Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.

Bruce Springsteen

Columbia Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If I had written this review four years ago, I'd have been awaiting an angry e-mail from fellow reviewer Jason Warburg. A diehard Bruce Springsteen fan, he would have chided me for not seeing Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., the 1973 debut album from The Boss, as a masterpiece.

Chances are Jason won't agree with some of the things I say here; the same goes for any diehard Springsteen fan out there in the audience. But the years of letting this album sit, as well as allowing myself to grow in understanding of what Springsteen and his career have been all about, have led me to a deeper appreciation of this album. Is it a masterpiece? No. Is it a good album? Yes.

Maybe it's because I grew up with the Manfred Mann versions of "For You" and "Blinded By The Light," but Springsteen's original versions just don't have the organization or the punch that some people have come to know. At times, one has to imagine Springsteen sitting in the studio with a tank of oxygen as he breathlessly delivered his poetic lyrics. If I had to choose between these two songs, I'd pick "For You," if only because it has a little better song structure than "Blinded By The Light". (I can imagine, though, that Springsteen purists absolutely soiled themselves in disgust when they heard Mann's renditions.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Okay, I can feel my e-mail box warming up already. My jabs at Springsteen are out of the way. For the most part, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. turns into a loving collection of folk songs and rock stories, delivered in the manner that would win Springsteen worldwide acclaim in short time. I won't, however, go as far as to proclaim Springsteen to be the next Bob Dylan as so many other people have. Truth be told, Dylan was Dylan, going off in whatever musical tangent inspired his muse. Springsteen, at least for a good chunk of his career, has always been a storyteller.

Take songs like "Growin' Up," "Mary Queen Of Arkansas," "Spirit In The Night" and "Lost In The Flood". These four tracks are prime examples of Springsteen's mastery of words and how he could deliver more power in a four-minute song than some artists can muster in their entire career. Yes, you might have to tamper your expectations a shade; if you pick this album up expecting to hear an early version of Born In The U.S.A., you're gonna walk away from this one pretty quickly. (Come to think of it, maybe that's why it took me well over five years to give this album a second shake.) But the young Springsteen had the power, even if he was still honing his songwriting and delivery skills. (That doesn't mean he did a bad job. Gotta clarify that in case someone's planning on sending me a horse's head in the mail.)

Maybe the expectation of the listener is what sets the mood for Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. and what you get from it. If you go in with high expectations, you might be disappointed - in other words, the first time I listened to this record all those years ago. If you go into it expecting nothing more than a way to pass 40 minutes or so, the beauty of some of these songs will come out and move you in ways you might not have expected. I still would say to approach this one with caution - but I'm more willing to say it's worth your time and money now, with time, age and experience on my side.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen 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.