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- 11975 (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"
- 21978 (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"
- 32002 (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"
Wrecking Ball2012 (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"
- 51984 (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"
- 61987 (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"
- 72007 (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"
- 81980 (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"
- 91982 (Columbia) - Recorded almost solely on a personal cassette recorder. When Springsteen tried to record this with the band at the studio, he found he couldn't recreate the earthy sound, so he went home, where he dug the cassette out of a dirty pair of jeans and used it for the album.
What you've heard: "Atlantic City" What you SHOULD hear: "Highway Patrolman"
- 101972 (Columbia) - Bruce's first effort, and an interesting one at that. Leading off is "Blinded By The Light," a fast-rhyming little ditty that went to #1 for Manfred Mann. The last song, "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City," so impressed Mike Appel that he quit his job to become Springsteen's manager. Everything in between is at the very least entertaining, and sometimes brilliant.
What you've heard: "Blinded By The Light" What you SHOULD hear: "For You"
- 111992 (Columbia) - This one has kind of a strange story. For whatever reason, instead of releasing a double album, Springsteen decided to release two different albums (this one and Human Touch) on the same day. Lucky Town is the grittier of the two, while Human Touch is more or less a collection of love songs. I guess I've always thought of Lucky Town as a precursor to The Rising, but I don't know if I could explain why.
What you've heard: "Better Days" What you SHOULD hear: "Book Of Dreams"
- 122006 (Columbia) - A lot of Springsteen purists hate this one, and while I agree that it's not one of my favorites, it's not bad. No, he didn't write any of the tracks (all classic folk songs), but he adds a grittiness and texture to most of the songs, making them brand new to people who have known them all their lives.
What you've heard: "We Shall Overcome" What you SHOULD hear: "Shenandoah"
- 131973 (Columbia) - This album is almost universally hailed by critics; I don't care for it that much. This is the first album on the list that I would classify as 'sub-par.'
What you've heard: "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" What you SHOULD hear: "New York City Serenade"
- 142009 (Columbia) - The Wrestler, a song featured on this album and in the movie of the same name, was nominated for and won the Golden Globe award for best original song. That's really one of the few highlights of this album. Working On A Dream was the last album to feature E Street organist Danny Federici before his death.
What you've heard: "Working On A Dream" What you SHOULD hear: "Kingdom Of Days"
- 151992 (Columbia) - The reviews for this album varied, and with good reason. The pure sappiness of this album was enough for some fans to call Springsteen a "sellout." I don't see it that way, exactly, but it includes only one or two great songs and just a small handful of good ones.
What you've heard: "Human Touch" What you SHOULD hear: "I Wish I Were Blind"
Devils and Dust2005 (Columbia) - This is kind of an amalgamation of songs written at different times in the ten or so years preceding the album. After the title track and maybe two other songs, what you're left with are a bunch of tracks that should have been left on the cutting floor.
What you've heard: "Devils And Dust" What you SHOULD hear: "Long Time Comin'"
- 171995 (Columbia) - This was, I suppose, intended to be the 'sequel' to Nebraska in some ways. I hate to agree with the court of public opinion, but most Springsteen fans are down on this one, and so am I.
What you've heard: Possibly "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" What you SHOULD hear: I don't know, "Youngstown," maybe?