Live album: new lure for Springsteen fans

Bruce Springsteen's chart-busting, five-record set, ``Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Live/1975-85,'' is proof that there's no substitute for plenty of hard work and years on the road together. What's unusual is that after 12 years and over 1,000 concerts together, this is the first live album from Bruce Springteen and the E Street Band.

Why didn't they make such an album earlier?

One factor was that Springsteen's shows are usually too long for one record, and even two albums couldn't really capture the power of a Springsteen outing.Nevertheless, a recording crew was always a part of Springsteen's concert tours, an indication that a live recording was in the offing at some point.

The project came about after the band's most recent tour - a particularly inspiring one for the group - when Springsteen was listening to some tapes they had made during the tour. Suddenly he got the urge to listen to all the tapes they had made since the beginning. He was excited by what he heard, and almost immediately the idea for the retrospective album was born.

What you get on ``Live/1975-85'' is a more or less chronological overview of Springsteen's tours, in fact, of his entire career: track after track of get-down, hard-driving, energetic, powerful rock-and-roll by a master of the genre - ``The Boss'' - who has been called our national troubadour and ``the Dylan of the '80s.''

The five-record set includes many of Springsteen's hits over the years, such as ``Born to Run,'' ``Born in the USA,'' ``I'm on Fire,'' ``War,'' ``Cover Me,'' and ``Hungry Heart.'' There are no surprises or sudden style shifts here, just steady, sturdy growth. The boxed set includes a booklet with lyrics and color and black-and-white photos of Springsteen and the band.

Springsteen's easygoing balance between being champion of the workingman, antiwar ``good guy,'' and rock-and-roll rebel comes out here both in the music and in his banter with the audience.

At a 1978 concert, knowing his parents are out there listening, he chides, ``When I was growing up, there were two things that were unpopular in my house. One was me; the other one was my guitar.''

Then he says to his parents, ``One of you guys wanted a lawyer; another one wanted an author. Well, tonight you're both just gonna have to settle for...ROCK-AND-ROLL!!'' (Wild shrieks from the audience as the band slams into ``Growin' Up.'')

With so much ``production pop'' around - artists who are virtually created by record companies, image consultants, and electronics - Springsteen is refreshing - the epitome of ``what you see is what you get.''

And ``Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Live/1975-85'' is about as close to ``the Boss'' as you can get, short of going on tour with him.

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