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Review The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen

Aggiornato il 21 Ago, 2023 | Words and Music |

After Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., loved by critics but received coldly by the public and by radio stations, Bruce Springsteen realized he had a second and probably last chance to convince CBS that they had seen far in believing in him. In reality, his two great supporters within the record company, President Clive Davis and the legendary talent scout John Hammond, had distanced themselves from CBS and Springsteen lacked strong sponsors. A new failure would have meant goodbye to glory dreams. It was 1973 and, while he was starting to think about the second album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, Springsteen played a lot in concert, breaking in his band which, in the meantime, had considerably expanded.


It was at that time that the band began to introduce itself as the E Street Band, named after a street in the coastal town of Belmar, where David Sancious lived. Curiously, although the album will be released under the Bruce Springsteen name alone, the E Street will appear in the album title, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. Legend says the band’s name was given just as its members stood at the intersection of E Street and Tenth Avenue in Belmar, waiting for the arrival of Sancious, who was always late. Springsteen himself, Sancious, Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez and Garry Tallent were joined on a permanent basis by saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemons and keyboardist Danny Federici, while Steve Van Zandt, despite the nearness with the band and the strong musical chemistry with Bruce, continued to stay out of the plans, paying for the economic restrictions of the CBS on Springsteen project.


While for the first album Springsteen had the songs almost counted, for the new album the songs available were so many, to the point that the author had to rule out at least a dozen. The songs were largely written and arranged for live performances and, for this reason, were on average very long and overflowing with breaks, solos and rhythm changes. Springsteen bravely decided to record them in those versions. The result was an album of only seven songs, four of which were over seven minutes in duration and, in any case, all over the canonical four minutes (duration considered unsurpassable in the event of the launch of a single). The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle thus took the shape of a purely rock album, far from the original idea of ​​the new Dylan. Only the song Wild Billy’s Circus Story, for its Dylan-esque style, could easily have been part of Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., even if Bruce‘s singing remained at least in part attributable to Dylan‘s singing style.


In November 1973, just 11 months after the launch of the first album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle was released, without an advertising campaign and without singles. The reception was just lukewarm from the public, even if better than that reserved for Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., while it was enthusiastic from the critics who saw in Springsteen no longer the vain attempt to represent the new minstrel of America, as much as the landing place of a new structured rock singer-songwriter. Behind him is a band of excellent musicians, some of whom are particularly virtuosic on their respective instruments. The instrumental introduction of New York City Serenade and the full Kitty’s Back leave little doubt of this. But the whole album shows an excellent musical level.


If we exclude Wild Billy’s Circus Story, still with a decidedly folk taste, the other songs on the album are distinguished by a fuller sound, with considerable individualities. A sound based on the new imposing presence of Clarence Clemons on sax, on the highly qualified co-presence of David Sancious and Danny Federici on black and ivory keys, on the schizophrenic verve of Vini Lopez on drums and on the unexpected eclecticism of Garry Tallent on bass guitar (at his career high). Springsteen himself contributes with a notable guitar contribution, both on the electric guitar (the introduction solo to Kitty’s Back is memorable) and on the acoustic one (the score in New York City Serenade in particular is wonderful). On the other hand, Springsteen also achieves a high performance with the voice. His way of singing is only partially repaired in the Dylan singsong, but becomes stronger and, somehow, theatrical, especially when he sings about the stories of Catlong (Kitty’s Back), Spanish Johnny (Incident On 57th Street), Billy (New York City Serenade) and their respective ladies of the New York suburbs. Two songs, instead, remain linked to New Jersey rural and coastal province: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), one of Bruce‘s strongest songs in concert, and the sweet and melancholic 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), a sort of prequel of the relevant Born To Run and Thunder Road, for it’s an invitation to a girl to run away from a decaying town.


If Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. was the album of Dylan‘s imprint, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle was the record in which the influence of Van Morrison, the Irish musician and songwriter who had conquered America a few years earlier with legendary albums like Astral Weeks and Moondance, was most evident . Bruce picked up two aspects from Morrison that he wanted to impress on his music: on the one hand a lyrical style that was always fluent but more transcendent and romantic, on the other the deeper musical research and arrangements, leaving looser reins to the musicians, embracing soul and different rhythms, from the shuffle of The E Street Shuffle to the swing of Kitty’s Back.


Read also: Spirit In The Night, Growin’ Up


Next Review: The E Street Shuffle – 28 August 2023


Dario Migliorini


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