So far, Bruce Springsteen has released 16 official studio albums. From 1973's Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J. to 2009's Working On A Dream,
each collection has captured the heart of millions of music lovers the world over. But, unavoidable, some songs fall between the cracks and disappear
in the subconciousness. For every Born To Run or Dancing In The Dark (two of his most famous ditties), there's a The Fuse or a
Surprise, Surprise. That's not a shame. There are countless artists that never make ANY good song, or that never progress beyond the status of
a "one hit wonder".
In 1992, Springsteen released no less than two albums on the very same day. Human Touch and Lucky Town have never enjoyed the same enduring
popularity as his million sellers Born In The U.S.A. or The Rising. No, they are not out of print, but they never appear to show up in
yearly "best of"-lists or "greatest albums ever"-countdowns. I can't give you an honest opinion about Human Touch, for I have yet to purchase it.
Sure, I know the quite excellent title track. But that's it. For now.
Lucky Town, however, is a masterpiece. A masterpiece! I dare say it's one of Springsteen's best albums ever - and that's not a bold claim.
Better Days is a true "happy" song, in which Bruce (or "the he-character", although it's a thin line here) sings about the so-called "better days" that married life,
having a family and not having to worry about financial problems have provided him with.
Long time 'Posts'-readers know of my love for the title track, Lucky Town. For reasons that elude me, I thoroughly dig the song that offers great lyrics
and an infatuating rhythm. As an amateur poet, I envy brilliant lines like "when it comes to luck, you make your own", "sky's been cleared by a good hard rain", "somebody calling my secret name",
"long time walking on fortune's cane". No regular rain, but "good hard rain". And what exactly is a "secret name"? And what's yours?
Living Proof is just as awesome. Reportedly written after the birth of his first son, the images Bruce evokes are mindblowing. "Just one frightened man and shadows for bars",
"a close band of happy thieves", "he swallowed the fiery moon" etc. And just the thought that becoming a father has made him feel alive - after all, that's the "proof" he's referring too -
is too sweet for words.
But those are just the 'better known songs' from the album. I can't say 'well know songs', for neither one immediately springs to the mind of the average music lover when talking about Springsteen.
The other 7 numbers are just as awesome.
Local Hero sketches a local man in a local town. Do Springsteen characters ever live in busy world cities, one wonders? As mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Bruce does use "Average Joe"/"he" as the main character in most of his songs. But we all know Red Headed Woman is about his real wife. And Bruce was 35
when he sang about his hometown in My Hometown. Let's just assume Local Hero is not about Springsteen, for I can't imagine him "just killing time". Whatever the case is, it's a great song that even namechecks that other Bruce (i.e. Lee).
If I Should Fall Behind is extremely touching. "I'll wait for you/Should I fall behind/Wait for me". That's all you want in a relationship, right? There may be bumps along the way, cracks in the foundation, but you'll always try to wait for the other one to catch up. Giving up is all too easy. And the grass is never greener on the other side.
Leap Of Faith deals with familiar themes. The third song on Lucky Town to feature a lot of rain (it sure must have been raining a lot when Bruce was writing these set of songs) is also one of the more sexually explicit in the Springsteen songbook. "Your legs were heaven/Your breasts were the altar/Your body was the holy land".
Yet another (living?) proof that Springsteen was extremely happy in his second marriage. "In your love/I'm born again". Touching, isn't it?
The Big Muddy is a swampy blues song that reeks of New Orleans, but I find it the least enjoyable song on the disc. Weird, for dedicated sites and publications highlight it.
Book Of Dreams mentions "the forgiveness that life provides" (does it?) and a girl showing off her dress (stimulating flashbacks of Thunder Road's Mary)
Souls Of The Departed offers a stomping rocker. But watch out! The lyrics are far from optimistic. They deal with loss, failure and sadness. The track may very well have been inspired by the then-recent Gulf War. Why else would the singer mention Basra (the capital of the Basra Province in Iraq)?
The second verse talks about the sad street violence that claims young and sometimes innocent lifes on a daily basis. Particularly touching is Bruce's confession to his son, "I want to build me a wall so high", bringing the overall theme of Lucky Town to a close. Yes, Bruce is happy, now that he has found a good woman and started a family, but he wants to protect said family
with all the might he has.
Finally, My Beautiful Reward is breathtaking. Although I discovered it a mere 5 weeks ago, it has immediately become one of my favourite Springsteen songs. The music's incredible and the images are bonechillingly beautiful : "Down along the river's silent edge I soar", "crashing down like a drunk on a barroom floor", "flyin' high over gray fields my feathers long and black" ...
the song brings tears to my eyes, because it's so simple but effective and meaningful. An super underrated song that should be on everyone's personal playlist.
Lucky Town may be one of Springsteen's most personal albums, and one of his most underrated. Available on www.play.com for a mere $5, there is no reason why you shouldn't pick it up right now.
The album is a tight, well-written and satisfying release that sounds a lot fresher than most current albums. Eighteen years down the line, a lot of people are still searching for their living proof or are still trying to go down to lucky town.
This album may lead the way. Thanks, Bruce!
Julian De Backer, 29 November 2010