All 337 Bruce Springsteen songs, ranked, including all new ‘Letter To You’ songs


A new album, a new ranking.

On Friday, Bruce Springsteen dropped his 20th and best studio LP in many years “Letter To You” — a brilliant reconnection with the E Street Band welcoming a dozen strong rock jams into The Boss’s prolific catalog.

Naturally, my master list that ranks every officially released Springsteen song (originally published in 2015 and already updated several times) had to be revamped to reflect the terrific new record.

Check out where I placed all the new tracks — one epic tune even dared to break the Top 100, a true honor!

And for the zillionth time, please keep in mind this is one person’s opinion. If you think “House of a Thousand Guitars” or “The Power of Prayer” deserved a higher spot, more power to you.

And if you want to read a little more on “Letter to You,” check out my complete album review here and song-by-song breakdown here. Now let’s get into it.

What’s included in this ranking:

– Every song from 19 of 20 of Bruce Springsteen’s studio LPs.

– Every song from the “Tracks,” “The Promise,” and “The River” box sets.

– Songs from “Blood Brothers” (1996); and “American Beauty” (2014) EPs.

– Songs released exclusively on the “Bruce Springsteen in Concert: MTV Plugged,” (1993); “Greatest Hits” (1995); and “The Essential Bruce Springsteen” (2003)

What’s NOT included:

– The rest of the new album, which is due out Oct. 23. No, I haven’t gotten an advance copy yet. I’ll update the list again after it drops.

– Any song where Springsteen was not the primary songwriter was left out. Therefore, 2006′s “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” is not included, despite being part of Springsteen’s discography. His three cover tracks on “High Hopes” are not included either.

– No duplicates, alternates or live versions of studio songs were included. Each song was judged on its composition, and varying renditions were taken into account, but no song is listed more than once.

– No songs Springsteen wrote for other artists but did not later release himself are included. For instance, “You Mean So Much To Me,” the closer on Southside Johnny’s debut “I Don’t Want To Go Home,” which Springsteen wrote, does not appear on the list. But “Because The Night,” written by Bruce but made famous by Patti Smith, is included because he later released a version on “The Promise.”

337 to 250 – Bottom of the Barrel

A bad Bruce song is still leagues better than a bad Kesha song. But considering his prolific career, there are bound to be some generic, unmemorable tunes. Not every track can be a gem, and this crop is seeded mainly by wet rocks.

337. “Hitch Hikin’” – Western Stars

Make it stop. The opening track off Springsteen’s drawling, country-obsessed 2019 LP is so grating and mercilessly repetitive in its melody that none who skip it can be blamed. It’s a full-body cringe, a brutal lowlight kicking off Bruce’s most disappointing album to date. Please, please let the new record be better.

336. “All I’m Thinkin’ About” – Devils & Dust

335. “Hurry Up Sundown” – American Beauty EP

334. “Part Man, Part Monkey” – Tracks

333. “Whitetown” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

332. “Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” – Western Stars

331. “The Big Muddy” – Lucky Town

330. “Sad Eyes” – Tracks

329. “Silver Palomino” – Devils & Dust

328. “Car Wash” – Tracks

327. “The Wayfarer” – Western Stars

326. “My Best Was Never Good Enough” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

325. “TV Movie” – Tracks

324. “Queen of the Supermarket” – Working on a Dream

Springsteen can wax poetic about love, loss, nighttime and hot rods till the Jersey cows come home, but an ode to grocery stores as if they’re Willy Wonka’s factory is just too much.

323. “Mr. Outside” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

322. “The Brokenhearted” – The Promise

321. “Sundown” – Western Stars

320. “My Lover Man” – Tracks

319. “Johnny Bye-Bye” – Tracks

318. “Somewhere North of Nashville” – Western Stars

317. “Goin’ Cali” – Tracks

316. “Paradise by the ‘C’” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

A fine, sax-laden instrumental party jam, and the only non-vocal performance on this list — but it’s tough to put a track with no Springsteen lyrics very high on this list.

315. “Ramrod” – The River

314. “This Depression” – Wrecking Ball

313. “Jesus Was An Only Son” – Devils & Dust

312. “Mary, Mary” – American Beauty EP

311. “Swallowed Up (In The Belly Of The Whale) – Wrecking Ball

Throughout his career, Springsteen has mostly done slow and simple very well. Take the soft stuff off Nebraska: plenty of classics there. But this bonus track off 2012′s “Wrecking Ball” is a total snoozer.

310. “The Long Goodbye” – Human Touch

309 “Someday (We’ll Be Together)” – The Promise

308. “This is Your Sword” – High Hopes

307. “Tomorrow Never Knows”- Working on a Dream

306. “My Beautiful Reward” – Lucky Town

305. “Night Fire” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

This has to be the “most Springsteen” song title ever/ Can you spot the trend? There’s “Prove it All Night,” Something in the Night,” “Because the Night,” “Spirit in the Night,” “City of Night,” and just plain old “Night,” PLUS “I’m On Fire,” “Into the Fire,” “Streets of Fire,” and just plain old “Fire.” I’m legitimately surprised there’s no “Fire Night” in here somewhere.

304. “Hey Blue Eyes” – American Beauty EP

303. “My Lucky Day” – Working on a Dream

302. “Missing” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

301. “Dry Lightning” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

300. “Trouble River” – 18 Tracks

This “Human Touch” outtake sounds like, well, a “Human Touch” outtake. Too much early ’90s chest-thump, not enough heart.

299. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Pittsburgh)” – Tracks

298. “What Love Can Do”- Working on a Dream

297. “Loose Ends” – Tracks

296. “Be True” – Tracks

295. “County Fair” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

294. “Man At The Top” – Tracks

293. “Moonlight Motel” – Western Stars

292. “Reno” – Devils & Dust

291. “Red Headed Woman” – Bruce Springsteen in Concert: MTV Plugged

290. “House of a Thousand Guitars”

No, “House of a Thousand Guitars” is not a Willie Nile cover. Though that might have been the more captivating move considering this new track is something of a snoozer. As Springsteen sings of the healing power of music itself — a fair point, especially now — the verse and choral melody never waver, creating an unwelcome ear worm over four and a half minutes. Though this tune does include the album’s most overt challenge of Springsteen’s public nemesis President Donald Trump: “the criminal clown has stolen the throne,” he proclaims.

289. “Leavin’ Train” – Tracks

288. “Candy’s Boy” – The Promise

287. “The Honeymooners” – Tracks

Another outtake, this time from “Tunnel Of Love.” The subtle song ends at two minutes flat, with the lovers and their family, “happy at last.” Wait, what? Everyone’s … happy? This is a Springsteen song, right? Perhaps if it ran longer, some sort of unplanned pregnancy or unlawful mishap would have transpired.

286. “Leah” – Devils & Dust

285. “Dead Man Walkin’” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

284. “Lucky Man” – Tracks

283. “Maria’s Bed” – Devils & Dust

282. “Man’s Job” – Human Touch

281. “Over The Rise” – Tracks

280. “Cindy” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

279. “Gotta Get That Feeling” – The Promise

278. “Bishop Danced” – Tracks

This folksy tune has to be Springsteen’s most nonsensical recording. Why were the children yelling about flapjacks? And what in the world is a “monkey mule”? This oddball was played live during Springsteen’s first-ever radio appearance, on Boston’s WBCN-FM in January 1973.

277. “Seven Angels” – Tracks

276. “Party Lights” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

275. “Chasin’ Wild Horses” – Western Stars

274. “I’m A Rocker” – The River

273. “The Little Things (My Baby Does)” – The Promise

272. “Shut Out The Light” – Tracks

271. “Kingdom of Days”- Working on a Dream

270. “Baby I” – Chapter and Verse

Sure, “Baby I” is an overly simple Beatles or Monkees cheater track, but we gotta cut Bruce and The Castiles, his band at the time, some slack — it was recorded in 1966, when Springsteen was just 16. This is the earliest cut The Boss has ever released (it only took him 50 years to put it out).

269. “When The Lights Go Out” – Tracks

268. “Western Stars” – Western Stars

267. “Matamoros Banks” – Devils & Dust

266. “There Goes My Miracle” – Western Stars

265. “He’s Guilty (The Judge song)” – Chapter and Verse

264. “All or Nothin’ At All” – Human Touch

263. “Long Time Comin’” – Devils & Dust

262. “Loose Change” – Tracks

261. “Tucson Train” – Western Stars

260. “The Time That Never Was” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

259. “City Of Night” – The Promise

Not a bad tune, but a little meandering. Then again, the “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” outtake’s tone does match the aimless, late-night cab ride it portrays. The focus of “The Way,” the bonus track attached to the end of “City of Night,” (ranked just below), is stronger.

258. “The Way” – The Promise

257. “Henry Boy” – Chapter and Verse

256. “Gave It A Name” – Tracks

255. “Spanish Eyes” – The Promise

254. “Lift Me Up” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

253. “Harry’s Place” – High Hopes

252. “Hello Sunshine” – Western Stars

251. “Mary Lou” – Tracks

250 to 201 – The Forgettables

These Springsteen numbers aren’t good enough to remember, nor are they bad enough to thoroughly mock. They just, sort of, are. Lots of outtakes and album filler from lesser records here.

250. “Cross My Heart” – Human Touch

249. “We Are Alive” – Wrecking Ball

248.”Drive Fast (The Stuntman)” – Western Stars

247. “Living Proof” – Lucky Town

246. “Lion’s Den” – Tracks

245. “You’ve Got It” – Wrecking Ball

Lyrically, it’s a bit of a phone-in for Bruce, but later on, when the drums and soft claps kick in, the groove “You’ve Got It” eventually achieves isn’t half-bad.

244. “Two For The Road” – Tracks

243. “Souls of the Departed” – Lucky Town

242. “Held Up Without A Gun” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

241. “Cynthia” – Tracks

240. “Balboa Park” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

239. “When You Need Me” – Tracks

238. “The Man That Got Away” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

237. “When You’re Alone” – Tunnel of Love

236.”Good Eye” – Working on a Dream

235. “Murder Incorporated” – Greatest Hits

A predictable, tough-guy Bruce track that didn’t make the “Born In The U.S.A.” cut, and was later tacked onto 1995′s “Greatest Hits.” When listed among some of Springsteen’s best, the tune feels especially lackluster.

234. “The Big Payback” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

233. “Pink Cadillac” – Tracks

232. “American Beauty” – American Beauty EP

231. “Stand On It” – Tracks

230. “Code Of Silence” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

229. “Shackled and Drawn” – Wrecking Ball

228. “Restless Nights” – Tracks

227. “Down In A Hole” – High Hopes

226.”Wages Of Sin” – Tracks

225. “Heaven’s Wall” – High Hopes

The New York Chamber Consort’s string overdub is interesting, and Tom Morello’s guitar sharpens the edge, but the dragging “raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand,” refrain treads the line between sing-along and utter monotony.

224. “Rockaway The Days” – Tracks

223. “Without You” – Blood Brothers EP

222. “It’s A Shame” – The Promise

221. “Hearts Of Stone” – Tracks

220. “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)” – The Rising

219. “Life Itself” – Working on a Dream

218. “The New Timer” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

217. “Leap of Faith” – Lucky Town

216. “The Fuse” – The Rising

215. “Straight Time” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

Here Springsteen spins the poignant tale of Charlie, an ex-convict who struggles to walk the straight-and-narrow, and to ignore “the itch” to do bad once more. No frills from the singer, just a quick, three-minute story. No real complaints.

214. “Stones” – Western Stars

213. “Point Blank” – The River

212. “Black Cowboys” – Devils & Dust

211. “Surprise, Surprise” – Working on a Dream

210. “Happy” – Tracks

209. “Across The Border” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

208. “All That Heaven Will Allow” – Tunnel of Love

207. “Outside Looking In” – The Promise

206. “Frankie” – Tracks

205. “Outlaw Pete” – Working on a Dream

Oh, Outlaw Pete. The bank-robbing infant and criminal adult who inspired an eponymous graphic novel released in 2014. The song is a bear at eight minutes, and is certainly more of a spaghetti western than Springsteen’s usual tales, but musically it’s solid.

204. “Your Own Worst Enemy” – Magic

203. “With Every Wish” – Human Touch

202. “American Land” – Wrecking Ball

201. “Galveston Bay” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

200 to 151 – Starting to simmer

Most of Springsteen’s throwaway stuff has been tossed aside by now. Here we begin to discuss some quality cuts, and spot our first tracks off the commercial monster “Born In The U.S.A.” We also start to encounter songs that are legitimately strong, but are forced down the list by their slightly greater brethren.

200. “The Hitter” – Devils & Dust

199. “Rocky Ground” – Wrecking Ball

198. “The Power of Prayer”

Get it, Jake! After several concert tours spent laying into the saxophone in honor of his late uncle Clarence, Jake Clemons is finally given discernible space to unload on “Letter To You,” finishing off “The Power of Prayer” with a towering, retro-tinged showstopper. The wistful tune is more or less a throwaway otherwise, led by Bittan’s syncopated piano melody, in step with a mid-tempo track we might’ve heard on “Magic” or “Working on a Dream.” The verse melody is nearly identical to “Last Man Standing.”

197. “Last Man Standing” – Letter to You

196. “Living On The Edge Of The World” – Tracks

195. “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)” – The Promise

194. “Cadillac Ranch” – The River

Just a friendly reminder that Springsteen likes cars, and writes about them sometimes. Like much of the lesser “River” tracks, this is a song for dancin’, not thinkin’. Move those feet!

193. “My Love Will Not Let You Down” – Tracks

192. “Wrong Side Of The Street” – The Promise

191. “Rainmaker” – Letter to You

190. “None But The Brave” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

189. “Two Faces” – Tunnel of Love

188. “I Wanna Be With You” – Tracks

187. “Sinaloa Cowboys” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

186. “Don’t Look Back” – Tracks

185. “Trouble In Paradise” – Tracks

184. “One Minute You’re Here” – Letter to You

183. “Magic” – Magic

182. “Real World” – Human Touch

One of two “Human Touch” songs where E Street pianist Roy Bittan scored a co-writing credit, and this one’s a goodie. The dueling vocals between Springsteen and Miami R&B singer Sam Moore are fun, and it feels shorter than its five-minute run time.

181. “Local Hero” – Lucky Town

180. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” – Letter to You

179. “Give The Girl A Kiss” – Tracks

178. “One Way Street” – The Promise

177. “Back In Your Arms” – Tracks

176. “Mary’s Place” – The Rising

175. “Chain Lightning” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

174. “Ricky Wants A Man Of Her Own” – Tracks

173. “Easy Money” – Wrecking Ball

172. “The Last Carnival” – Working on a Dream

171. “Gloria’s Eyes” – Human Touch

170. “Song For Orphans” – Letter to You

169. “I’m Goin’ Down” – Born in the U.S.A.

A smash-filled album’s most discardable track. The deteriorating-relationship theme is a precursor to the pain of “Tunnel Of Love,” and subsequently, better songs tackling the topic. There’s a reason the song hasn’t been played much since the Born in the U.S.A. tour (30 years ago).

168. “The Wall” – High Hopes

167. “Further On (Up the Road)” – The Rising

166. “Hunter of Invisible Game” – High Hopes

165. “Burnin’ Train” – Letter to You

Rumbling like a freighter down the track, “Burnin’ Train” is a big, bracing rock track familiar to Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” heyday. The opening guitar chug reminds of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” a full-circle moment considering how much the band worships Bruce, before Springsteen’s piercing, ’70s-era solos steal the song, playing foil to the conventional chorus. “Burnin’ Train” lets loose with fervor and high tempo unlike most of his recent releases, a sure-fire favorite for fans craving the bandana-clad “No Surrender” days.

164. “Darlington County” – Born in the U.S.A.

163. “Terry’s Song” – Magic

162. “All The Way Home” – Devils & Dust

161. “Roll of the Dice” – Human Touch

160. “Breakaway” – The Promise

159. “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” – The River

158. “Radio Nowhere” – Magic

157. “Book of Dreams” – Lucky Town

Springsteen finds tenderness in this wistful ballad. His longing, as he views a wedding from afar and wishes he was with the bride, is accompanied well by the soft, acoustic melody and percussion.

156. “So Young And In Love” – Tracks

155. “Two Hearts” – The River

154. “Janey Needs A Shooter” – Letter to You

Not to be confused with Warren Zevon’s “Jeannie Needs a Shooter,” which Springsteen helped write after Zevon heard Bruce’s working song title and spun it into his own recording, “Janey Needs a Shooter” stands out as a fine exemplifier of the band’s delirious live show. The bombastic refrain, plucked from the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sessions more than 40 years ago — and revamped into a new, full-band recording — repeats again and again through the outro, all clearly one take as Springsteen sings each passage with new flavor. In these final two minutes, the nearly seven-minute song plays like a Springsteen concert encore — all power, no end in sight. Good luck getting it out of your head.

153. “Devil’s Arcade” – Magic

152. “Valentine’s Day” – Tunnel of Love

151. “Take ‘Em As They Come” – Tracks

150 to 101 – Igniting the flame

The main course is coming soon, everyone. These tunes, just outside the Top 100, are the appetizers. They are perfectly adequate, and for plenty of other artists, would be among the best songs they’ve ever produced. But Bruce’s catalog is thick. Some numbers had to populate the middle ground.

150. “The Ballad of Jesse James” – Chapter and Verse

This is a cool, crunchy early track and one of the very few tunes recorded under The Bruce Springsteen Band moniker, before E Street came along. That guitar solo is as good as any Springsteen has ever put to record and extra points for it being recorded at a surf shop in Highlands.

149. “Downbound Train” – Born in the U.S.A.

148. “Highway 29” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

147. “Rendezvous” – Tracks

146. “Working on the Highway” – Born in the U.S.A.

145. “Working on a Dream” – Working on a Dream

144. “From Smalls Things (Big Things One Day Come)” – The Essential Bruce Springsteen

“Small Things” didn’t make it onto “The River,” but probably should have. The quick, boisterous style is a little tighter than “Ramrod” and doesn’t tap that screeching organ.

143. “Gypsy Biker” – Magic

142. “I’ll Work for Your Love” – Magic

141. “Brothers Under The Bridges” – Tracks

140. “The Wrestler” – Working on a Dream

139. “Fire” – The Promise

138. “Drive All Night” – The River

137. “Candy’s Room”- Darkness on the Edge of Town

136. “Frankie Fell in Love” – High Hopes

135. “My Father’s House” – Nebraska

The list’s first “Nebraska” offering comes in a dream sequence. Well, a nightmare of being chased by the devil, as the narrator runs to his father’s home. Like most of “Nebraska,” the tune is stripped down the same, but not quite as effective as its brothers.

134. “The Line” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

133. “Fade Away” – The River

132. “Worlds Apart” – The Rising

131. “We Take Care of Our Own” – Wrecking Ball

130. “Long Walk Home” – Magic

129. “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” – The Rising

128. “Real Man” – Human Touch

127. “Devil’s Arcade” – Magic

126. “Empty Sky” – The Rising

125. “Factory” – Darkness On The Edge of Town

The shortest “Darkness” track — the story goes it was written in about 20 minutes — is also the collection’s least memorable. It’s straightforward enough, detailing the monotony of blue-collar work. With all the impressive music written for “Darkness” (20 outtakes were released as “The Promise” in 2010), it’s rather odd this bore made the first cut.

124. “Youngstown” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

123. “The Price You Pay” – The River

122. “Death to My Hometown” – Wrecking Ball

121. “Talk To Me” – The Promise

120. “Countin’ On A Miracle” – The Rising

119. “Letter To You” – Letter To You

The first new Springsteen + E Street Band song in nearly seven years, “Letter To You” is familiarly forceful and earnest, a spiritual cousin of “Land of Hope and Dreams.” The crack of Weinberg’s snare, the clang of Bittan’s piano — it all feels like home and conjures some images of the brooding “Darkness” era. Though a little long and occasionally blemished by Springsteen’s unnecessary falsetto choices, the newbie is strong, catchy and bodes well for the highly anticipated album coming Oct. 23.

118. “Dollhouse” – Tracks

117. “Tunnel of Love” – Tunnel of Love

116. “I Wanna Marry You” – The River

115. “Save My Love” – The Promise

114. “You’re Missing” – The Rising

One of Springsteen’s most transparent takes on the Sept. 11 attacks hits on home life for victims’ families. It doesn’t get much simpler than “everything is everything, but you’re missing.” The metered approach and hypnotic strings bolster The Boss’s reflection.

113. “Used Cars” – Nebraska

112. “Last to Die” – Magic

111. “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” – Tracks

110. “Stolen Car” – The River

109. “Wrecking Ball” – Wrecking Ball

108. “Meet Me in the City” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

All through Springsteen’s “River” anniversary tour he opened with this pumping oldie-newbie, which missed the album’s original cut but was the lead single for the commemorative box set released in 2015. In an alternate universe where Bruce doesn’t write “The Ties That Bind,” this would have been an exciting, worthy album opener and sure fan favorite.

107. “This Hard Land” – Tracks

106. “Night” – Born To Run

105. “Spare Parts” – Tunnel of Love

104. “Open All Night” – Nebraska

103. “Santa Ana” – Tracks

Inspired by a trip to Tijuana with his father, Springsteen melded history and surreality in this “E Street Shuffle” bystander. Like fellow “Tracks” number “Bishop Danced,” his narrative is tough to discern. But “Santa Ana” still takes on the vibe of a welcoming, summer jam.

102. “If I Was The Priest”

Written as early as 1970, “Priest” was performed by Springsteen during his storied Columbia Records audition in ’72, then never officially released until now. The impassioned rework captures the prolific songwriter as he was 50 years ago: obsessed with Bob Dylan and cramming as many images into his verses as humanly possible, bordering on nonsense. But there’s a certain sentimentality with which Springsteen goes after his old folk song that’s unmatched across the rest of the album. His vocal performance isn’t perfect — he cracks, he falls momentarily out of tune — but it’s arresting nonetheless. If the treatment gives you goosebumps, you’re not alone.

101. “Jackson Cage” – The River

100 to 51 – Oldies and goodies

The lesser tracks off Springsteen’s first three albums “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.,” “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle” and “Born To Run” appear in this group. Some truly tremendous numbers are bounced to this section, only by stone-cold classics. Your favorite Boss song may reside here.

100. “Blood Brothers” – Greatest Hits

99. “She’s The One” – Born To Run

98. “Human Touch” – Human Touch

97. “Walk Like A Man” – Tunnel of Love

96. “Paradise” – The Rising

95. “Light Of Day” – Bruce Springsteen in Concert – MTV Plugged

94. “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” – Human Touch

By and large, “57 Channels” is a silly, hopelessly dated song, but the bass line — which Bruce laid down himself for the recording — is hypnotic, and if you aren’t singing the hook by the song’s end, there’s a problem. We can’t help but wonder what the narrator would have done if he knew that in 2015, there’d be 900 channels and still pretty much nothin’ on.

93. “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?” – Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.

92. “Iceman” – Tracks

91. “Lucky Town” – Lucky Town

90. “Cover Me” – Born in the U.S.A.

89. “If I Should Fall Behind” – Lucky Town

88. “One Step Up” – Tunnel of Love

Within the fallout of his failed marriage to Julianne Phillips, we got a handful of vulnerable, heartbreaking songs on “Tunnel Of Love,” and one of the most telling was “One Step Up,” short for the chorus “one step up, and two steps back.” His choices to transfer his troubles to the world — “Bird on a wire outside my motel room / But he ain’t singin’ — and also blame himself for the turmoil shows great skill.

87. “Girls in their Summer Clothes” – Magic

86. “Livin’ in the Future” – Magic

85. “Wreck On The Highway” – The River

84. “Reason to Believe” – Nebraska

83. “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” – Magic

82. “Stray Bullet” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

81. “Aint Good Enough For You” – The Promise

80. “Nothing Man” – The Rising

79. “Where The Bands Are” – Tracks

78. “Ghosts” – Letter to You

Someday, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band will grace the marquee at MetLife Stadium once more — hopefully in 2022, Springsteen has said — and when they do, “Ghosts” will be the song to welcome us back. The triumphant single is the group’s biggest rock banger in many years and does well to pay homage to those lost in Springsteen’s life: among them, George Theiss, Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. No other song on “Letter to You” allows the members of E Street to ride so freely, as the lyrics return to long nights in bar rooms and the path that led them all to fame, fortune and Bruce’s home studio in Colts Neck. It’s the best song off the best Bruce Springsteen album in many years

77. “My Hometown” – Born in the U.S.A.

76. “The Rising” – The Rising

Though much of Springsteen’s 2002 album is somber in the wake of Sept. 11, two-time Grammy Award winner “The Rising” is cathartic, perhaps even triumphant. The spiritual imagery — “Mary in the garden,” and “a 60-pound stone on his back” — is powerful but more so is the overarching theme of unity here.

75. “American Skin (41 Shots)” – High Hopes

74. “This Life” – Working on a Dream

73. “Cautious Man” – Tunnel of Love

72. “Bobby Jean” – Born In the U.S.A.

71. “Ain’t Got You” – Tunnel of Love

70. “Lonesome Day” – The Rising

69. “The Angel” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

68. “Thundercrack” – Tracks

67. “Secret Garden” – Greatest Hits

66. “Jack Of All Trades” – Wrecking Ball

65. “Devils & Dust” – Devils & Dust

What’s easily the highlight of a largely passed-over album is the title track, which leaves Springsteen questioning. “What if what you do to survive kills the things you love? Fear’s a powerful thing,” the chorus wonders, framed through the eyes of a soldier in Iraq. The search for morality feels more universal.

64. “Linda Will You Let Me Be The One” – Tracks

63. “Blinded By The Light” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

62. “Independence Day” – The River

61. “Zero And Blind Terry” – Tracks

60. “The Fever” – 18 Tracks

Compositionally, this maybe the best Springsteen song to be left off his early albums. Written in 1971, the pattering, bluesy tune would later appear on Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes’ ’76 debut “I Don’t Want To Go Home.” But Bruce’s version finally released in 1999 is silky smooth and touches a usual subject — the endless desire for a girl he can’t have.

59. “Streets of Fire” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

58. “Little White Lies” – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection

57. “I Wish I Were Blind” – Human Touch

56. “No Surrender” – Born in the U.S.A.

55. “Seaside Bar Song” – Tracks

54. “For You” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

53. “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

God save the human cannonball! It seems every aspect of Bruce’s Jersey life made it into his formative songwriting years, even his memories of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. circus that visited Freehold during his childhood summers. Garry Tallent’s tuba-playing defines the tune, as does Springsteen’s poetic inventory of every act in the show.

52. “Bring On The Night” – Tracks

51. “Out in the Street” – The River

50 to 26 – Rest of the best

We have entered the championship rounds here, folks. Bruce doesn’t get much better than this team of 25. Many of these tracks were featured on Springsteen’s greatest hits and “Essential” albums. Let’s see which tune fell where.

50. “Land of Hopes and Dreams” – Wrecking Ball

49. “Roulette” – Tracks

“The River” portrayed Springsteen at his most reckless, and although “Roulette” was left from the 1980 collection, its fevered tone delivers a wily performance with delicious instability. If Bruce would have went on to front a punk band, this would have been the breakthrough single.

48. “Glory Days” – Born in the U.S.A.

47. “Promised Land” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

46. “Johnny 99” – Nebraska

45. “Adam Raised a Cain” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

44. “Mary Queen of Arkansas” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

43. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” – The Ghost of Tom Joad

Brooding, cognizant and folksy, Springsteen’s interpretation of both Steinbeck’s novel and Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad Of Tom Joad” sets a momentous tone for his 1995 album. The trailed-off phrasing and muted arrangement truly does give the impression of sitting by the campfire light.

42. “Meeting Across the River” – Born To Run

41. “The Ties That Bind” – The River

40. “Kitty’s Back” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

39. “The Wish” – Tracks

If you love your mother, this is your song. Bruce’s ode to his “ma” Adele, is of course, heartwarming, but the imagery is a great, vignetted peek into the singer’s childhood. “Well, it was me in my Beatle boots, you in pink curlers and matador pants / Pullin’ me up of the couch to do the twist for my uncles and aunts.” And his “wish” to go out dancing with his mom is still adorable.

38. “State Trooper” – Nebraska

37. “Hungry Heart” – The River

36. “Tougher Than The Rest” – Tunnel of Love

35. “Mansion On The Hill” – Nebraska

While much of “Nebraska” is steeped in crime, pain and desperation, “Mansion” is a beautifully crafted, retrospective — Springsteen’s memory of a large home near Linden, watching the parties it would host from afar. There’s power in its simplicity.

34. “The E Street Shuffle” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

33. “Because The Night” – The Promise

32. “Spirit in the Night” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

31. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

There’s no question of emotion here — Bruce is bitter, sullen and scorned as he searches for answers at town’s desolate outskirts. Bittan’s piano melody keeps the album’s closing number grounded while Springsteen’s howls sail deep into the night. On an album NME cited as 1978′s best of the year, this title track ties a harrowing bow.

30. “Into the Fire” – The Rising

29. “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” – Born to Run

28. “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Springsteen’s arrogant riff on New York’s street life was his first real foot in the door. “Saint” was his audition song for his soon-to-be manager Mike Appel, and later for Columbia Records’ John Hammond in 1972. A year later, the jangly tune would close out his debut album. The anti-catholic undertone: “Devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street, showin’ me a hand I knew even the cops couldn’t beat,” is intriguing as well.

27. “Better Days” – Lucky Town

26. “The Promise” – The Promise

25 to 1 – Essential Bruce

Here they are, the pinnacles of Springsteen’s lifelong musicianship, 50 years of recording represented by about two hours-worth of booming, passionate rock n’ roll. These tracks are The Boss’s thoughts, his anguish and his love. They are what makes him who he is — the rockstar and the man. Let’s recount his most excellent works.

25. “I’m On Fire” – Born in the U.S.A.

Before all the synthy ambience of “Tunnel Of Love,” there was “I’m On Fire,” the sex-heavy track advanced by digital hum and a playful guitar riff. At less than three minutes, it’s a light investment for listeners and it still pays great dividends — try not to get too hot and bothered.

24. “Sherry Darling” – The River

There are none better on “The River’s” list of boisterous rock jams than “Sherry Darling,” a fun-filled romp that curses Bruce’s lover’s mother and “her big feet.” Clemons’ lively sax melody and Bittan’s plinking piano set the scene, as do the seemingly live-recorded hoots and hollers reacting to Bruce’s words.

23. “Nebraska” – Nebraska

The opening tune to Bruce’s folk master-class LP is far from peachy, see the killing spree (based on a true-life Northwestern slaughter), guilty verdict and electric chair. The delicate, acoustic guitar and harmonica contrast the weight of the deeds, and the song finishes with no real resolve — it’s all a bit unsettling.

22. “Incident on 57th Street” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

The ballad of Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane is a tormented city tale, where Johnny promises to take Jane away from her lady-of-the-night squalor, but ultimately, he just can’t ignore the call of the streets. Springsteen’s dynamic vocals, from borderline whispers to closing wails, shine in this performance.

21. “Growin’ Up” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

The Bob Dylan influence is really felt here in Springsteen’s phrasing and the verses’ pace, but he separates himself enough with an autobiographical look at his teen years. His youthful rebelliousness comes through, and there’s something familiar and natural about the simple intro and “ooh, oohs” that welcome the chorus’s last line.

20. “Born in the U.S.A.” – Born in the U.S.A.

Any Springsteen fan knows the story — this ostensible chest-thumper is not exactly pro-patriotism. But in the discussion of its post-Vietnam content, we sometimes lose track of the song’s anatomy. Max Weinberg’s snare cracks, the infectious synth hook and Bruce’s gravelly shouts. Crank up “Born In The U.S.A.” regardless of politics.

19. “Prove It All Night” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

The optimism of “Prove It All Night” might have been better suited for “Born To Run,” but there’s an added smoothness in the composition. Whether the “prove it” refrain suggests romantic earnestness or sexual desire is open to interpretation, but either way, the piano-driven hook becomes easily lodged in a listener’s consciousness.

18. “Atlantic City” – Nebraska

Atlantic City was new as a casino town in 1982, and through his romantic enthusiasm, Springsteen documented the shore-front’s uncertain resurgence in a tune that’s been relentlessly covered over the years. The song was recorded in his bedroom for $1,000 — the cost of the four-track he used.

17. “Badlands” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

For fans of The E Street Band specifically, “Badlands” has it all. Bittan’s galloping piano line, Max Weinberg’s dynamic kit work splayed out front, and a big break for one of Clemons’ cresting sax solos. Springsteen’s caustic bravado — a recurring theme on “Darkness” — gives the tune its shape, but cries for hope in the end.

16. “Something in the Night” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

The slow, introductory build — from the soft key-and-bell triplet, to Bruce’s wails, to Weinberg’s rumbling fill — is wonderfully polished and revisited at the end of this instrumental beauty. The bridge’s gang vocals, with Bittan, Clemons and Steven Van Zandt are explosive, as is the established “Darkness” motif: the world is out to get Bruce.

15. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Boss’s ultimate Jersey summer lyric, ironically written after he’d been evicted from his Asbury Park apartment and was living in nearby Bradley Beach. His pleading for Sandy’s love, framed around the boardwalk’s closing, still fits beautifully with shore lore, and Danny Federici’s accordion, to mimic the boards’ buskers, was a genius addition.

14. “My City of Ruins” – The Rising

Talk about a lyrical transformation. Springsteen wrote “My City of Ruins” in 2000, for a benefit to support Asbury Park’s economic resurgence. The images, of young men on street corners and boarded up windows, are telling signs. But after Sept. 11, the idea of a “city of ruins” and the faithful refrain “come on, rise up!” became synonymous with New York. For either purpose, the full-band tune is powerful and resonant.

13. “Brilliant Disguise” – Tunnel of Love

Much of “Tunnel of Love” is tied to Bruce’s tumultuous first marriage, and no track is more poignant than “Brilliant Disguise.” The pain and desperation of not truly knowing someone — especially a lover — flows through in full force, and the line “I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust / ‘Cause I damn sure don’t trust myself” is truer to more relationships that we’d all like to admit.

12. “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

“Rosalita” still may be Springsteen’s best party song, chock full of unbridled ardor, humor and a wonderfully bouncy chorus. The determination to get his girl — based on then-girlfriend Diane Lozito — to come out with his friends for the night in spite of her disapproving parents is a more buoyant predecessor to the begging of “Thunder Road.”

11. “Highway Patrolman” – Nebraska

Boss’s most compelling folk tale: a first-person take on a Michigan police officer who allows his criminal brother to escape after an assault. The light refrain of “Me and Frankie, laughin’ and drinkin’,” contrasted with Frankie’s checkered past, is sobering.

10. “Backstreets” – Born To Run

“Backstreets” details what casual fans likely imagine “Born To Run”-era Springsteen’s life to have been: “Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house, getting wasted in the heat.” The grit and fear in Bruce’s dominant chorus seems a bit more visceral than the rest of “Born To Run.”

9. “Streets of Philadelphia” – Greatest Hits (and “Philadelphia” soundtrack)

In between Springsteen’s more low-key period — without the E Street Band — he scored major solo success with a poignant track written for the 1993 Oscar-winning drama “Philadelphia.” Laid over synth and a hip-hop beat, he sings in first-person, unhappy with himself, endlessly wandering the streets and begging his brother for acceptance. The dirge took home an Oscar and four Grammy Awards.

8. “Lost in the Flood” – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Before “Born In The U.S.A.” portrayed post-war disillusionment, there was an exceptional track off Springsteen’s debut, about the “ragamuffin gunner” who returns from “the fort,” races cars and apparently dies in a crash. Anti-religious sentiments are sprinkled in early as Bruce sings over just the piano. Vini Lopez’s drums kick in midway through to ramp up the intensity.

7. “Dancing in the Dark” – Born in the U.S.A.

Commercially, “Dancing” is Springsteen’s single greatest achievement (No. 2 on Billboard, he never had a No. 1), and musically, it’s his finest pop song. His frustrations — tied to being told his new album needed a definitive hit — are pointedly thrust into the lyrics and sculpted by brassy synth and pulsing drums. If only Prince’s “When Doves Cry” was released a little earlier, Bruce would have ruled the mainstream for summer 1984.

6. “Racing in the Street” – Darkness on the Edge of Town

Springsteen’s scratches his itch for freedom through dragsters and gambling, but is ultimately tied down by a relationship formed through the races. As with “Something In The Night,” an uncomplicated piano part leads the melody, only this time there’s a bit more elegance. Vocally, Bruce has never sounded more clear and present.

5. “The River” – The River

“The River” stands as the everyman singer’s most complete tale of blue-collar woes. Childhood sweethearts — based on Springsteen’s sister and brother-in-law — are unexpectedly expecting, marry at the courthouse and the narrator gets a construction job. A persistent harmonica wail and Bittan’s minor key accompanies the couple to their only reprieve — visits “down to the river.”

4. “New York City Serenade” – The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Lyrically, “Serenade” is not Bruce’s most genius composition, but the jazz-infused instrumentals and use of blues, classical and even Latin elements — with Vini Lopez stationed on the conga drums — are truly sensational. The inventive introduction is inarguably David Sancious’s finest moment as a member of The E Street Band, and the descent from Springsteen’s breathy prose into a full-band, almost gospel-style sing-along is an energizing wake-up call.

3. “Born to Run” – Born To Run

You get what you give. Springsteen famously poured his entire, perfection-obsessed being in the recording of “Born To Run,” — six months spent tracking a four-minute song — soldiering through take after take. His result was the single that launched his career as a bonafide American rock star. For many fans, this was their introduction to his music, his exploration of freedom (through hot-rods and Wendy’s love), and his impassioned need to break away from his home (highway 9, The Palace and all that).

2. “Thunder Road” – Born To Run

For cryin’ out loud, Mary. Just get off your front porch and get in Bruce’s front seat — he’s going places, and he sure as hell isn’t going to leave you alone! The pleading, earnest lines of “Thunder Road” are the epic summation of its album’s themes, of desire and “redemption,” a word explicitly used in the second verse. Springsteen is never more sure of his penchant for greatness than when he yells the final line, “It’s a town full of losers, and I’m pulling out of here to win.”

1. “Jungleland” – Born To Run

If “Thunder Road” is Springsteen’s heart and “Born To Run” is his pumping fist, “Jungleland” is his mind, stretched to the edge of its imagination. At 25, Bruce could not write music well, but he had Clemons’ sax part already worked out in his head. For days, he hummed the melody to Clemons, who would try to duplicate it. The product was a captivating passage that would often leave Springsteen perfectly still on stage. With eyes closed and mouth slightly agape, he’d absorb what was transposed from his abstract mind into mesmerizing reality.

But Clemons’ most enrapturing moment is only a section of this nine-minute opus, which weaves an ill-fated urban love story of the Magic Rat and the barefoot girl. Throughout the tale, two other E Street members are given the spotlight as well. Israeli violinist Suki Lahav’s simple intro unlocks the door before a transition to Bittan’s cordial, opening melody. The pianist’s arc is skillful and dynamic, and finds a measured, hang-on-every-note portion before the final verse. To boot, Bittan’s rapid, celestial solo to finish the tune is just marvelous. Then there’s Springsteen’s contribution, of course, a vocal performance that begins with a touch of hope and concludes with disgust and frustration, unleashed in a few, ultimate screams.

“Jungleland” is Springsteen’s greatest song simply because it incorporates all his most distinguishable features — his theatrical and often heart-wrenching storytelling, his ambitious, desperate search for redemption, and his ability to lead a band of extraordinary musicians.

Please subscribe now and support the local journalism YOU rely on and trust.

Bobby Olivier may be reached at bolivier@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find NJ.com on Facebook.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *