The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle is my favourite Springsteen record by an overwhelming margin, but I wouldn't be surprised if not many others felt the same way. The songs are overlong and overwrought, the arrangements too busy. Springsteen's lyrics, while not nearly as oblique as the ones on his first album, are still needlessly loquacious. The trademark cheesiness that will turn off hipper listeners for years to come has already begun creeping into his performing sensibility.
Okay, enough criticism, I'm just trying to be balanced here. E Street Shuffle is one of the best albums of its era and there's not a weak moment on it. The opening number announces everything about the album. The style has developed into something recognizable, the derivative, old-time rock n' roll elements more fully absorbed into a contemporary sound. The lyrics have become more purposeful, painting characters and telling stories. And the coda, when they kick into to double-time, is the hottest jam of its kind this side of Sly Stone's "Stand".
And I didn't even post that song. There's too many other good cuts. Every song is good. Two of his best-loved long-form concert staples ("Rosalita" and "Kitty's Back") are from this album. "New York City Serenade", essentially a showcase for soon-to-depart pianist/string arranger David Sancious, might be Springsteen's finest ballad.
I'm posting "Kitty's Back" because it's less well-known that "Rosalita" and because the arrangement has more unpredictable turns in it.
I'm also posting "Incident On 57th Street" because the lead guitar in it rules. It's worth noting that on his first few albums Springsteen played all the guitar, lead and rhythm. Little Steven was in the concert band, but the Boss did it all in the studio. And the chorus is terrific. Corny? Screw you, cynic.
Incidentally, my copy still has the price sticker on the cover: $1.99. Yesterday I saw the new Cat Power album on vinyl and was psyched to pick it up: $30.99. Think I'll wait. Nothing against Ms. Marshall, mind you, but what are the odds that album's one tenth as good as E Street Shuffle?. You know when I started buying vinyl in college it was partly because it was just cheaper than CDs? Even new albums.
From my deck to you: Bruce Springsteen –
"Kitty's Back" and "Incident On 57th Street"