Bruce Springsteen's 'Chapter & Verse' doesn't offer much insight into the Boss
There are two sides to every story. Especially Bruce Springsteen stories.
That much is obvious to anyone who’s listened to The Boss’s self-mythologizing songs and tall tales over the decades. Not surprisingly, it’s also reflected in the title of his latest anthology Chapter and Verse — and, more importantly, in the album’s raison d’etre.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, the 18-song disc — released on his 67th birthday Sept. 23 — serves as the companion piece to The Boss’s upcoming memoir Born to Run. I haven’t read the book yet because nobody bothered to send me an advance copy. So I can’t tell you if it sheds much light on his life and career.
But I can say this: If it’s only as revealing as Chapter and Verse, you might wait for the paperback. Because the disc isn’t much to write home about. Sure, it has cuts you’d expect to find on any Springsteen best-of — including Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., Badlands, The River and The Rising. But it’s missing far more classics than it contains.
It also boasts five previously unreleased cuts, which sounds enticing. Trouble is, they’ve all been floating around the Internet for years. And they barely scratch the surface of what’s out there. So unless you’re a Springsteen newbie, Chapter and Verse isn’t likely to give you much insight into The Boss or his music. If that’s what you’re after, you’d be better off scoring one of his multi-disc anthologies, or one of the archival live shows he’s currently releasing via his website (see sidebar). But since we’re all here — and just in case you still haven’t heard Chapter and Verse’s new-old cuts — here’s a quick rundown.
Recorded in mid-1966 by Springsteen’s teenage bar band The Castiles, it’s a noisy nugget that splits the diff between garage-rock and girl-group pop — minus Phil Spector’s wall of sound, unfortunately.
YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOK BY THE COVER
Another Castiles offering, this rollicking 1967 live tape of the Willie Dixon classic owes more to the then-recent version by The Yardbirds — and serves as an early example of Bruce’s energized live performances.
HE'S GUILTY (THE JUDGE SONG)
Now fronting Steel Mill with Steve Van Zandt, Dan Federici and Vini Lopez, Springsteen embraces the sound of 1970 by melding a funky backbeat to spiky guitars, swirling organ lines and some choir-like vocals.
BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES
Muscular and mid-tempo, laced with slide guitar and tinged with country-rock, this 1972 rarity from The Bruce Springsteen Band features most of the future E Street Band. And sounds like it.
A precursor to Rosalita, this 1972 acoustic recording features the same strummy, Pinball Wizard-inspired guitar lines, a similar melodic structure and the busy hippie-beatnik lyricism that would define Springsteen’s first two albums.
Originally included on 1998’s Tracks rarities set, this acoustic-guitar outtake was recorded during the sessions that would lead to Bruce’s first album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. The rest, as they say, is history.
REAL BOSS ESSENTIALS
Want more vintage Springsteen? Download these live gigs from live.brucespringsteen.net.
THE AGORA, CLEVELAND 1978
“This is not a test!” proclaims Bruce. He’s right; this massive gig at his ’70s peak is the real McCoy. Turn it up loud as it’ll go, open the windows and play it until the cops come.
NASSAU COLISEUM, NEW YORK 1980
An epic New Year’s Eve show in New York on Bruce’s River Tour, this 38-song set includes seasonal fare like Merry Christmas Baby and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
BRENDAN BYRNE ARENA, NEW JERSEY 1984
The first of 10 Born in the U.S.A. concerts taped at the Meadowlands in his beloved New Jersey. Get out your bandana headband.
L.A. SPORTS ARENA, CALIFORNIA 1988
In the wake of his crumbling marriage, Springsteen takes fans on a darkly personal and introspective ride during his Tunnel of Love Express Tour.
CHRISTIC SHOWS 1990
A chatty, revealing Bruce plays solo versions of his hits at a pair of L.A. benefit shows, with cameos by Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt.