Bruce Springsteen

Boss's Birthday Party

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If there's one flaw in Columbia Records' authorized Bruce Springsteen triple-CD Live/1975-85, it's the relative paucity of 1970s performances represented -- only nine out of its 40 songs come from the era in which Springsteen generated such records as Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town and started breaking down the standard boundaries for concert length. And until and unless Columbia's successor, Sony Music, ever comes up with more from that era, there will be demands for bootlegs like Boss's Birthday Party. Recorded live at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ, on September 21, 1978 (with four additional tracks from August 8, 1978, at the Jay Alley Palladium in Tampa, FL), its three CDs feature 27 songs, including such orphaned live cuts from the era as "Meeting Across the River," "Incident on 57th Street," "Prove It All Night," "Kitty's Back," "Point Blank," and "Jungleland," as well as his performances of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen," Gary "U.S." Bonds' "Quarter to Three," and the "Detroit Medley" (i.e., "Devil With a Blue Dress," etc.). "Independence Day," which wouldn't see the light of day officially until 1980 on The River, is introduced as a new song, and among the important differences, "The Promised Land" is played (and harmonized) with far greater subtlety than it is given on Live/1975-85 and is the perfect lead-in for "Prove It All Night." Overall, the recording is of professional quality, like it's right off the soundboard, and the mix is aggressive, and nice and loud, elements that are somewhat muted in the early-'80s engineering of the Columbia release. The only flaws are momentary dropouts -- evidently the fault of defective tape stock -- in the opening seconds of "Badlands" and an early fade on "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"; the producers have padded the third disc out with four tracks from a rather less well-recorded show six weeks earlier in Tampa, FL, which includes "Rosalita" and a second performance of "Jungleland."