To say that Springsteen's live shows with the E Street Band were legendary is the height of understatement. On a good night, the set might extend to three and four hours of exhilarating, pulse-pounding rock & roll. How best to capture that on CD? Or was it possible at all? As it turns out, Live 1975-1985 comes as close to the experience as possible. Culling material from various tours and settings ranging from small rooms to stadiums, the three-CD set emphatically displays Springsteen's charisma as a bandleader and storyteller and makes plain the sheer power of the E Street Band. Some of the many highlights here include covers of Edwin Starr's "War," Tom Waits's "Jersey Girl," and Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and rare versions of originals such as "Because the Night," "Fire," and "Seeds." And relax--all the hits are here as well. If you never saw Springsteen and the E Streeters back then, you might still get your chance. But this set chronicles a special time in the life of a special performer. --Daniel Durchholz
Similarly Requested CDs
Member CD Reviews
(williamj) from FOUNTAIN HLS, AZ
Reviewed on 3/28/2010...
Classic Bruce-all live versions of 40 songs. Glad to get this.
(mayday) from FREDERICKSBRG, VA
Reviewed on 3/23/2007...
This is only disc 3.
Live Anthology Par Excellence
Benedict J. Likens | Whiting, IN USA | 05/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An awful lot has been written about Bruce Springsteen, both with and without the legendary E Street Band behind him. Well, as I sit listening to this boxed set today, 25 years after its initial release, I feel compelled to write just a few more. I've never tired of 'Live/1975-85' and seriously doubt if I ever will. The boxed set was meticulously prepared, as Springsteen always prepares anything with his name attached to it, and the result is a primer for any up-and-coming band that seeks to make its mark onstage, and really, what band doesn't? I got this set as a Christmas gift from my mom in December of 1985. I was a freshman in college and I remember spending the better part of my first extended collegiate break listening, listening, and then listening some more.
At first, I was a little put off by the kinder, gentler "Thunder Road" that kicks off the set, but now, the more I listen to it, I become all the more interested and fascinated at how Springsteen can alter an arrangement to a tried and true classic (which it was becoming even then), and make it eminently listenable, and sometimes even better than its original version. I don't think that quite applies to this version of "Thunder Road," but it does have its own unique effect on the open-minded listener. As this portion of the boxed set develops, I personally feel like I've become a member of that Roxy audience of 1977. "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" (actually recorded a few years later than the rest of the songs around it) is so plaintive, sincere, and musically gorgeous that I always hate to hear it come to a close. Springsteen's rap with the audience during "Growing Up" doesn't feel like a self-serving sermon to a spellbound congregation, but rather like a conversation between two people. He's a natural communicator, and it's always cool to hear him display his skills, whether to an audience as relatively small as this one, or to a huge stadium audience as we'll see he does in the final portion of this set. Listen to the guitar duet between Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt on "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" to experience a moment of musical transcendence. Listen to "Backstreets" for pure musical drama that sucks the audience right into this incredibly powerful and sad story of broken romance gone beyond redemption. "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" is a pretty accurate definition of ecstasy, as is "Raise Your Hand," one of the few cover songs contained on the set.
The second disc, which begins at the end of Disc One with "Hungry Heart" and "Two Hearts," is my favorite of the three CDs, mainly because I sense Springsteen's hunger to get to the top (which his band very strongly shares), and knowing that he was just about there. His guitar playing and singing were at a totally different level than on than they were on Disc One, particularly on his version of "Because the Night" and "Candy's Room." Also, "Badlands" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" possess a rough yet triumphant beauty which is rarely captured on tape by Springsteen or, for that matter, just about any band. When the 'Nebraska' section begins after a majestic "Racing in the Street," the songs show how Springsteen's songwriting matured to the extent that he could take a song like "Nebraska," which was written about the notorious murderer Charlie Starkweather, and make a listener think twice about blanket condemnations and sweeping generalizations when it comes to why people do what they do -- "a meanness in this world?" I'm not sure if I buy that explanation, but by God, every time I hear that song, I find myself almost forced to at least ponder it. "Reason to Believe" is another song powerful in its very simplicity about no matter how much hardship one experiences, that same one somehow manages to find the motivation to wake up the next morning and do what s/he has to do to make it in this confusing, often cruel world we've created.
The final CD in the set, which highlights 'Born in the U.S.A.,' the current studio album of the time, is actually my least favorite of the collection. Mainly, the reason I feel this way about it is because of its overall tone. At the time, I believe that Springsteen was beginning to believe and soak up his own press. Rock critics couldn't come up with enough superlatives to describe Springsteen himself, 'Born in the U.S.A.,' or his live performances, and that state of affairs made him overly self-conscious, and influenced his presentation to the extent that he ended up taking himself much, much too seriously. Even though there were many "over the top" moments on the preceding discs, it seems like even the "fun songs" like "Darlington County," "Working on the Highway," and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" were made to feel like "statements," rather than great Springsteen songs, which they were and still are. When "Jersey Girl" hits full strength at the conclusion of the set, it's like a breath of fresh air (it was recorded a few years earlier than the songs on this portion of the collection and was written by the great Tom Waits, so that explains why it feels so different). Having made this criticism, I have to say that the band were still in top form and Springsteen's attitude was still modest and self-effacing enough not to ruin the songs. It still rocks, and rocks hard.
The real Bruce Springsteen, I believe, comes out most fully during the 'Nebraska' set I mentioned above. It shows the passion, the commitment, and the excellence he demands from himself and his band. He is the type of musical phenomenon that we're lucky to have experienced. I really believe that the world would be so much poorer had Springsteen's songs were left to languish in a basement somewhere in New Jersey heard by only a local lucky few. This set is amazing, showcasing what man can do with a guitar, a commitment, and overall, the ability to articulate a personal vision and make it translatable to not only we who were born in the U.S.A., but to people all over the world. Thanks, Bruce."