Monday, 29 February 2016

"Honky Chateau" by ELTON JOHN (2004 Universal/Rocket 'Hybrid SACD, Surround and CD Audio' Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...I Am At Home..." 

I always thought it odd that after the truly stunning 'Deluxe Editions' afforded Elton John's 2nd and 3rd albums "Elton John" and "Tumbleweed Connection" - Universal didn't follow up with more of the same for his revered and much-loved 4th and 5th LPs – "Madman Across The Water" (1971) and "Honky Chateau" (1972). But in a kind of a way – they did – it just seems that no one has noticed.

Instead of a two-disc DE – this variant of "Honky Chateau" is a single-disc 'SACD HYBRID' release – a new 2004 Remaster offering up three levels on one CD. The spine banner beneath the see-through jewel case tells you it's a 'SACD Surround Sound, SACD Stereo and CD Audio' release featuring new DSD and Surround Sound SACD mixes. It will play the 'CD Audio' variant on standard CD players - but if you want the best out of the Disc its better to have SACD playback or Surround or both. My Marantz CD Player has the SACD option – and man of man – do these digital babies shine compared to their 1995 Gus Dudgeon predecessors. There are SACD variants of 1971's "Madman Across The Water", 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and 1975's "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy" also. Let's get to the Honky Cat...

US released November 2004 (December 2004 in the UK) – "Honky Chateau" by ELTON JOHN on Universal/Rocket B0003609-36 (Barcode 602498240304) is a 'HYBRID SACD Surround Sound, SACD Stereo and CD Audio' Single Disc Reissue of the original 10-track 1972 album plus one bonus 'Alternate Version' and plays out as follows (48:34 minutes):

1. Honky Cat
2. Mellow
3. I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself
4. Susie (Dramas)
5. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)
6. Salvation [Side 2]
7. Slave
8. Amy
9. Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters
10. Hercules
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 5th album "Honky Chateau" – released May 1972 in the UK on DJM Records DJLPH 423 and in the USA on Uni Records 93135. All tracks were written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin – Ken Scott was the Engineer and Gus Dudgeon Produced. It hit the No. 1 spot in the USA on the LP charts and No. 2 in the UK.

BONUS TRACK:
11. Slave (Alternate Version)
First appeared as a bonus track on the 1995 Rocket CD Remaster.

The 12-page booklet features the same layout as the Gus Dudgeon 1995 remaster in that it reproduces the inner gatefold of the original vinyl album (has the SACD logo in the bottom left corner). The JOHN TOBLER liner notes from 1995 are there also as are the colour pages with lyrics and musician credits. The only addition is a SACD HYBRID acknowledgement page that advises about the team of 4 who handled this version. GREG PENNY produced, mixed and mastered the Surround Sound version – RICKY GRAHAM did the Digital Transfers at Sphere Studios in London, GUS SKINAS did the DSD Editing at Super Audio Center, Boulder, Colorado while TONY COUSINS re-mastering the Original Stereo Mixes at Metropolis Mastering in London. You get a rounded-corner jewel case with a visible 'SACD Surround Soul, SACD Stereo, CD Audio' side banner to differentiate it from previous issues. I have to say that the audio on the 1995 CD always felt weedy to me – but I’m taken aback at how good these 2004 versions are – clarity, warmth and truly gorgeous audio throughout the entire SACD Remaster. I suspect fans who’ve grown up with this album for over four decades will be shocked when they hear LP nuggets like "Mellow" or the piano funk of "Susie (Dramas)" on this Hybrid Disc.

It opens with the wonderfully chipper "Honky Cat" – a Number 8 hit in August 1972 in the States (Uni 55343). I've had the 1995 variant and the Greatest Hits version to try to get the best Audio – but this 2004 baby trounces all that went before. The transfers of "Mellow" gives more muscle to Dee Murray's Bass and Nigel Olsson’s Drums (Jean Luc-Ponty plays his Electric Violin) while Elton's Piano on "I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself" and those great Harmony Vocals between him and Dee Murray get to shine too (Larry "Legs" Smith the drummer with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band provided 'tap dancing' instead of his usual skill with the sticks). But if I was to nail down one track that exemplifies how good the audio is – it would absolutely huge punch that now comes off "Susie (Dramas)". As the piano pumps – you can now hear Davey Johnstone's Electric Guitar fills – and when that off-kilter solo hits the speakers – your cones will be rattling. We then get a truly gorgeous transfer of the classic "Rocket Man" which was the natural single choice (it made No. 2 in the in April 1972 on DJM DJX 501 and No. 8 in the USA in May 1972 on Uni 55328). Everything here is improved – those Acoustic strums from Davey Johnstone – the A.R.P. Synth played by David Henschel. You kind of wish they used this in Ridley Scott's film "The Martian" instead of Abba's hokey "Waterloo" in that prepping for departure from Mars scene.

The accumulated Harmony Vocals on "Salvation" are fantastically clear (Madeline Bell, Lisa Strike, Larry Steel and Tony Hazzard guest) as the song sails into your living room on a sea of voices and piano. The biting ‘bullwhip in his hand’ song "Slave" was the US B-side to “Honky Cat” and I’d forgotten how good (and indeed) funky "Amy" is – Jean Luc-Ponty’s wild violin strokes and Elton’s accentuated Vocals to the fore – both abled assisted by Ray Cooper’s rumbling Congas in the background. You also 'feel' the sweet playing of Dee Murray on Bass throughout the highlight that is "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters" – Davey Johnstone’s Mandolin and Acoustic suddenly crystal clear too (“...I thank the lord for the people I have found...”). It ends on five and a half minutes of "Hercules" piano boogie – nicely done even if that ‘distant’ Elton vocal still irritates and takes some power away from the song’s impact. The single Bonus Track is the ‘ridiculously fast’ Alternate Take of “Slave” that both Taupin and John felt wasn’t right – one of the few outtakes to have ever surfaced from the Chateau Sessions. It comes on like a barroom barrelhouse tune and I can see why they slowed it down – but you have to say that it makes for a fascinating listen (and its in tip-top audio too)...

The album is dominated and probably best remembered for the monster hit "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)" - but on re-hearing it in 2016 – I'm struck again by the songwriting/melody classiness of Elton John's "Honky Chateau". In seemed that 1971 to 1975 produced the best in Rock.

I've just finished reviewing 1971's "Madman Across The Water" on this format and all the same 'wow factors' apply. To sum up - this stunning 'Hybrid SACD' Reissue of Reggie's "Honky Chateau" leaves me awash with admiration...and isn't that the best recommendation of all...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


Sunday, 28 February 2016

"Madman Across The Water" by ELTON JOHN (2004 Universal /Rocket 'Hybrid SACD, Surround and CD Audio' Single-Disc Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Tiny Dancer..."

I always thought it odd that after the truly stunning 'Deluxe Editions' afforded Elton John's 2nd and 3rd albums "Elton John" and "Tumbleweed Connection" - Universal didn't follow up with more of the same for his revered and much-loved 4th and 5th LPs – "Madman Across The Water" (1971) and "Honky Chateau" (1972). But in a kind of a way – they did – it just seems that no one has noticed.

Instead of two-disc DE's for "Madman Across The Water" and "Honky Chateau" - we got single-disc 'SACD HYBRID' releases (there are SACD variants of 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and 1975's "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy" also). The single-disc 'Hybrid SACD/Surround Sound/CD Audio' reissues both feature new DSD and Surround Sound SACD mixes and both will play on standard CD players. But if you want the best out of the Disc - better to have SACD playback or Surround or both. My Marantz has the SACD option – and man of man – do these digital babies shine compared to their 1995 Gus Dudgeon predecessors. Let's get to the Blue Jean Babies...


US released November 2004 (December 2004 in the UK) – "Madman Across The Water" by ELTON JOHN on Universal/Rocket B0003610-36 (Barcode 602498240298) is a 'HYBRID SACD Surround Sound, SACD Stereo and CD Audio' Single Disc Reissue. It's a straightforward transfer of the original 9-track 1971 album and plays out as follows (45:33 minutes):

1. Tiny Dancer
2. Levon
3. Razor Face
4. Madman Across The Water
5. Indian Sunset [Side 2]
6. Holiday Inn
7. Rotten Peaches
8. All The Nasties
9. Goodbye
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 4th album "Madman Across The Water" – released November 1971 in the UK on DJM Records DJLPH 420 and in the USA on Uni Records 93120

The 20-page booklet features the same layout as the Gus Dudgeon 1995 remaster in that it reproduces the booklet attached to the inner gatefold of the original vinyl album (has the SACD logo in the bottom left corner). The JOHN TOBLER liner notes from 1995 are there also as are the colour pages with lyrics and musician credits. The only addition is a SACD HYBRID acknowledgement page that advises about the team of 4 who handled this version. GREG PENNY produced, mixed and mastered the Surround Sound version – RICKY GRAHAM did the Digital Transfers at Sphere Studios in London, GUS SKINAS did the DSD Editing at Super Audio Center, Boulder, Colorado while TONY COUSINS re-mastering the Original Stereo Mixes at Metropolis Mastering in London. You get a rounded-corner jewel case with a visible 'SACD Surround Soul, SACD Stereo, CD Audio' side banner to differentiate it from previous issues. I have to say that the audio on the 1995 CD always felt weedy to me – but I’m taken aback at how good these 2004 versions are – clarity, warmth and truly gorgeous audio throughout the entire SACD Remaster. I know this album so well that it stills comes as something of a shock every time I play "Tiny Dancer" or "Madman Across The Water" on this Hybrid Disc.

It opens with a classic – the wonderfully evocative "Tiny Dancer". I've had the 1995 variant and the Greatest Hits version to try to get the best Audio – but this 2004 baby trounces all that went before. Beautiful is the only word to describe it. The transfers of "Levon" gives more muscle to Barry Morgan's Drums and Brian Odger's Bass while Rick Wakeman plays Organ on "Razor Face" and that fantastic Accordion playing from Jack Emblow gets to shine too. But if I was to nail down one track that exemplifies how good the audio is – it would the Side 1 finisher and album title song – "Madman Across The Water". When Chris Spedding's Electric Guitar comes at the opening - it has a real punch and presence – as do the stunning Paul Buckmaster orchestrated strings. And as Davey Johnstone's Acoustic guitar re-surfaces – it's so clear (Diana Lewis and Rick Wakeman contribute Synth and Organ respectively on the track too).

The Mandolin and Guitars of "Indian Sunset" are fantastically clear and that Ecclesia Choir (conducted by Robert Kirby) sails into your room too. You forget how good "Holiday Inn" is with backing vocals from Leslie Duncan, Sue & Sunny, Barry St. John and Roger Cook (to name but a few). Chris Spedding provides Slide Guitar for "Rotten Peaches", Rick Wakeman of Yes plays Organ and that huge ensemble of Backing Vocalists kicks in again. You also 'feel' the sweet playing of Herbie Flowers on Bass (I hate to say he's a lovely bottom end but in the interests of art I will). The echoed vocal intro to "All The Nasties" suddenly feels huge too as does the Ecclesia Choir. It ends on the short but moving "Goodbye" – just Elton, his Piano and some tasteful string orchestration (the remaster is properly gorgeous)...

The obvious let down (if you could call it that) is that this 2004 Hybrid doesn’t improve on track numbers over the 1995 standard CD – you still only get the basic 9-track album with no bonus cuts. That aside – this is the version to own.

Ace filmmaker Cameron Crowe famously used "Tiny Dancer" on the Tour Bus Scene of his 70ts Music flick "Almost Famous" to amazing effect – and I can remember the chills returning to my arms as the "...seamstress for the band..." played and each person on the bus knew why they were there - their love for the music. This stunning 2004 'Hybrid SACD' Reissue leaves me feeling the same...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


Thursday, 25 February 2016

"A Step in The Right Direction: Singles, Demos, BBC Live, 1983-1984" by THE TRUTH (2016 Cherry 3CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






"...No Stone Unturned..."

Arising out of the ashes of two British R&B bands – Dennis Greaves of Nine Below Zero and Mick Lister of The Stowaways formed The Truth in 1982 – aligning themselves with Mod Revivalists like Paul Weller's The Style Council and Kevin Rowland's Dexy's Midnight Runners. A bidding war ensued and they went with Formation Records (a part of the Warners Group) – where they promptly pumped out three hugely revered sevens before being dropped (the Formation album never materialised). The Truth then signed with I.R.S. Records and released three LPs proper in 1985, 1987 and 1989 ("Playground", "Weapons Of Love" and "Jump").

This rather stunning and in-depth mini box set from those pioneering chappies over at CHERRY RED has decided however to concentrate solely on their FORMATION RECORDS beginnings and all that surrounded it. You therefore get the first three singles (45s and 12s) with some demos and a whopping two whole discs full of incendiary live concerts from 1983 and 1984 – all of it spread across three fully kitted-out CDs. There's a lot of Mod good stuff to contend with - so once more unto the short haircuts, tight shirts and white boys with big dreams of black music...

UK released 22 January 2016 (29 Jan 2016 in the USA) – "A Step in The Right Direction: Singles, Demos, BBC Live, 1983-1984" by THE TRUTH on Cherry Red CDTRED675 (Barcode 5013929167537) is a 58-Track Mini Box Set with a 20-Page Booklet and 3CDs that play out as follows:

Disc 1 – THE SINGLES (53:36 minutes):
1. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)
2. Me And My Girl
Tracks 1 and 2 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single released June 1983 on WEA/Formation TRUTH 1

3. A Step In The Right Direction
4. Beat Generation
5. What You Want Me To Say
6. Second Time Lucky
Tracks 3 to 6 are A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single – a 4-Track EP released August 1983 on WEA/Formation TRUTH 2E. Producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain wrote the A-side - the other three are Truth originals. See also Track 13...

7. No Stone Unturned
8. Flesh And Fantasy
Tracks 7 and 8 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single released August 1984 on WEA/Formation YZ1

9. Don't Tell Me
Track 9 is the 2nd B-side to the 'red' vinyl UK 12" single for "No Stone Unturned" released August 1984 on WEA/Formation YZ1T

10. Love A Go-Go (Live)
11. From The Heart (Live)
12. Nothing's Too Good For My Baby (Live)
Tracks 10 to 12 are the B-side of the 12" single for "Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)" on WEA/Formation TRUTH 1T (the two A-sides are tracks 1 and 2). The B's were recorded 27 March 1983 in The Marquee, London. "From The Heart" is a Truth original song - but "Love A Go-Go" is a cover of a 1967 US 7" single on Westwood W 12367 by THE LIME – while "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" is a cover of a 1966 Stevie Wonder 7" single on Tamla T 54130 written by Smokey Robinson (with others). The A-side (Track 1) and the three B-sides (Tracks 10 to 12) were also issued as double x 7" single pack on TRUTH 1F.

13. I Get So Excited (Live) – 3rd B-side on the August 1983 UK 12" Single for "A Step In The Right Direction" on WEA/Formation TRUTH 2T

BONUS TRACKS:
14. Come On (Demo)
15. If I Ever Find Love (Demo)
16. Instrumental (Demo)
17. Look My Way (Demo)
18. Sweet Sensation (Demo)
Tracks 14 to 18 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 2 – LIVE AT THE BBC (73:58 minutes):
In Concert at the Paris Theatre, London 19 Nov 1983
1. Exception Of Love
2. Listen To What I Say
3. Always On My Mind
4. Is There A Solution?
5. Beat Generation
6. The Sweetest Feeling
7. You Play With My Emotions
8. Second Time Lucky
9. A Step In The Right Direction
10. I Just Can't Seem To Stop

Live at Goldiggers, Chippenham (Broadcast 14 Jan 1984)
11. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime) (excerpt)
12. Exception Of Love
13. Listen To What I Say
14. Always On My Mind
15. Is There A Solution?
16. No Stone Unturned
17. A Step In The Right Direction
18. Second Time Lucky
19. It's A Miracle
20. You Play With My Emotions
21. I Just Can't Seem To Stop
22. Flesh And Fantasy
All Tracks PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Disc 3 – LIVE AT THE MARQUEE (62:24 minutes):
1. Love A Go-Go
2. Listen To What I Say
3. Me And My Girl
4. Out Of Darkness
5. Always On My Mind
6. Is There A Solution?
7. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)
8. You Play With my Emotions
9. What You Want Me To Say
10. It's A Miracle
11. Don't You Just Know It
12. Come On
13. I Just Can’t Seem To Stop
14. Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby
15. Reach Out I'll Be There
16. I'm In Tune

BONUS TRACKS:
17. Ain't Nothing But A House Party (Live)
18. I Get So Excited (Live)
All Tracks PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Compiled by the mighty JOHN REED (with his ever-impressive knowledge and passion for the music) - the outer slipcase, three 5" card sleeves (all with different live shots) and 20-page colour booklet with liner notes from LOIS WILSON (of Mojo Magazine) is all very tastefully laid out (and tactile too). Lois features interviews with principal band members Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister while the text is peppered with memorabilia from the period – badges, 7" single picture sleeves, press reviews, trade adverts, set lists, concert posters and tickets (supporting The Kinks in Aylesbury) and even live shots from The Marquee gigs. It looks and feels very Mod revivalist and obviously has had input from the band. SIMON MURPHY has done the Remasters at Another Planet and everything rocks along like a 60ts Soul gig. These CDs sound great...

From the get-go you're hit with the Dexy's comparisons. The very British Pop Soul of "Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)" comes at you like Haircut One Hundred finding a pile of Stax singles in Dennis Greaves' sister's house. On both it and "Me And My Girl" – the Bass is right up there in the mix (I often thought the B-side better than the more popular A). "A Step In The Right Direction" is so Style Council it might actually fall over Paul Weller and Mick Talbot's untied shoelaces. Far better for me is the Monkees-happy flipside "The Beat Generation" – a song that like The Clash's "Train In Vain" makes you just want to dance and throw undignified Eighties shapes despite the possible jail-sentence they might elicit. Again you get big Slap Bass with "What You Want Me To Say" - the song sounding clean and punchy (the Steve Jolley and Tony Swain production is very polished).

Of the live stuff – it becomes apparent pretty quickly that The Truth were 'tight' as a band onstage – rip-roaring with palatable passion through British Mod Soulful takes of The Equals hit "I Get So Excited" – all the studio restraints of the band lost. Hot like Graham Parker's Rumour or Elvis Costello's Attractions - they goad the crowd to sing-a-long to the wickedly good "Love A Go-Go" (which they do enthusiastically). Live staples like "Exception Of Love", "Always On My Mind", "It's A Miracle" and "You Play With My Emotions" would eventually turn on the first I.R.S. LP "Playground" in 1985 (I.R.S Records MIRF 1001) - while the bopping "Out Of The Darkness" would become a flipside for the first I.R.S. single "Exception Of Love" (IR 103).

Featuring half-decent studio quality - sonically the 'demos' are in far better shape than I thought they would be. "Come On" pounds out of the speakers with intent easily capturing their combustible 'live' excitement - while "If I Ever Find Love" could be The Jam circa “The Gift”. The tape announces 5 October 1982 as the recording date for the imaginatively entitled "Instrumental" which is – em – an instrumental. The tape source is a tad wobbly for sure but it still sounds good (great guitar and rhythm). 'Pretty' is the word to describe "Look My Way" - while "Sweet Sensation" returns to Organ and Drums with a bopping vengeance.

It's hardly surprising Cherry Red have used two whole CDs to give fans the band in a 'live' context – because this is where they 'rock'. There's plenty of space and oomph in Paris Theatre recordings where Greaves sounds not unlike a very musical Joe Jackson on the lovely "Always On My Mind". The live version of "Sweet Sensation" takes the crowd by storm – bopping like some joyful Tamla seven – very cool and very tight. The audio on the Goldiggers gig drops a fraction it has to be said but even after three decades the whole concert still feels fresh – "Is There A Solution?" and the ballad "It's A Miracle" coming off best.

Fans are going to love this release and wonder what could have been had Formation Records gotten that album out. Well done to Cherry Red for keeping the truth...

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

"The Album Collection Vol.1" by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (2014 Sony/Legacy 8CD Mini Box Set – Bob Ludwig and Toby Scott Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 500 Others Is Available In My
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
CLASSIC 1970s ROCK On CD - Exception Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)



"...Brand New Used Car..." 

Loose Windscreen's catalogue has been one of the big holes in the world of Remasters – but my God has the wait been worth it. In fact as a long-time reviewer, Bruce fan and perpetual seeker of Audio dynamite - I'd go on record right now by saying that Disc 2 in this 8CD Box Set alone - "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" - is the single most beautiful album Remaster I've ever heard bar none. This transfer (using the Plangent Process) is properly gorgeous. Suddenly an album I've known for 45 years on vinyl (and something of a hidden nugget in the back catalogue of New Jersey's finest) is brought to life like never before. And there are six more where that peach came from. Let's get to the details...

UK and USA released 21 November 2014 – "The Album Collection, Vol.1 - 1973-1984" by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN on Sony/Legacy/Plangent 88875014142 (Barcode 888750141422) is a 7-album/8-CD Mini Box Set of Remasters with a 60-page booklet and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." (37:13 minutes):
1. Blinded By The Light
2. Growin' Up
3. Mary Queen Of Arkansas
4. Does This Stop At 82nd Street?
5. Lost In The Flood
6. The Angel [Side 2]
7. For You
8. Spirit In The Night
9. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Tracks 1 to 9 are his debut album "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." – released January 1973 in the USA on Columbia 31903 and March 1973 in the UK on CBS Records S 65480

Disc 2 "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" (46:49 minutes):
1. The E Street Shuffle
2. 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
3. Kitty's Back
4. Wild Billy's Circus Story
5. Incident On 57th Street [Side 2]
6. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
7. New York City Serenade
Tracks 1 to 7 are his 2nd album "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" – released November 1973 in the USA on Columbia KC 32432 and February 1974 in the UK on CBS Records S 65780

Disc 3 "Born To Run" (39:29 minutes):
1. Thunder Road
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
3. Night
4. Backstreets
5. Born To Run [Side 2]
6. She's The One
7. Meeting Across The River
8. Jungleland
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 3rd album "Born To Run" – released September 1975 in the USA on Columbia PC 33795 and October 1975 in the UK for CBS Records S CBS 69170

Disc 4 "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" (43:02 minutes):
1. Badlands
2. Adam Raised A Cain
3. Something In The Night
4. Candy's Room
5. Racing In The Street
6. The Promised Land [Side 2]
7. Factory
8. Streets Of Fire
9. Prove It All Night
10. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 4th studio album "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" – released in the USA June 1978 on Columbia JC 35318 and in the UK on CBS Records 86061 – peaked at No. 3 in the USA and No. 17 in the UK.

Disc 5 "The River" (Disc 1 of 2, 43:31 minutes):
1. The Ties That Bind [Side 1]
2. Sherry Darling
3. Jackson Cage
4. Two Hearts
5. Independence Day
6. Hungry Heart [Side 2]
7. Out In The Street
8. Crush On You
9. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
10. I Wanna Marry You
11. The River

Disc 6 "The River" (Disc 2 of 2, 40:17 minutes):
1. Point Blank [Side 3]
2. Cadillac Ranch
3. I'm A Rocker
4. Fade Away
5. Stolen Car
6. Ramrod [Side 4]
7. The Price You Pay
8. Drive All Night
9. Wreck On The Highway
Discs 5 and 6 are the 4-sides of the double-album "The River" – released October 1980 in the USA on Columbia PC2 36854 and in the UK on CBS Records 88510 – peaked at No. 1 in the USA and No. 2 in the UK.

Disc 7 "Nebraska" (40:50 minutes):
1. Nebraska
2. Atlantic City
3. Mansion On The Hill
4. Johnny 99
5. Highway Patrolman
6. State Trooper [Side 2]
7. Used Cars
8. Open All Night
9. My Father’s House
10. Reason To Believe
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Nebraska" – released September 1982 in the USA on Columbia TC 38358 and in the UK on CBS Records 25100 – peaked at No. 3 in both the USA and UK.

Disc 8 "Born In The U.S.A." (46:57 minutes):
1. Born In The U.S.A.
2. Cover Me
3. Darlington County
4. Working On The Highway
5. Downbound Train
6. I'm On Fire
7. No Surrender [Side 2]
8. Bobby Jean
9. I'm Goin' Down
10. Glory Days
11. Dancing In The Dark
12. My Hometown
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "Born In The U.S.A." – released June 1984 in the USA on Columbia QC 38653 and in the UK on CBS Records 86304 – peaked at No. 1 on both the UK and US LP charts.

You can't argue with the quality of slightly oversized 5" card sleeve repros – they beautifully done (not quite Japanese uber realistic but close). "Greetings..." has its front-flap sleeve, "Born To Run" its gatefold, "Darkness..." its Inner Sleeve and Lyric Sheet, "The River" has both its Inners and the gatefold lyric sheet, "Nebraska" its Inner Sleeve and "Born In The U.S.A." its Inner Sleeve and two-sided Lyric Insert. Hell there's even a Columbia Records Advert Inner Bag with "Greetings..." (the seconds album "Wild..." didn't come with anything inside). The only tiny hiccup I can spot is the cover used for "Nebraska" – on the spine it has the QC 38358 catalogue number - which is technically a reissue (TC 38358 is the original as far as I'm aware). But other than that – very nicely done. The card that attaches to the outer (pull-off lid) box with track lists and reissue credits falls away once the shrink wrap is off – so that's a pain straight away. You’ll end up having to put this into a plastic before it knackers itself.

The booklet is a thing of fandom beauty. There are no notes or explanations – just 60 pages of cut-outs from 1973 to 1985 covering press releases on each of the albums, singles released, concert dates. In-between all the trade adverts and reviews – there are embossed colour photos that leap off the pages – most unseen until now (a super fan's collection). There are the infamous 'Time' and 'Newsweek' covers for 1975's "Born To Run" in blazing colour – backstage passes and laminates – live photos – and on it goes. It's properly gorgeous stuff – and I would imagine in the format of 12" x 12" on the vinyl variant – Droolsome. But it would have been nice to have a second booklet with lyrics and some liner notes. But all that goes out the window once you clap your weary lugs on the stunning Audio...

Using the PLANGENT Process - a team of four have been involved - with BOB LUDWIG and TOBY SCOTT doing the lion's share of Remasters. Master tape-to-digital transfers and DSP wow and flutter reduction was carried out by JAMIE HOWARTH and JOHN K. CHESTER. I don't know much about the techno mumbo-jumbo but whatever this process does - it produces warm, clear and uber-realistic results that don't feel forced to get more volume...a brill job done.

The debut has always been my least favourite of his albums - a worthy beginning with moments of brilliance like "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City", "Growin' Up" and the opener "Blinded By The Light". It also seemed to suffer from a weedy Production. At last you can 'hear' that voice and piano in "The Angel" and that Clarence Clemons Saxophone/Vincent Lopez Drum shuffle for "Spirit In The Night" is fantastically good (Gary Tallent's Bass so sweet too). The rhythm section too in "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?" is alive while the melodrama of "Lost In The Flood" has some hiss but more life to it than before. An impressive start to his career and a great remaster that at last does his debut some kind of justice (on our way to hubcap heaven)...

After the earnest but awkward feel of the debut – the improvement in Springsteen’s 2nd album "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" (again from 1973) whomps you in the proverbial chops. Not only does it show progress and genuine brilliance in a staggering short period of time – the whole album has stood the test of time far better than the rather self-conscious "Greetings". I suspect true Bruciephiles adore this record and after 45 years – the Remaster comes as an absolute BLAST. I've never heard the whole album sound this beautiful – every instrument suddenly clear in the speakers – dancing around the pretty highs and lows. Never is this more vivid than on "Wild Billy Circus Story" – the accordion, the mandolin and the tuba – all of it is gorgeous. And I'd forgotten just how romantic the whole record is – and up. The opening minutes of "Incident On 57th Street" leaves me in tears – those great girly vocals that float in – Sancious playing that Steely Dan rhythm and Federici's organ playing adding layers. And by the time we get to the visceral "Rosalita..." the remaster is blowing all previous versions out of the water. It ends on the near ten-minute "New York Serenade" which sounds like Genesis on "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" on that stunning piano intro. You can hear squeaks in chairs and movements – all of it clear and in the now. And what a fantastic song - beautifully remastered (and I still don't know who the girl singers are)...

The last time "Born To Run" received a CD overhaul was the November 2005 '35th Anniversary' reissue (see review) which again Bob Ludwig transferred. So is there a difference between 2005 and 2014? Absolutely – I think it's ever so slightly better. Sure there's more hiss evident on "She's The One" and "Meeting Across The River" and that quiet piano passage on "Jungleland" – but all are more alive somehow and full of amazing presence. If I play the 2005 version of "Meeting..." – there is more compression on that hiss level – that's gone on the 2014 version so the hiss on the tape is more evident – but so is all that presence. This remaster is breathing – not trebled or supressed – just as it on the tapes. The moment the beautiful opening piano of "Thunder Road" hits your speakers accompanied shortly after by Bruce's lead vocals - the warmth and clarity is fabulous too. Even better is "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" with the brilliant and street-funky Brecker Brothers Saxophones simply flooring you (key parts were arranged by cheeky Miami Steve on a whim). When it continues with "Night" and "Backstreets" you also begin to notice more ROY BITTAN whose musical flourishes on the keyboards contributed so much to every song. Bruce now says that "Born To Run" the album was 'all' written on the piano and not the guitar - and that's why most songs have big intros - setting the scene - sort of mini operas. The density of "Born To Run" now seems opened up somehow, the sparseness of "Meeting Across The River" is eerie and the "Jungleland" 9:36 minute finisher is massively improved ("...the hungry and the hunted explode into Rock 'n' Roll bands..." - what a song). A superb job done...

"Darkness On The Edge Of Town" was always going to be the most difficult album in the canon to remaster well. Studio album No. 4 has always seemed to have problems with regard to muscle. 2010 saw the Deluxe Edition do it justice with some badly need 'oomph' – and here again we get another stab. Comparing both – the same applies with "Born To Run" – there's more presence and power but there's also more air and hiss. "Adam Raised A Cain" still rocks like a Punk tune but you will hear the space in "Something In The Night". There's huge presence in "Factory" – still one of the most powerful songs Bruce has ever written about the workingman and his working life. "Prove It All Night" kicks too but "Racing In The Streets" still has that distance that somehow denies you entry into the song.

1980's double-album "The River" was the global breakthrough with "Hungry Heart" eating up chart placing all over the world. But of all the albums here - it's probably the one that's least stood up to musical scrutiny after all these years. Having said that the new transfer have worked wonders on some tracks but oddly seem to have done naught for others. The ballads and eerie soundscapes of "Independence Day", "The River", "Stolen Car", "Drive All Night" and "Wreck On The Highway" all feel better – but the rockers haven't really opened up like I'd hoped. Worse - stuff like "Jackson Cage", "You Can Look..." and "Crush On You" just feel dated now - while "The Ties That Bind" seems to have no sonic punch at all no matter what they do with it. I've always thought the brilliant B-side "Be True" or even the Darkness outtake "Rendezvous" should have replaced the terrible "Sherry Darling". On the upside – "Point Blank" and "Fade Away" are both stunning as is the wallop out of "Ramrod" and the irrepressible "Cadillac Ranch". And I'd forgotten how good a song "The Price You Pay" is. That Bass and Piano at the beginning of the stunning "Drive All Night" and Clarence's Sax solo always crack me up (they used it in the Stallone movie "Copland" to amazing effect). The double-album splurge ends on the beautiful and lonesome "Wreck On The Highway" (gorgeous clarity on the Bass) – a song that moved me so much back in the day...and it has done again.

After the bombast of the double – "Nebraska" (recorded on a 4-Track Tascam) came as a shock - and for me was a masterstroke release. Things needed to be cooled down and that's what this stark little mother did. In fact there are times when I think it's the true gem in his catalogue – like a Johnny Cash album you need in your life. Even its cover was the very antithesis of the "Hotel California" excess just four years earlier – hell Springsteen's image wasn’t even on the sleeve (either side). Rumour was that he'd recorded all the songs with the band but somehow it didn't work – so he just released the demos because they had that starkness he wanted. "Nebraska" has hiss and those vocals fuzz a little as he sings too close to the mike – but it sounds great. "Atlantic City" has trouble bussing in from out of state while the Dylan harmonica wail of "Mansion On The Hill" has yet another place on the edge of town where someone is in pain. "Johnny 99" is definitely the most 'demo' of all the recordings – and a live staple during his 3 and half hour marathons. Nuggets include the pure storytelling magic of "Highway Patrolman" (Frankie ain't no good) and the Dave Edmunds Rock 'n' Roll of "Open All Night" – sounding sweet. "State Trooper" has that whooping menace and "Used Car" the hurt of being poor and being sick of it.

"Born In The U.S.A." truly made him a global superstar and Mister America (whether he wanted the mantle or not). Remaster Engineer TOBY SCOTT recorded the original album so he knows his way around these tapes – and that becomes more than evident once the sheer muscle of the title track assaults your speakers for the first time (what an anthem). But then as you listen to "Cover Me", "Darlington County" and especially "Working On The Highway" – what strikes you is the deep darkness of the material allied with the fact that most of it is hidden inside poppy dance tunes – which I'm not sure everyone twigged at the time (we just wanted to party in 1984). "Downbound Train" has that echo vocal and all the instruments are now eerily clear and punchy – imbibing this deep little cry-in-the-dark with a spooky feel. Audio-wise the fruity "I'm On Fire" is amazingly in-your-face and hasn't sounded this good in years (look out girly – Bruce has a bad desire). Side 2 opens with the very River-sounding "No Surrender" where "...we learned more from a three-minute record than we ever did in school..." (I'd forgotten how good this song is). Longing for those old-days relationships/simplicity fills "Bobby Jean" with heart and pathos – Bruce suddenly sounding like he's the voice of so many lost souls still looking for that one true love/still trying to fulfil that earlier promise. "I'm Going Down" has the mighty Max Weinberg bashing those drums while Bruce goes 'hout' for the night. I can remember the MTV video for "Glory Days" – still sounds joyful and for 1984 not at all dated. "Dancing In The Dark" turned him into a pin-up with that video (Courteney Cox of "Friends" fame was the girl he pulled from the audience onto the stage). But for me the best track is "My Hometown" – a simple song about small town America that nails me every time...even though I'm from Dublin!

The vinyl version has that 60-page booklet in 12" x 12" size and is apparently a thing to behold. For those of us who can't afford expensive LPs anymore (I'd like to) – this Volume 1 on CD is a fantastic release.

More's to the point - like Bowie's next Box Set instalment of "Five Years" (Volume 2) – I look forward to the second outing of Bruce Springsteen's 'Album Catalogue' with a sense of excitement...and isn't that the best thing you can say about a Remaster campaign...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


SOME OF MY E-BOOKS FOR SALE on AMAZON (All Updated to 2018)

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters

OVERLOOKED ALBUMS 1955 to 1979 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS FOR 400 FORGOTTEN LPS...

BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, RHYTHM & BLUES and ROCK & ROLL on CD - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

GROOVIEST SOUNDS AROUND! 1960s MUSIC ON CD (All-Genres) - April 2019 Update

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 3 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970 - BEST CD REMASTERS

CLASSIC ROCK & POP 1970 to 1974 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1971 - BEST CD REMASTERS

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD Volume 1 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

CLASSIC PROG ROCK, PSYCH and Other Genres Thereabouts - Exceptional CD Remasters...

MY BROKEN HEART (75 Days In The NHS) - Poem of Poems

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order