Friday, November 8, 2013

Bruce Springsteen 11: Lucky Town

The other album that came out the same day as Human Touch had a better shot at being accepted by those who’d struggled through the 14 songs they heard already. Lucky Town is a 20 minutes shorter than its brother, and was recorded even more quickly than that. It’s another one-man-band deal, with the addition of veteran session drummer Gary Mallaber and good old Roy Bittan. By not being as labored, it has a freshness the other lacks, and has aged better.
Just like its brother, it begins with a potboiler in the form of “Better Days”, which gets its growl from the drop-D tuning all over the album. (It also takes the daring step of rhyming “piss” with “kiss”.) The title track certainly sounds like a textbook Springsteen song; it could have been combined with “Local Hero”, which crackles like a Mellencamp song, though it loses its way lyrically following the updated “Glory Days” sentiment of the first verse. “If I Should Fall Behind” is a gentle love song, not at all clichéd, but “Leap Of Faith” is an empty arena singlaong that sounds too much like “Local Hero” to stand out.
“The Big Muddy” is the requisite song of mystery, in dire need of a better chorus and hook; surely a scholar like Bruce would have heard the phrase from Pete Seeger. The true centerpiece of the album is “Living Proof”, a song about his newborn son and infused with emotion not at all staged. Despite its overused title, “Book Of Dreams” celebrates his wedding, providing a much happier ending to Tunnel Of Love. “Souls Of The Departed” is a well-intentioned lament for boys damaged by war overseas and at home, but one gets the feeling he wrote it already. And “My Beautiful Reward” is a nice little ending, an acoustic strum helped along by organ and drums in to the sunset.
Could these songs have been better served by the E Street Band? While not as easy to answer as whether McCartney should have stuck with Wings, the distinct absence of a saxophone suggests that Bruce wanted to move on.
Lucky Town is the better album of the two, and not just by comparison. Still, because this is exactly the forum for such speculation, here’s our suggestion for the 45-minute album that should have been released that day, still called Human Touch:
Side one: “Better Days”, “Lucky Town”, “Local Hero”, “With Every Wish”, “Roll Of The Dice”
Side two: “Human Touch”, “If I Should Fall Behind”, “I Wish I Were Blind”, “Living Proof”, “Book Of Dreams”
Burn a CD of that and see if you agree. If you don’t, submit your own.

Bruce Springsteen Lucky Town (1992)—3

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