For some reason I can’t help liking Bruce Springsteen. For all his bluster, forced blue-collar worthiness and the odd questionable career move, his heart has always seemed to be in the right place.
Released a dozen years after his debut, Born In The U.S.A. is the album that made Springsteen an international household name and it’s easy to hear why, as it’s a collection of songs that can be enjoyed on multiple levels, dealing with various subjects and with a significant number of cuts with obvious commercial appeal. While Springsteen had to make compromises in order to make Born In The U.S.A. one of his most approachable albums (for all it’s good time groove intentions, “Darlington County” has little to recommend it), the fact that he and the E Street Band could still come up with a album as good as this at least shows their adaptability.
Like the majority of Springsteen’s work, Born In The U.S.A. is an album of anthems for the working man (or to be precise, the American working man), be it the anti-war posturing of the title track, the never-forget-your-roots parable of “Glory Days”, the ode to lost love that is “Bobby Jean”, or the relative introspection of “My Hometown”. What it doesn’t provide is anything particularly personal from Springsteen himself, as much like his hero Randy Newman, Springsteen specialised in telling stories from another persons perspective, so it’s pretty much business as usual for The Boss.
The E Street Band play well, although this would be their last full studio outing for a decade and a half, with the stars of the show being drummer Max Weinberg and piano player Roy Bittan. Sadly the mid 80s fashion for smothering great music in synthesisers has dated Born In The U.S.A. somewhat, but the actual ensemble playing of The E Street Band is as good as ever.
Obviously Born In The U.S.A. is Springsteen’s most famous work, but at the end of the day it’s not his best, as there are other Bruce Springsteen albums that boast better songs, production and lyrics, but which of those to purchase first is ultimately down to personal preference. That said, Born In The U.S.A. is the one Bruce Springsteen album that everyone with an interest in The Boss will purchase eventually.