Bruce Springsteen

The Album Collection:1973-1984, Vol. 1

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Of all the major rock artists, Bruce Springsteen is the one whose catalog lay in a state of digital disrepair for the longest (Prince is the only conceivable rival for this title). Apart from Born to Run, which has been subjected to several anniversary reissues and audiophile releases, and Darkness on the Edge of Town, none of his first seven albums saw a sonic upgrade during the CD boom of the '80s and '90s. The Album Collection, Vol. 1 rights that longstanding wrong by offering fresh remasters of every album released between 1973's Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and 1984's Born in the U.S.A., including brand-new remasters for both Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, presenting all seven titles as paper-sleeve mini-LPs with replicated artwork. Supervised by Bob Ludwig, the albums underwent a remastering technique called the Plangent Process and the difference between the original CDs and the 2014 editions is startling: these are filled with color and life. Naturally, the difference is especially vivid on records that have been neglected over the decades: Greetings surges with wild-eyed, open-hearted optimism, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle feels randy and robust, The River contains muscle and gravity, Born in the U.S.A. packs a wallop, and even Nebraska, a record made at home on a four-track, enjoys a clarity that doesn't sacrifice its essence. The new masters of Born to Run and Darkness are also rich but are only subtle improvements on the previous remasters; the reason to get the set is the other five records, which are finally given the treatment they deserve. Accompanying these superb remasters is a 60-page, high-gloss booklet that contains no original notes but has plenty of good press clips, photos, charts, and ads that capture Springsteen's first decade of recording. It's the icing on the cake on what's a necessary set. [The vinyl edition of The Album Collection, Vol. 1 has been mastered from 24-bit digital masters, not analog tapes.]

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