If you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen, you will most likely already have all the albums in this collection – on vinyl, cassette, CD or all three formats. So why buy this collection then? Because the albums have been remastered by Bob Ludwig and Toby Scott and have never sounded so good.
The first seven Springsteen albums were transferred from the original analogue masters – so in this box set, you get Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973), The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973), Born to Run (1975), Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), The River (1980), Nebraska (1982) and Born in the U.S.A. (1984). The only negative part of this project is the lack of extras – the deluxe reissues of Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town had plenty of extra material, but this box set is solely the remastered, original running length albums, plus a booklet containing press cuttings and photos from the era.
The first two albums in the collection are a revelation. “Lost in the Flood” has always been a classic track, when the full band kicks in on this 2014 remaster, it’s like hearing a song that was recorded yesterday. Album closer “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” also benefits greatly from the remastering process.
The fuller band arrangements of The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle really come into their own in this box set. Listening to “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and “New York City Serenade” is like bumping into a couple of old friends, who don’t seem to have aged at all.
Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town sound the same as their fairly recent deluxe edition remasters, so clearly no sonic improvement was needed. Though if you have older versions of these albums, you will be happy to hear them remastered in this collection.
Double album The River is a definite improvement on the previous CD version, which seemed to be mastered very quiet. Lead single (and first US hit) “Hungry Heart,” “The River” and the haunting “Point Blank” all sound so fresh in this box set.
It is noticeable that whilst the 2014 remasters sound fuller and louder, Bob Ludwig and Toby Scott have not just whacked up the volume, which often results in the audio distorting towards the top levels. The separation between the instruments is very noticeable, and some of the albums that previously sounded a little tinny, now sound warmer, and with a much better bass response.
Nebraska was recorded on a four-track cassette portastudio, so was never going to be a huge improvement from the original album release, but it was good to revisit songs such as “Atlantic City,” “My Father’s House” and “Open All Night.” Born in the U.S.A. finally sounds stadium-sized again! The previous CD was so quiet, and I hardly played the album anymore. When I saw The Boss at Wembley Stadium in 2013, he played “Bobby Jean,” and the performance reminded me what a great song this is, but getting home, it sounded flat on the CD. It now sounds amazing again, with the snare/tambourine cutting through the mix and the wonderful Roy Bittan piano riff sits centre-stage once more.
“Downbound Train” and a song I never tire of hearing, “I’m On Fire,” sound reborn (reborn in the U.S.A. – sorry, couldn’t resist it). So for the casual Springsteen fan, The Album Collection Vol 1 1973-1984 will be so much more rewarding than a greatest hits collection. The hardcore fans will also appreciate the much-improved sound of these classic albums, whether you go for the vinyl or CD version of the box set.