Here's the challenge in putting together a Bruce Springsteen compilation: though he scored 18 Top 40 hits (12 of which made the Top Ten) through 1994, Springsteen is not a "singles artist." Some of his biggest hits have come with his slightest or least characteristic material; he has written numerous songs that were hits for other artists; and some of his most memorable songs were not released as singles. While a Springsteen "hits" collection logically would contain such Top Ten singles as "I'm on Fire" and his cover of Edwin Starr's "War," few Springsteen fans would miss their omission; on the other hand, many would support the inclusion of "Blinded by the Light" and "Pink Cadillac," Top Ten hits for Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Natalie Cole; and anyone even remotely familiar with Springsteen's albums and concerts would have trouble countenancing the absence of such non-singles as "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and "Thunder Road." Facing this challenge, Springsteen has adopted his own set of criteria. First, he seems to have wanted to pack as much music onto a single disc as possible, the result being a CD-busting 76:47 running time. Second, he seems to have wanted to include as many tracks as possible, even if that means editing songs; as a result, 18 tracks are included, though five have been substantially shortened -- "My Hometown" (by 24 seconds), "Glory Days" (by 29 seconds), "Human Touch" (by 82 seconds), "Better Days" (by 23 seconds), and "Streets of Philadelphia" (by 60 seconds). Third, like many artists, he is more interested in including his recent material than his older material, so there is nothing from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. or The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle -- no "Blinded by the Light," "Spirit in the Night," "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," or "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" -- but both sides of his 1992 single "Human Touch"/"Better Days" are included. Fourth, he has not felt bound to interpret the album's title to mean he must include his most successful singles: the Top 40 hits "Prove It All Night" and "One Step Up" and the Top Tens "Cover Me," "I'm on Fire," "I'm Goin' Down," "War," and "Tunnel of Love" are left off, while the album tracks "Thunder Road," "The River," and "Atlantic City" and the minor chart single "Badlands" are included. Fifth, he has opted to include both a couple of new songs ("Secret Garden" and "Blood Brothers"), a previously unreleased outtake ("Murder Incorporated"), and a new recording of a previously unreleased old song ("This Hard Land"). All of which is to say that Greatest Hits is a hodgepodge. Springsteen considered calling it something other than Greatest Hits (one idea: This Hard Land), and that might have been a better idea if he was going to fiddle with the concept this much. Nevertheless, some of Springsteen's best and best-known hit recordings are here -- "Born to Run," "Hungry Heart," "Dancing in the Dark," "Born in the U.S.A.," and the then-recent "Streets of Philadelphia," the success of which probably prompted the release of this compilation in the first place.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann