Not quite as impressive as 1997's One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen, with whom it shares two artists (E Street guitarist Nils Lofgren and this album's artistic director, Elliott Murphy), Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen presents 37 tracks also spread over two discs. Interestingly, only six songs are duplicated, and different artists perform them. This is not only a testament to Springsteen's quantity of work, but a cursory listen to these songs shows the quality as well. In any case, there is a lot of music here. The focus is Springsteen as singer/songwriter, which results in a large proportion of unplugged strumming guitars and rootsy, rearranged versions with an emphasis on vocals and lyrics. The acts range from the well-known but not quite superstars (Elvis Costello, Cowboy Mouth, Pete Yorn, Billy Bragg) to recognizable club-sized performers (Patty Griffin, Graham Parker, Steve Wynn, the Clarks) to obscure but heartfelt musicians (everyone else). Given the approach, albums such as Tunnel of Love and especially Nebraska are mined for their more introspective tunes. Still, there are a fair share of rockers here (Parker's "Pink Cadillac," Joe Grushecky's "Light of Day") although except for a frantic "Born to Run" from Cowboy Mouth, most are slowed down or given a more sensitive reading. Released in 2003, there are no tracks from either The Rising or 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad and only a few from 1992's Human Touch and Lucky Town. The disc does unearth some interesting obscurities -- Lofgren's version of "Man at the Top," Marc Broussard's "Back in Your Arms," the Paradise Brothers' "Souls of the Departed" among them -- that spotlight Springsteen's less popular work. Most of the music has been recorded specifically for this project -- a benefit for Parkinson's disease and sarcoma, a rare form of cancer -- but some such as Dion's beautiful "Book of Dreams," Griffin's lonely "Stolen Car," and Mark Wright's "Two Hearts" have been previously released on these artists' albums. Each comes with a short but incisive commentary from the performer. Even though some of the rearrangements are radical (Kirk Kelly strips "Downbound Train" to just ukulele!), they all convey the songs' emotions, in some cases arguably better than the originals. With two and a half hours of music, the album is best taken in small doses where the listener can soak it all in. Nonetheless, this is a successful project, one that does what it sets out to do, and should be embraced by Springsteen aficionados as well as fans of the acts involved.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2