1975 (Columbia) - The definitive Springsteen album, and his first real commercial success. Born To Run set the stage for many of the characters who reoccurred in the Boss' songs and albums to this day. What I like is the sheer hopefulness and angst of it all.
What you've heard: "Born To Run "What you SHOULD hear: "Jungleland" see more on Born to Run
1978 (Columbia) - The title track is far and away my favorite Springsteen song, but from start to finish this album is just a masterpiece. I almost ranked this one above Born To Run, and it's easily the one I listen to most.
What you've heard: "Badlands" What you SHOULD hear: "Racing In The Streets" see more on Darkness on the Edge of Town
2002 (Columbia) - This album was largely centered around Springsteen's reflections on American life after the 9/11 attacks. Every track on this one (even the 'pop' ones) are a real treat, and there's more songs that I would call 'great' on here than on any other Boss album, even Born In The U.S.A. The top three albums listed here were the hardest to rank, and could have gone in pretty much any order.
What you've heard: "My City Of Ruins" What you SHOULD hear: "You're Missing" see more on The Rising
2012 (Columbia) - This is The Rising for the new decade, except here Bruce is screaming about big business and the economy instead of about terrorism. There are a few tracks I skip over sometimes, but even those are worth listening to. I was afraid that Springsteen had plateaued a bit in his autumn years, but this one proves that he can still rock it.
What you've heard: "We Take Care Of Our Own" What you should hear: "Jack Of All Trades"
1984 (Columbia) - This is the icon. Born In The U.S.A. featured seven (!) top ten singles and his greatest acclaim. This album is different to me because of its energetic, but not enigmatic, tone. A good starting point for anyone learning about Springsteen the artist, if not always characteristic of Springsteen the man.
What you've heard: "Born In The U.S.A." What you SHOULD hear: "Downbound Train" see more on Born in the U.S.A.
1987 (Columbia) - This was a sad album and reflected the changes that Springsteen was going through at the time. His marriage to Julianne Phillips had fallen apart, and although some members made cameo appearances on various songs, this album was cut largely without the E Street Band.
What you've heard: "Brilliant Disguise" What you SHOULD hear: "All That Heaven Will Allow" see more on Tunnel of Love
2007 (Columbia) - Might as well have been called, "Disillusionment," for a number of reasons. Recording and release information about this album were cleverly cloaked in mystique, making it kind of a "surprise" album. It was a pleasant surprise. Ever the political artist, Springsteen takes several opportunities to express his disdain for the degradation of American society, particularly war and injustice.
What you've heard: "Radio Nowhere" What you SHOULD hear: "Livin' In The Future" see more on Magic
1980 (Columbia) - Bruce's double album, which stole songs left off of Darkness On The Edge Of Town. If this album were more consistent, it would probably rank--oh, I don't know--fifth? Unfortunately, this is a rare (and maybe lone) example of Springsteen seemingly scrambling the track order instead of creatively placing each song.
What you've heard: "Hungry Heart" What you SHOULD hear: "Drive All Night" see more on The River