Well, we say ‘album’, we mean ‘heaving package of cool things’. This is not just a reissue of The River, Springsteen’s pivotal 1980 album (and his first US no. 1). This is an in-depth, lovingly assembled piece of the Boss at a crucial stage in his career. Not to mention an insightful overall picture of one of the most influential figures in modern music.
You get a lot for your money – an enormous 4-CD, 3-DVD collection, including a healthy wodge of unreleased songs, over three hours of hitherto unseen live footage, a new documentary and a lovely big coffee table book (featuring previously unseen, or at least very rare, photos and memories). And the original album itself, nicely remastered, but that’s practically a bonus by the time you’ve explored the wealth of other stuff enclosed.
Listening to The River Outtakes (and The River: Single Album, which Springsteen recorded in 1979 but never released) is a sobering reminder of how much lovingly crafted material can end up being shelved – in any album-making process, especially for as productive a writer as Springsteen. “You think all of them are gonna be on,” Bruce says of these outtakes, in one of many philosophical musings captured on the 60-minute documentary portion, The Ties That Bind.
From the beloved title track and Hungry Heart to the unearthed likes of Cindy (almost Elvis in its smoothness) and Party Lights, Springsteen songs have a timeless familiarity about them. Whether you’re a Springsteen devotee, or know Born To Run and little else, this is something you’ll appreciate in this collection. A good one for the Christmas present list (read: the Christmas present list for yourself…).