Reviewed by Scott Jordan, Fri., Dec. 16, 2005
Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition (Columbia)
With Martin Scorcese's No Direction Home setting a new standard for music documentaries, Bruce Springsteen is still following in Bob Dylan's footsteps 30 years after Jersey's Boss finally shook off the new-Zimmy comparisons with a Phil Spector-inspired wall of sound and a revamped songwriting approach more boardwalk Hemingway than carny Shakespeare. Born to Run revved up desperation in the manic vocal hollers of "Backstreets" and wordless coda of West Side Story-esque epic "Jungleland," while the marriage of Roy Bittan's nursery-rhyme glockenspiel in "Thunder Road" juxtaposed Clarence Clemons' roadhouse-fueled title-track sax break. Springsteen's '75 world-view: young innocence against adult trials. The backstory is covered in somewhat exhausting fashion on the accompanying Wings for Wheels DVD. Vintage footage of a driven and occasionally delirious Springsteen obsessing over endless arrangements and studio sounds in NYC's Record Plant is fascinating, fresh footage and interviews of Springsteen touring his old Jersey stomping grounds adding to Born to Run's poignancy. Repetition of B-roll shots and some sycophant commentary from E Street Bandmates and biz associates descends into VH1 Behind the Music territory, but all is forgiven with a second live DVD, also from 1975, at London's Hammersmith Odeon. Grappling with a fresh aversion to Columbia's hyping the album, Springsteen's English debut came at Hammersmith, and it smoked. Witness the Boss/Little Steven train-whistle guitar duel in "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City," full-barrel rock-&-roll exaltation of "Rosalita," and Mitch Ryder-inspired Detroit medley. The concert runs in its entirety, unlike No Direction Home's Dylan-in-England clips. For historical packaging and content, Dylan and Springsteen stand shoulder-to-shoulder in 2005.