One of the mega-stars of the 1970s kept his momentum rolling into the 1980s with his double-album release, “The River”. I have said before that I am not a die-hard Bruce Springsteen fan by a long-shot, but I have enjoyed listening to his succession of albums as intended, and would rate this as my overall favorite so far. In general, it feels happier and lighter, with a broader deployment of the E Street band. It also contains what is, by far, my favorite Bruce song ever, so that is also a bonus.
I could probably make an argument you could take the 8-10 best songs off of this album and make one really great single album, but it always annoyed me when people said that about double-albums I loved, so I will celebrate and enjoy all of it. The record opens with “The Ties That Bind”, and like many of the songs on this record, it is upbeat and probably a great live track. Clarence Clemons is a strong presence on “Sherry Darling”, another of my favorites.
My favorite Bruce song of all time? By a mile, it is “Hungry Heart”. I think part of it is that it doesn’t sound like depressed Bruce, this is happy Bruce. I will say I have always been a little disturbed by the opening line, “Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack… I went out for a ride and I never went back,” as that doesn’t sound like a good parenting move. Aside from that, I love the message of this song with regards to chasing your happiness, and the melody on this song is fantastic. I love the organ and piano, and the upbeat key change into the last verse. See Bruce, life can be fun too?!?!
There are several other songs on this album I really do like a lot. “Crush on You”, “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”, “I Wanna Marry You” (this one may get me in trouble…), and even the title track, even though it is a more traditional Bruce ballad. Honestly, in 20 songs, I don’t think there is a single song on here I don’t like, this is just an enjoyable listen and as I think this through, it is definitely my favorite of his albums, even if it isn’t as highly acclaimed as some of his other releases.
“Everybody needs a place to rest, everybody wants to have a home”
“Don’t make no difference what nobody says, Ain’t nobody like to be alone”
“Everybody’s got a hungry heart…”