Monday, May 03, 2021

Back from our weekend trip to see family — and to nobody’s surprise, it was quite pleasant

The littlest guy is adorable, happy, pretty quiet and a little squishy. The other kids are fun to be around and full of energy. Weather was good, and Saturday evening we watched the neighborhood kids ride bikes up and down the sidewalk while we sat in the driveway and enjoyed adult beverages. 

I was reminded again that watching your kids raise their kids is a nice bonus. 

Over the weekend there was a discussion about Bruce Springsteen at comparing his version of Blinded by the Light (the original, he wrote it) against the hit version by Manfred Mann. Not really a fan of either version, or the song itself, but I was a fan of his early albums and it encouraged me to rediscover a few of my favorite songs, especially those that are a little less well-known and never get radio airplay any more:

  • Spirit in the Night 
  • Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
  • Candy’s Room 
  • Racing in the Street 
  • The Promised Land 

All are top notch examples of his songwriting prowess, with excellent arrangements and musicianship, and worth checking out if you liked early Springsteen at all. Those last three are all in sequence on Darkness on the Edge of Town, a major reason I thought that album had his strongest material of those first four “classic” albums. 

The key, for me anyway, is to listen to what the band is doing, the arrangement and the individual instruments, not so much to the singing.

Spirit in the Night:

It has a bit of a Van Morrison “Moondance” feel to it (and no, I’m not saying it’s as good as that enduring classic).  

Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy):

Again, listen to the band.

Candy’s Room:

A very adventurous piece of music. It works for me. That leads into ...

Racing in the Street:

The band builds, layer by layer, piano and then percussion then bass and then the full band, building a nice groove before falling back to just piano again, all while the story builds. For me this might be best song he ever did, from a sheer “construction of a perfect song” perspective. And that leads straight into ...

The Promised Land:

I get some of these songs won’t appeal to everyone, but as I said, I wanted to rediscover some album cuts that I had not heard in many years. I don’t listen to much of this kind of music any more, but it still sounds good here and there, because it is good, and because it was never played to death on the radio. 

Fun fact #1: his drummer Max Weinberg is the same guy who later became bandleader for Conan O’Brien from 1993-2010. He’s an interesting guy and just turned 70 years old last month.

Fun fact #2: Fans of Springsteen’s early music should check out Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, another “bar band from Jersey” that played a lot of classic R&B (Sam and Dave, Solomon Burke, etc), was heavily mentored by Miami Steve Van Zandt who wrote several songs for them,  and whose first three albums are uniformly very good. Springsteen wrote “The Fever” for them.