FT5: Bruce Springsteen Albums

0403top5coverFinally we’ve been given an excuse to write about The Boss on The ATH. The Working On a Dream tour will be rolling through town this Sunday night at The Frank Erwin Center, and we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to look back on Bruce’s recording career. The Boss burst onto the scene in 1973 with his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and the Jersey boy is still going strong over 30 years later. Go ahead and follow the jump to read my picks for The Boss’ Top 5 Albums.

theriver5. The River

Bruce and the band really show their range with The River, and it’s easily one of his more accessible albums to the casual fan. It’s got something for everyone. It’s got pop ballads and barroom rockers sprinkled in with some country influences and haunting arrangements. The River is a double album, and legend has it that 90 songs were rejected in the making of it. Looking back it kept a lot of the great qualities from Bruce’s earlier work, yet showed the beginning of the MTV-influenced pop explosion of the Bruce Springsteen 80’s.

Song Pick: It’s a cop-out on my part, but Hungry Heart. Gets stuck in my head for weeks at a time.

nebraska4. Nebraska

You’ve got the raw energy and intensity found on Born To Run and Darkness, the ballads and range of The River, and then Bruce Springsteen decides to record an album in his kitchen on a 4-Track cassette recorder. No fancy studio productions. No E-Street Band. Just Bruce and his guitar (and the occasional harmonica). Rarely do you ever see an artist take such a big risk, and actually make it work. The fact that it worked so well and was such a huge departure, makes it an important addition to the Bruce Springsteen catalog.

Song Pick: Johnny 99

bornintheusa3. Born In The USA

If you owned 2 albums in the 1980’s, one would be Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and the other would be Born In The USA. Commercially, this stands as The Boss’s greatest piece of work, spawning 7 Top 10 singles (that’s over half the album for those of you keeping track). A lot of Bruce Springsteen purists will probably disagree with having this album so high on my list, but I believe in the importance of making an album that is accessible and popular for everyone. It’s an album, unlike other Bruce albums, that you can throw on the record player that will have everyone singing and dancing along.

Song Pick: I’m On Fire

darknessontheedgeoftown2. Darkness on the Edge of Town

Darkness on the Edge of Town doesn’t have the singles-power of some of his other more commercial works, but it packs a punch with it’s raw sound. Listening to it, you get the feeling that Bruce & The E-Street Band are playing for their lives. This album is all about living a hard, working-mans life, and dealing with it. He was so focused on that concept (hey, remember when albums had meaning), that he gave “Because the Night” to Patti Smith in order to keep Darkness true to his vision.

Song Pick: Badlands

borntorun1. Born To Run

Before Bruce Springsteen was Born in the USA, he was Born To Fucking Run. In my opinion, this is the greatest American rock album. It’s in my personal top 3 albums of all time. Upon it’s release in 1975, Rolling Stone was quoted as saying Born To Run “Pays off on every bet ever placed on him.” High praise considering the hype (he was dubbed the next Dylan and “the future of rock & roll”) placed on The Boss before recording this album. I dare you to find another album with the raw emotions, the raw energy of Born To Run. This album is the ultimate escape, and plays on every dream of the modern rock & roll era. It has aged better than any other of his albums. It’s timeless. It’s epic. It’s a masterpiece.

Song Pick: Thunder Road

I’m hoping that if you’ve made it this far, you’re either a fellow Bruce worshiper or in the process of dusting off some of those old albums in preparation for the show of the year this weekend. So tell me Boss fans (and I concede that most music fans either love or hate the man), what are some of your favorite albums or songs?


  • Never heard Nebraska, just heard about it. I would probably enjoy it though, because my favorite of his is “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” A much bigger fan of the stripped down acoustic stuff rather than the sax & xylophone E-Street stuff.

    Then again, I’m a big fan of the Hold Steady. So go figure.

  • “Racing in The Streets” is an amazing song off of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Springsteen has had a huge influence on rock n’ roll and stands as one of the best lyricist of all time. You can hear him blasting out of the Whitman van just about every day on tour. Great list, see you Sunday.

  • If you go to sleep listening to “Jungleland,” and wake up listening to “Jungleland” the following morning, chances are you’ll have the greatest day of your life. The BIG MAN owns!!!

  • @bRETT : The Ghost of Tom Joad is a poor man’s version of Nebraska.

    @Whitman boys : PREACH. See you guys there.

  • not exactly stripped down, but this version is pretty entertaining


    feat. the nightwatchman himself.

  • Kick out Born in the USA move Nebraska up a spot and put The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle in at #5 and shift the River up a notch and you’ve got yourself a list.

  • Great list… looking forward to the show on Sunday for sure… We’ve been speculating on the set list a bit at the office today: http://tinyurl.com/c39gk5

  • “dust off those albums”?!! my boss records will never have dust on them. personally, i really like his MTV unplugged album. i know all of the songs are from other albums, but his version of “thunder road” is a must have. and his recent “devils and dust” album is badass too. i loved his performance for that album on the MTV Music Awards. While everyone else is lip singing and dancing (entertainers not musicians), he gets onstage with just his guitar and harmonica, and shows people what a real artist is. nothing to hide behind, nothing fake, just being a badass.

  • @Corey – I don’t necessarily disagree with you. The Wild, The Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle was hard to leave off my list. One of those instances where it really deserved to be a Top 10.

    @levi – Bruce could yodel “Thunder Road” upside-down under water, and I’d still love it. I agree, the man is all about rocking out… and he gives you everything he’s got live. BTW… I’d like to see a t-shirt with “Bruce Springsteen” printed on the front and “Just being a badass” on the back.

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