born to run is the album that brought Bruce Springsteen to the cover of both news week and time. It’s a timeless snapshot of Americana – all sweaty, energetic, tuned to a carnival-like level. When Born To Run came out, Bob Dylan passed the baton to Springsteen and basically said, “You take it from here, son. For many critics of the day born to run made Bruce Springsteen the most important artist of his generation. Whatever that means.
The fact is that all these years later born to run continues to define the beautiful rawness, fire and conviction of Jersey’s newest native son. The E-Street Band brings the songs to life by bumping and gelling with all the skill of a tight and cohesive bar band. The album is a combination of the brilliant piano work of Roy Bittan, the snappy sax of Clarence Clemons (with lots of filler horns courtesy of the infamous Brecker Brothers) and an extra dose of patchy and distinctive guitar from Stevie Van Zant. Right in the middle is Springsteen, Telecaster in hand, throwing his heart and soul into every verse, indulging in emotion and character. Born To Run starts strong with “Thunder Road” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and interlocks with “Night” and “Backstreets”. a while but never too long.
Inevitably, the entire album falls on the shoulders of the title track. The song “Born To Run” shines with a strange glow of enduring optimism and mystique, all encased in an enigma that unfolds into an enigmatic anthem. The soaring guitar lick that blasts through each verse is only reinforced by a mid break that harmonically discards, dodges and opens up vistas for miles. “She’s The One” quickly follows, which takes the idea of the working class a step further as it takes on a sort of Spector quality production-wise, taking bits and pieces of the Atlantic City mentality and stitching them together into a much larger piece of stock. Barnstorming through “Jungleland” clearly proves that Springsteen is the boss.
While Springsteen’s subsequent releases would yield to their own differences and be successful, born to run has always been held up as his most significant recording. It was with this album that Springsteen’s songs showed for the first time a glorious but very real side of the suffering American, down on his luck, his dreams shattered and his hopes lost. By 1975, much of rock ‘n’ roll isolated itself from this kind of politicization. Rock, of course, took a dramatic turn over the next few years and was shaken to its visceral roots. born to run could very well have launched a new form of consciousness towards the excessive styles of music without even trying. That’s quite an achievement in itself.
~ Shawn Perry