Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
Bruce Springsteen’s career started with this slightly awkward debut, which downplays the rock and roller, and emphasises Springsteen as a singer-songwriter. Even though it’s not his best, it’s at least charismatic – even if some of the material is less than engrossing, he’s still an engaging persona. While Springsteen would explore more stripped back recordings successfully later in his career, some of the acoustic material here drowns in verbosity, like he’s trying to emulate Dylan.
It’s the full band material, like ‘Spirit In The Night’ and the hint of bombast that appears in ‘Lost In The Flood’, that’s the most effective and the most predictive of his later direction. The blatant Dylan imitation ‘Mary Queen Of Arkansas’, generic singer-songwriterism ‘Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street’ and boring piano ballad ‘The Angel’ are all largely disposable, while the gentle fade out of ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City’ ends the album on a strangely anti-climactic note. The first two songs are the most widely known, and they’re both strong; ‘Blinded By The Night’ is overburdened with words but was later a hit in an inferior Manfred Mann cover version, while ‘Growin’ Up’ nails the singer-songwriter style, throws in a jazzy keyboard solo, and features the great line “I had a jukebox graduate for first mate/She couldn’t sail but she sure could sing.”
There’s evidence of an emerging talent here, but Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ doesn’t capture Springsteen at his most comfortable and natural; it would be a long while before he made another album as negligible as this one.