The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle

Bruce Springsteen

Columbia Records, 1973

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Bruce Springsteen was often marketed as the next coming of Bob Dylan early on in his career. I’d dare to amend that to read: he was the poor man’s Dylan.

His first effort, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., was a flawed but listenable effort that focused more on Springsteen as a solo artist. However, The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle, Springsteen’s sophomore release (and second of 1973), featured the birth cries of what would become the E Street Band—and you can feel that this was more of a feeling-out effort, backed by a weaker songwriting effort from Springsteen.

Wait a minute… if you listen very closely, you can hear our Editor’s teeth being ground to powder as he clenches his jaw in anger. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 [Editor’s Note: Mphgrlmmm.] Allow me to explain my reasoning.

While this grouping of musicians could be called the first recorded edition of the E Street Band, this disc technically remained Springsteen’s effort. That said, many of the core members of the band, including keyboardist Danny Federici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons, are here—while others, like Max Weinberg, had yet to join the fold.

As this one sits, many of the songs tend to feel like each musician is trying to determine just where their instrument fits into the overall picture—and, honestly, this is something that would only be hammered out by time on the road and weathering of the songs. “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” for example, still sounds very tentative, and is nothing like the powerhouse it would eventually become in Springsteen’s live set.

This isn’t always the case, as “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” is fairly close to what it would become in the live setting, and while it might not be quite as powerful as the live versions, holds its own quite well.

As for Springsteen, there are times that it feels and sounds like he was taking the declarations of being “the next Dylan” too seriously. “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” truly sounds like a bad Dylan clone and is one of Springsteen’s more forgettable songs.

And yet, there is material to celebrate on The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle. Besides “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” the album’s closing track “New York City Serenade” finally seems to showcase the band gelling as a cohesive unit. Had there been more moments like this track on the album, Springsteen wouldn’t have had to wait until Born To Run to break into the mainstream.

As it is, though, The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle is another tentative step for Springsteen and what was coming together as his backing band. There are moments of brilliance hidden among the weaker tracks, but one really has to search them out.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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