With his second release in 1973, we return to New Jersey for “The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle” from Bruce Springsteen. Initially, this album was not a major commercial success either for Bruce, but it did continue to build on his growing legend in the Mid-Atlantic region of America. Ultimately, it has become a more appreciated and successful component of his catalog, and is rated #345 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
I look at this album through a similar lens as his first album, in that there are some tracks I really love and many more that don’t capture my interest as closely. The opener, “The E Street Shuffle” is a favorite, it feels like a great set opener and the sound of the band kicking into high gear really starts off this album strong. The rest of side one has three more tracks, many of which continue his local affection for his home in New Jersey, and with most Springsteen songs, are good storytelling songs. This album only has seven songs, so there are several tracks in the seven-to-eight-minute range, including “Kitty’s Back”, which I like once it gets going.
Side two is centered around the biggest hit on the album, the live performance smash “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, which is a great song that has often served as the set closer for Bruce and his band. It’s a high-energy celebration of his growing affection for Rosalita, in parallel with his emerging success as a recording artist. Clarence Clemons on saxophone is a force on this song, as he always was, and this song really stands out as the best song on the album by quite a bit. Two other odes to New York serve as the book-ends on side two, “Incident on 57th Street” and “New York City Serenade”. Like much of the album, these songs are good tracks, but for me lack the really strong hooks I would hope for as I listen to new music.
Overall, a solid performance once again from “The Boss”, and I do love the way his music emotes and translates to the live stage. Seeing one of those early shows on the Jersey Shore, in a packed and steamy nightclub, must have been an incredible experience and it was this energy that lifted Bruce Springsteen to his legendary level as songwriter and performer.