If aliens landed in my hometown today and came to me asking “What is this ‘rock music’ that you humans speak of?”, I would have one easy answer and that would be to give them a copy of Live/1975-85 by Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band.
Live albums have a bad reputation as being merely cash-ins, and this is quite often the case, but Springsteen worked hard to compile this 5-LP set detailing ten years of performances by the ‘heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-shaking, booty-quaking, Viagra-taking, love-making’ best live band around. Their shows are usually 2-3 hours long, so it’s fitting that this first collection of their live shows is also epic.
Of course, it’s not the same as seeing them in concert properly (something I’ve been lucky enough to do twice), but now that The Big Man is no longer with us, hearing his sax solos in person is something we can only do on record. And they sound flipping amazing on here, as do Max Weinberg’s drums and the guitars of Steve Van Zandt and (later) Nils Lofgren, and one of the best examples of these instruments coming together is the early instrumental Paradise By The “C”.
That comes early on in the set because it runs in a mostly (but not strictly) chronological order, mainly because Springsteen wanted to use it to tell a story, and that it does. From the days of 4th July, Asbury Park (Sandy) and Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) to the arena sing-a-longs of Hungry Heart and Badlands to the acoustic sequence of tracks from Nebraska and then the world-conquering Born In The USA days, Live/1975-85 takes you on a thrilling journey through Springsteen’s glory days.
For ‘added value’, there’s also ‘rare’ tracks like the instrumental I already mentioned, plus live versions of hits that The Boss had given away, like Fire and Because The Night (this version is still the best ever released of it), as well as covers of Woody Guthrie, Tom Waits and Edwin Starr songs and the classic Raise Your Hand. You can quibble about missing songs (No Jungleland?!) until the cows come home, but with 40 pretty much perfect, atmospheric, house-rocking live performances, you can’t go far wrong with this album.
This really is that ‘rock music’ that we humans speak of, and if you don’t have a copy, you might as well be an alien…