18 Tracks

Bruce Springsteen

Columbia Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Matthew Turk


To paraphrase another review, this release is a bit disappointing.

Is the music bad? No. Far from it.

Is the packaging bad? Nope. Comes with lyrics, some comments, good pictures.

The disappointment comes when you step back and look at the purpose of the release. It's a collection of some of the "best" tracks on the four-disc set he released called, well, Tracks. Tracks is a huge amount of music, from a huge amount of time - choosing just 18 songs from it is not easy, and it's probably not a good review to criticize the actual choices.

But, that's what I'm going to do. The choices focus much more on the shorter, radio friendly selections - which isn't a bad thing, except that several of the more interesting and risk-taking pieces were left off; namely, most of the tracks on the first disc. That's not to say that the choices are bad; they just aren't very risk-taking.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

We get some very good insights into the process of song-writing - the demo of "Growin' Up" is a bit stripped down, and the version of "Born In The USA" on this album is from the early days of the song, probably when it was still slated for the Nebraska album. "Seaside Bar Song" is vaguely familiar sounding, and sounds like it's from the same era that produced feel-good classics like "Rosalita." "I Wanna Be With You" shows just how carefully Springsteen guarded his music; this song could have easily shot to the top of the charts -- it's got a simple chorus, good lyrics, and a great rhythm. Why this was never released is one of the great mysteries.

"Lion's Den" sounds like Phil Spector-ish wall-of-sound with biblically infused lyrics, all layered on top of a relentless up-and-down beat. It fits nicely in the middle, particularly between "My Love Will Not Let You Down," a song I really don't care for, and "Pink Cadillac."

One thing bugs me about this album. It's supposed to be a companion to Tracks, for all the fans that really don't feel like investing four to five hours immersing themselves in the Boss. But, for some reason, one of the most requested songs of Springsteen's - "The Fever" -- was only included in this sampler platter. I felt like a schmuck buying this CD, but I did anyway -- and I think that the three new tracks, "The Fever," "The Promise," and "Trouble River" are worth the nine dollars I paid for it. "The Fever," in particular, is a fairly long track, clocking in at seven and a half minutes, despite being very sparse lyrically -- it's a slow, long, love song. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

All in all, this is a good disc to buy if you liked Born In The USA more than The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle. It features much more compact music than the boxed set does. But if you find yourself wanting more creative, reaching musical landscapes, I would suggest picking up Tracks instead.

Rating: B

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© 2002 Matthew Turk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.