I remember the first time I heard Greetings From Asbury Park; one of my older brothers brought it home not long after it came out. Listening closely, that album felt like an older buddy from the neighborhood that I never knew who was recounting tales of the stuff I was starting to see happening around me as I ventured out and around my hometown in New Jersey. I was about to become a teenager and Bruce Springsteen's music was about to become a big part of the soundtrack of my adolescence.
So for me to write something like "Bruce Springsteen's 1973 debut is near and dear to my heart: would be sort of an understatement. Greetings From Asbury Park -- and the follow-on, The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle -- very much set the stage for my journey out into the big world, providing a lot of perspective on what to expect as I took "my right at the light and kept going straight until night...."
I learned quickly to hum my own lunar tunes.
I'm stating all this because its important (for me) to recognize that this fanboy perspective could easily sway my opinion when trying to do a review.
"Could," of course is the operative word there. The reality is, I'm from NJ and that just isn't how we roll there. Most of us folks from NJ are straight-shooters, you see.
All that said, I'll tell you one of the really neat things about listening to Greetings from Asbury Park in high resolution: it sounds just as it's supposed to sound, even though it is no doubt much much clearer now.
When I hear the LP version, it sounds good but there is a sort of murkiness that was always a part of the album's charm. Greetings From Asbury Park is not a fancy production, and the album was made in a small, pre-fame low-budget studio. But the performances are heartfelt and that comes through even when it is played through a 3-inch car speaker. Of course, that IS one of the bigger points with regards to appreciating Bruce's music.
Still, there is a much improved sense of clarity and definition on this new remaster that is very appealing. You can feel Bruce's acoustic guitar ringing out on the quiet parts of "Mary Queen of Arkansas." Likewise, you can really hear how those charmingly out-of-tune double-tracked guitars at the start of "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" blend in with the almost out of tune (probably upright) piano masterfully played by the great David Sancious.
Perhaps the problem was a sort of audio quicksand and not so much mud after all.
One of the real heroes on this album is Bruce's first drummer Vincent "Mad Dog" Lopez, who usually, unfortunately, gets lost in the flood in the wake of Mighty Max Weinberg's joining Bruce's E-Street Band for the third album. Lopez's playing sounds much tighter on this new version of Greetings From Asbury Park, and I'm not talking just about the fidelity of the transfer. I am talking about the seeming steadiness and -- if you will -- rock-full-ness of his playing.
This is all real subtle stuff, folks, but after just re-listening to the LP version and then putting on the high-resolution HDTracks download, I'm hearing a far more driving drummer than the original recording conveyed. While Lopez was not quite the Pete Best of the E-Street Band, and sure he is not the uber-tasteful time-keeper that Max is renown for, it may be time to re-evaluate Lopez's contributions now that we are hearing a far steadier incarnation of this album. This is happening courtesy of the Plangent Process that dramatically corrects mechanical anomalies in the tape recording process from back in the day, particularly "wow" and "flutter." These are acknowledged technical glitches which the recorded music world has lived with since its inception and now we are first starting to hear what the music sounds like when digitally correcting those issues.