012 REVISITED

There were some great albums to come out of 2012. Bruce Springsteen recorded his best record in years, Frank Ocean announced his arrival with the brilliant Channel Orange, and Jessie Ware emerged as a future star. But there was plenty of music that flew under the radar, failing to make a dent in the charts; much of which is well worth going back to. Here are three albums you may have missed in 2012 that are absolutely worth your time:

Chairlift
Something

something album cover

Chairlift’s second full-length album, Something, mines the decidedly uncool corners of 80s pop for inspiration while fashioning bold, joyful melodies that juxtapose Caroline Polacheck’s deadpan vocal style and crude, emotionally potent lyrics. Chairlift revel in the same crisp, elegant, electronic pop that the band Haim are set to make popular in the back half of 2013. This is modern indie music that reeks of Fleetwood Mac and Duran Duran.

Something’s success is at least partly owing to the heart-on-sleeve emphasis it places on relationships and their emotional spillage. Whereas their debut album felt self-conscious with its songs too often filtered through ironic detachment and awkward conceit; Something benefits from a directness that imbues its songs with charm and grace. Nowhere is this more evident than on album highlight, “I Belong In Your Arms”.

Chromatics
Kill For Love

kill for love album cover

Chromatic’s Kill For Love came five years after their Night Drive album and a year after the Drive soundtrack that was so heavily informed by that album‘s aesthetic. The collection of songs that appeared in the Nicolas Winding Refn film served for many as an introduction to the Italo-disco sub-genre for which Chromatics have been anointed ambassadors. Despite the Drive soundtrack’s success, it’s not analogue-fetishising, dreamy dance-pop that kicks off Kill For Love, but a hauntingly beautiful, bare-bones cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black).

From there, the 90-minute album moves into more familiar territory with the sophisticated, post-punk-as-dance-pop earworm, “Back From The Grave”, while “These Streets Will Never Look The Same” takes the palm-muted chug of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge Of Seventeen” and stretches it out into eight minutes of torpid build and release. Title track, “Kill For Love” finds the band at their peak, with Ruth Radelet’s mournful vocals coursing through the smoky ambience of Johnny Jewel’s decadent production.

Wild Nothing
Nocturne

nocturne album cover

Nocturne builds on the off-kilter, home-made charm of 2010’s Gemini, taking Jack Tatum’s shimmering, synth-draped dream-pop out of the bedroom and into the studio. The result is an album that sounds fuller and more richly textured than its predecessor, with live drums and meticulous, subtle production greatly benefiting Tatum’s lovelorn atmospherics and new-wave romanticism.

Album-opener “Shadow” is melodic indie-pop with swooning strings and insistently strummed guitar; title track “Nocturne” weaves shimmying guitar lines in and out of its synth-laden tapestry; and “Paradise” seduces with its jangly guitars, velvet-smooth bass line, and watery-blue glimmer. The album is brimming with slick, catchy pop songs and is a definite highlight of 2012.

Bob Russell

Three Decent Albums from 2010

Sure, there was a lot of crap music out there in 2010, just as there is every year. In fact, as 2011 approaches,* new crap music is already being produced, slowly fermenting in the creaking, aching ball-bags of major-label mediocrity, just waiting to be guffed out into the world in the new year, into the expectant mouths of the cretinous, unthinking masses. But it’s not all bad. There were albums to emerge in 2010 that were actually pretty good. Here are three of them.

Best Coast – Crazy For You

Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy leaves girl, girl writes slew of lovelorn indie-pop anthems, releases them on an album that boasts a silly front cover (“silly cat, you can’t go in the sea, get out of the sea, silly cat“); the fallout from all this, is a quintessentially feel-good pop record that belies its own genesis, drawing on a sound that feels detached from the lyrical content within.
While it’s true that Crazy For You’s summer-pop/surf-rock indie bent is both derivative and simplistic, and that Bethany Cosentino’s lyrics are so devoid of depth they take on an almost child-like quality (“I wish my cat could talk“…), there’s something unflinchingly endearing about the whole package that makes any criticisms of the album feel churlish and inappropriate.

In a nutshell: Tales of unrequited love presented as saccharine-sweet, indie-pop anthems with allusions to surf-rock; a soundtrack for the summer.
Choice cut: “Boyfriend”


Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

 A sonic collage of all that indie hipsters hold dear, Forgiveness Rock Record plays like the distillation of twenty years worth of American indie-rock – from Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth to Pavement and yes, Broken Social Scene themselves (who happen to be Canadian) – and yet, there’s enough going on throughout the record to keep any overt comparisons to its inherent influences at arms length, at least for the duration of the album.
Forgiveness represents Broken Social Scene’s most concise and focused album to date, and while that comes at the necessary expense of at least part of the adventurous verve and apparent fearlessness that permeated so much of the band’s previous work, it ultimately works in the record’s favour, as the twelve-piece ensemble shy away from meandering indulgence and instead come to focus on finely crafted soundscapes that build with purpose to palpable crescendos and honed blasts of melodic indie cool.

In a nutshell: Ambitious and grandiose, yet focused indie-rock record, fusing brass, strings, piano and intermittent slithers of electronica.
Choice cut(s):
“Water In Hell”, “World Sick”

Lissie – Catching A Tiger

Lissie – who comes highly recommended by David Lynch of all people – makes this list despite the efforts of her myriad producers and co-writers who, on the evidence of Catching A Tiger, conspired to undermine her considerable talents in the pursuit of something generic and disposable and radio-friendly. Theirs was a calculated assault on musical integrity, but it’s one that the young singer/songwriter emerges from confoundingly unscathed.
While the songs that comprise Catching A Tiger have been produced with soulless adherence to ‘radio-fodder’ orthodoxy in mind, there is an indefeasible quality to them that survives and outlasts the major-label mandate of sterility and dilution. But more than anything else, it’s Lissie’s voice that endures, transcending the banality of pop modernity, breathing fresh life into songs that assuredly navigate the well travelled roads of Americana, folk, rock, pop and Southern balladry.

In a nutshell: California folk-rock, Southern ballads and commercial pop songs that somehow survive being all but drowned in studio polish.
Choice cut(s):
“Oh, Mississippi”, “Little Lovin’”

* written in 2010, forgotten about, posted in 2011