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Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska CD Track Listing

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Bruce Springsteen Nebraska (1982)
Originally Released September 20, 1982 \nCD Edition Released 1986 ??\n\nAMG EXPERT REVIEW: There is an adage in the record business that a recording artist's demos of new songs often come off better than the more polished versions later worked up in a studio. But Bruce Springsteen was the first person to act on that theory, when he opted to release the demo versions of his latest songs, recorded with only acoustic or electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals, as his sixth album, Nebraska. It was really the content that dictated the approach, however. Nebraska's ten songs marked a departure for Springsteen, even as they took him farther down a road he had been traveling previously. Gradually, his songs had become darker and more pessimistic, and those on Nebraska marked a new low. They also found him branching out into better developed stories. The title track was a first-person account of the killing spree of mass murderer Charlie Starkweather. (It can't have been coincidental that the same story was told in director Terrence Malick's 1973 film Badlands, also used as a Springsteen song title.) That song set the tone for a series of portraits of small-time criminals, desperate people, and those who loved them. Just as the recordings were unpolished, the songs themselves didn't seem quite finished; sometimes the same line turned up in two songs. But that only served to unify the album. Within the difficult times, however, there was hope, especially as the album went on. "Open All Night" was a Chuck Berry-style rocker, and the album closed with "Reason to Believe," a song whose hard-luck verses were belied by the chorus -- even if the singer couldn't understand what it was, "people find some reason to believe." Still, Nebraska was one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label. -- William Ruhlmann\n\n\nAMAZON.COM CUSTOMER REVIEW\nThe Choices We Make, September 25, 2007 \nBy Vincent L. Smith (Washington, DC)\n*When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back into you.* - unknown \n\nThat sums up this great music, its a dark prince singing about people on the margins. The guy next door with the I-Roc up on cinder blocks and a brood of kids. Its the man who knowingly makes the wrong choice, but he'll play his string of bad luck till the end. This is an awesome cd: bleak, unflinching, and beautiful. \n\n\nAMAZON.COM CUSTOMER REVIEW\nSparse and Burdensome Masterpiece, April 30, 2006 \nBy Soulboogiealex (Netherlands)\nNebraska was allegedly recorded in Springsteen's home on a four-track. They were intended as demos for a new E-Street album. When Bruce went into the studio to flesh out the songs none of the approaches seemed to work at the time. Springsteen then decided to release it as it was. It became his most haunting and burdensome album to date. \n\nNebraska is often mistaken as an album about the decline of the American heartland. Yet its themes are more diverse than that. Geographically the album stretches out from the east coast in Atlantic City and the west in Nebraska. The album is a road trip along the disillusioned. \n\nFor the opening track Springsteen revives a popular folk tradition, the murder ballad. It chronicles the tale of to lovers on their murderous trip through the state. Their lives have become so dismal the lives of others don't seem to matter to them much as well. As the murderer states in court "I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done, At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun". The American Dream seems so far out of reach that only crime and murder seem to give some release. Similar sentiments are expressed in Johnny 99, where the main character feels forced to armed robbery with deadly results. "Now judge judge I had debts no honest man could pay, The bank was holdin' my mortgage and they was takin' my house away, Now I ain't sayin' that makes me an innocent man, But it was more 'n all this that put that gun in my hand" explains the character. The couple in Atlantic City take another approach, they gamble their last money, the motive the same. \n\nMoments of hopes and dreams are sparse on this record and always seem far of. In Used Cars our character dreams "Now, mister, the day my numbers comes in I ain't ever gonna ride in no used car again", in Mansion on the Hill there are bittersweet reminisces "In the summer all the lights would shine there'd be music playin' people laughin' all the time, Me and my sister we'd hide out in the tall corn fields, Sit and listen to the mansion on the hill". \n\nMostly Nebraska is bleak. Even when our characters manage to stay afloat there is still trouble lurking in the shadows. Joe Roberts our Highway Patrol man got his job after his farm went belly up. With his life on track there's still the burden of his brother Frank, "and Franky ain't no good". IN My Fathers House there's the burden of a father and son relation gone sour, haunting the young man's dreams. "My father's house stood shining hard and bright the branches and brambles tore my clothes and scratched my arms, But I ran till I fell, shaking in his arms" the character relates, when he wakes his father's far out of reach. Leaving Springsteen to wonder "Struck me kinda funny seemed kind of funny sir to me, How at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe" \n\n\nAMAZON.COM CUSTOMER REVIEW\nPortraits of Pain, October 20, 2004 \nBy D. C. Phillips\n\n"I guess there's just a meanness in this world": The last line of the opening (and title) track of Bruce Springsteen's phenomenal Nebraska is a direct quote from Charlie Starkweather, one of the United States' first recognized mass murderers who in the 1950's left a trail of blood across the Midwest with his girlfriend, Carol Ann Fugate (the case was the inspiration for Terence Malick's film Badlands as well as Sprinsgsteen's song). It is chilling in its plain-spoken, matter-of-fact, even flippant "confession" of murder: "at least for a little while / me and her, we had us some fun." Yet it is also a song of tremendous beauty (as allied with the sublime). The plaintive wailings of the harmonica that open the song weave in and out amongst the simple poetry of the song's verses while underneath it all lies the sedate and soporific acoustic guitar that anchors the song musically. The song could be a lullaby. \n\nCharlie Starkweather is, in fact, the perfect associate of the entire album, for "stark" it is indeed - the harmonica and the guitar, together with Springsteen's voice, are the only instruments to be found; and Starkweather has become in the cultural mythos an underground anti-hero - a modern-day Romantic figure of rebellion (much as another Charlie became after the summer of 1969). Much of Sprinsgteen's 1982 solo acoustic album is about precisely the "meanness" that the narrator of "Nebraska" claims for the world. It is American Gothic, peopled with criminals and sinners of all stripes, and its ten tracks plumb the depths of despair, desperation, and dejection. Though the locales of the songs are not limited to the expanse west of the Mississippi, the vast plains, badlands, barrens, and wasteland that are to be found there are present in every word and chord, even if only as a spiritual metaphor. Each song is a miniature portrait of pain. \n\n"Nebraska" is followed by the powerful "Atlantic City" - the only track from the album to make the cut for Springsteen's 1995 Greatest Hits. The song is reminiscent of Born to Run's "Meeting Across the River" (1975), telling a "story" of a well-meaning but down-on-his luck loser, debt-ridden and unemployed, who, against a backdrop of Mob warfare, is planning a last-ditch effort to escape to a better life with his woman. There is an overwhelming sense of failure - past, present, and future - in every line, a sense compounded by the refrain, which begins, "Everything dies, baby - that's a fact." But the first dim note of hope - a sad and desperate possibility - is also struck here, as the line continues, "But maybe everything that dies someday comes back." That "maybe" is as good as it gets here. \n\n"Mansion on the Hill" is a relatively low-key respite from the violent - both literally and figuratively - fears and desires of the first two songs; but the tone is overwhelmingly maudlin. But it also marks a return to the lullaby-like cadence and instrumentation of the first track. The narrator of this song seems to have crossed over from the world of 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town - an album that prefigures the more vengeful darkness of Nebraska. The bittersweet sentimentality of the song - a wistful reflection on the disparity between the security of realized dreams on the one hand and the need for those dreams in an otherwise luckless life on the other. The song also introduces the nostalgic reminiscing that is to be found later on the album in songs such as "Used Cars." But there is a darker side even to the titular symbol of the "American dream": one remembers that in the Hank Williams song of the same name (apparently an inspiration for what some understand to be Springsteen's re-working thereof), the "mansion on the hill" is a "loveless" retreat rather than the representative of fulfillment; and the awe felt by the narrator calls to mind that of the townspeople in Robinson's poem "Richard Cory," which ends with the disclosure of the privileged title figure's suicide. \n\n"Johnny 99" swings the pendulum back, both musically and emotionally, and the protagonist complements the narrator-protagonist of "Nebraska" well. The narrator-protagonist of "Nebraska" is essentially a thrill-killer; the protagonist of "Johnny 99" kills out of desperation. And where the Starkweather-figure of the title track is nonplussed by the prospect of his death ("Sheriff, when the man pulls that switch, sir / And snaps my poor head back / You make sure my pretty baby / Is sitting right there on my lap"), Ralph (a.k.a. "Johnny (99)") actively seeks it: "Your Honor, I do believe I'd be better off dead ... Let them shave off my hair and put me on that execution line." \n\n"Highway Patrolman," covered by Johnny Cash, and the inspiration for Sean Penn's directorial debut, The Indian Runner, offers a new perspective through a narrative voice that is not, while first-person, that of the criminal/sinner. The song dramatizes the consequences and complications that are at the center of all the previous songs, but from the perspective of an injured party: the police sergeant brother of a "no good" rabble-rouser. It is one of the most poignant and sentimental songs on the album (only "Used Cars" and "My Father's House" come as close), illustrating the competing claims of community/state and family. The narrator is no less pained than any of the narrators on this album - but his pain is the result of assumed responsibility - for the actions of his brother as well as his own - rather than the refusal thereof, as is so often the case. "Me and Frankie laughin' and drinkin' - / Nothin' feels better than blood on blood." \n\nThe pulsing rhythm of the guitar that underlies "State Trooper" has the sound of a heartbeat, slowly accelerating as the song progresses to match the increasing anxiety of the larcenous narrator - another desperate man who claims that his crime(s) are inevitable. Murder, which looms on the horizon here, is the natural result of outside interference - not a choice. The refrain, a mantra that has the power of a prayer," is a plea: "Mr. State Trooper, please don't stop me, please don't stop me, please don't stop me. The vocals grow in their raw urgency of emotion to culminate in a chillingly primal bark, followed by a series of equally animalistic howls that trail away as the song fades. It is a defining moment. \n\n"Used Cars" could be sung by the narrator of "Mansion on the Hill" and/or that of the later track "My Father's House." The perspective is that of a child who determines to achieve more than his parents did - a familiar theme not only in literature but in American culture. The narrator contrasts himself with his father, implicitly accusing him of cowardice and weakness when he says, "I wish he'd just hit the gas and let out a cry / And tell them all ["the neighbors"] to kiss our asses good-bye." He has the same urgent desire for freedom - which comes from security - that has ostensibly been responsible for the downfall of the central figures in many of the other songs on the album. Tellingly, the narrator imagines this freedom/security as coming not from hard work - his father "sweats the same job from mornin' to morn" without any such payoff - but from luck - "now mister, the day the lottery I win / I ain't never gonna ride in no used car again." \n\n"Open All Night" is something of an anomaly on the album - often singled out by critics as a faux pas. It is the only genuinely "up-beat" song, musically, on the album ("Johnny 99" aside, which is ambiguously "up-beat" at best), and the lyrics seem to complement this mood. But Springsteen has throughout his career often set dark and brooding lyrics against ironically bright music ("Born in the U.S.A." is the most (in)famous example, though songs such as "Hungry Heart" - on first listen, a happy-go-lucky paen to wanderlust and its possibilities and promises, that is actually a song of selfish shirking of responsibility and the abandoning of family (the narrator himself declares that he "took a wrong turn and ... just kept going") should have prepared his audience for such songs.) Lyrically, the song is linked to "State Trooper." The lines "in the wee wee hours, your mind gets hazy / Radio relay towers (won't you) lead me to my baby" appear in both songs; the narrator of "Open All Night" echoes his (textual - if we consider the album as a whole to represent a text) predecessor when he declares that "this [New Jersey] turnpike sure is spooky at night when you're all alone"; and both songs end with virtually identical "prayers": "Hey somebody out there / Listen to my last prayer / Hi ho silver-o / Deliver me from nowhere" ("State Trooper") and "Hey Mr. Deejay, woncha hear my last prayer / Hey ho rock 'n' roll, deliver me from nowhere" ("Open All Night"). There are crucial, if relatively minor, differences between the incidentals of the respective environments as well as the apparent emotional landscapes: where the narrator of "State Trooper" hears only "talk show stations" on his radio, filled with "just talk talk talk talk, / 'Til you lose your patience," the radio of the narrator of "Open All Night" is "jammed up with gospel stations." There is a possibility of salvation present here that is not to be found in "State Trooper." Ultimately, however, it is unclear exactly what relation this song may have to the others: is it representative of a realized alternative? does it merely offer a glimpse of the other side? is it symbolic of innocence before the inevitable Fall? It may be any of these things or all of these things - but in any case, the song is unequivocally not the "accident" that it is often taken to be. \n\n"My Father's House" is often associated with other Springsteen songs such as Darkness on the Edge of Town's "Adam Raised a Cain" (1978) and The River's "Independence Day" (1980). It is a meditation on the past and its relation to the present, on the ancient shame between fathers and sons, on paternal love and loss, and on the part of us that will always remain our parents' child, a little boy lost and alone in the dark ("Last night I dreamed that I was a child," sings the narrator in the opening line). The echoing overtones in the vocals match perfectly the dream-description and incantatory quality of the lines. The house of the title, like that of "Mansion on the Hill," is symbolic of security - but where the security represented by the latter is ambiguous, that of the former is belied completely. The last line's of Richard Wilbur's poem "The Pardon" - "I dreamt the past was never passed redeeming. / But whether this was false or honest dreaming / I beg death's pardon now. And mourn the dead" - echo in the final verses. \n\nThe album's final track, "Reason to Believe," is one of the most cynical on the album, from the ironic jauntiness of the music and the lilting vocals, to the almost smug - though ultimately more tenderly bemused - observations of the narrator: a man stands in wonder and confusion as he "[stands] o'er a dead dog" ... "like if her stood there long enough / That dog'd get up and run"; a woman "one day" abandoned by her lover "waits at the end of that dirt road / For young Johnny to come back"; an old man dies alone as a baby is baptized; a groom is left waiting at the altar and "stands alone ... wonderin' where can his baby be." Each vignette is simple and common-place - everyday occurrences with little or no significance for those not directly involved; yet each represents an existential(ist) confrontation with the finitude(s) of human existence; each scene is an Absurdist drama writ small. Whatever hope there may be in this life - whether real or delusion - is of the same variety as the hope found in "Atlantic City." What is important is not whether or not "belief" is warranted - only that it is there. \n\nNebraska is not, from certain perspectives, representative of Springsteen's body of work - it lacks the pseudo-operatic grandeur of Born to Run, the free-wheeling rock 'n' roll adrenaline rush of much of 1980's The River, or the bombast of 1984's Born in the U.S.A. - but from another perspective it is more representative than these others. Springsteen has always been a folk artist at heart (he was touted and hailed as Bob Dylan's heir upon the release of his 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. On Nebraska the lyrics - and Springsteen has been a consummate lyricist from the beginning - take center-stage, and it is not so easy to miss the narrative quality of most of his songs. Nebraska is one of the greatest albums ever recorded in any genre. It is haunting and heart-breaking - Springsteen's vocals here are among the most emotionally devastating and heart-felt of any heard. It is an amazingly complex album, thematically, despite or perhaps even because of its simple, plain-spoken poetry. The oppositions, conflicts, and paradoxes it brings to life are spiritual and philosophical as well as socio-political and economic (the latter are merely the incidental accompaniments of the former). It is easy to see from this one album why Walker Percy declared that Bruce Springsteen was his favorite American poet. While he has since forayed into similar territory (1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad), he has never done it so well as here - and arguably few people have accomplished what he did on this album. Nebraska is not only Springsteen;s masterpiece - it is a masterpiece of American music. \n\n\nAMAZON.COM CUSTOMER REVIEW\nPossibly the Greatest DIY Recording ever., July 11, 2000 \nBy Christopher G. Huttman "Master Splinter" (Atlanta, GA USA)\n\nThere is a saying that Orson Welles directed the greatest "A" movie of all time as well as the greatest "B" movie as well. These movies are Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, in that order.\nWhat does this have to do with Bruce? Well, if you consider an "A" album a big blow out rock album, than Bruce recorded the best one ever. (I personally am referring to Born to Run, but if you like Born in the USA, that qualifies also). And while Born to Run was a giant celebration of the possibilities of a rock band, "Nebraska" sees Bruce going into decidedly different domain.\n\nNebraska in this regard is considered a "B" album. Its decidedly low budget (the tape player it was recorded on costs about 200 dollars nowadays-you can try it too!). It was recorded in his own room. There are mistakes that polished albums don't have (lyrics that aren't polished-the same line appears more than once, etc.) yet the feel of an intense and passionate session will grip you.\n\nI personally feel this is Bruce's best work-Tunnel of Love somewhat combines this and Born to Run with excellent results as well, but if you turn the light down and the volume up and you have questions about love, life, society or anything else in your mind, you'll feel perfectly home in nebraska, no matter where you're from.\n\nIt's bleak-and that's a good thing. \n\n\nHalf.com Details \nProducer: Bruce Springsteen \n\nAlbum Notes\nSolo performer: Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar, harmonica).\n\nRecorded in Springsteen's New Jersey bedroom on a 4-track cassette recorder.\nPersonnel: Bruce Springsteen (vocals, guitar).\nRecording information: New Jersey (1982).\n\nAs a followup to THE RIVER, a double-album blast of old-time rock and roll, this amazing solo-acoustic folk album came out of nowhere in the fall of 1982. More precisely, it came out of Bruce Springsteen's back pocket. He recorded what would become NEBRASKA at home on a 4-track recorder, intending it as a demo tape for a full-band album. The band versions were recorded, but Springsteen sensed something missing; eventually, he became convinced that his demo tape, which he had carried around in a back pocket of his jeans for several days, had a spiritual wallop that he and the band couldn't recreate. He had the cassette cleaned up and turned into his sixth album.\n\nThere's little doubt that he made the right choice. The songs on NEBRASKA form a bleak cycle about men on the run, from the law, from their fathers or from themselves, usually for reasons even they don't understand. And Springsteen's dry, howling voice, which sometimes dips to a desperate whisper and sometimes rises to a haunted scream, seems to carry all their fears and all their hidden knowledge. The title song, about Charlie Starkweather, the serial killer chronicled in the movie BADLANDS, is one of two on the album about men who see the electric chair as their natural, God-given fate, if not their salvation. A couple of others could be the very drivers of the cars Paul Simon once counted on the New Jersey turnpike, except that where Simon saw America, all these characters see are dirty refinery towers.\n\nThis was songwriting that channeled both Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, and the stark sound of NEBRASKA was not merely a homage to them, but a perfect casing for these tales. Whether strumming through "Atlantic City," picking out arpeggios on "Nebraska" or banging out a shuffle on "Open All Night" (a rare upbeat moment), Springsteen's lone acoustic guitar was all the accompaniment they needed, echoing their loneliness and isolation.\n\nIndustry Reviews\nVoted #43 in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Albums Of The Eighties survey.\nRolling Stone Magazine (11/01/1989)\n\nRanked #29 among The 50 Greatest Albums Of The '80s.\nNew Musical Express (09/25/1993)\n\n\nROLLING STONE REVIEW\nAfter ten years of forging his own brand of fiery, expansive rock & roll, Bruce Springsteen has decided that some stories are best told by one man, one guitar. Flying in the face of a sagging record industry with an intensely personal project that could easily alienate radio, rock's gutsiest mainstream performer has dramatically reclaimed his right to make the records he wants to make, and damn the consequences. This is the bravest of Springsteen's six records; it's also his most startling, direct and chilling. And if it's a risky move commercially, Nebraska is also a tactical masterstroke, an inspired way out of the high-stakes rock & roll game that requires each new record to be bigger and grander than the last.\n\nUntil now, it looked as if 1973's dizzying The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle would be the last Springsteen album to surprise people. Ensuing records simply refined, expanded and deepened his artistry. But Nebraska comes as a shock, a violent, acid-etched portrait of a wounded America that fuels its machinery by consuming its people's dreams. It is a portrait painted with old tools: a few acoustic guitars, a four-track cassette deck, a vocabulary derived from the plain-spoken folk music of Woody Guthrie and the dark hillbilly laments of Hank Williams. The style is steadfastly, defiantly out-of-date, the singing flat and honest, the music stark, deliberate and unadorned.\n\nNebraska is an acoustic triumph, a basic folk album on which Springsteen has stripped his art down to the core. It's as harrowing as Darkness on the Edge of Town, but more measured. Every small touch speaks volumes: the delicacy of the acoustic guitars, the blurred sting of the electric guitars, the spare, grim images. He's now telling simple stories in the language of a deferential common man, peppering his sentences with "sir's." "My name is Joe Roberts," he sings. "I work for the state."\n\nAs The River closed, Springsteen found himself haunted by a highway death. On Nebraska, violent death is his starting point. The title track is an audacious, scary beginning. Singing in a voice borrowed from Guthrie and early Bob Dylan, he takes the part of mass murderer Charlie Starkweather to quietly sing, "I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done/At least for a little while, sir, me and her we had us some fun." The music is gentle and soothing, but this is no romanticized outlaw tale

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  1. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (04:32)
  2. Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City (04:00)
  3. Bruce Springsteen - Mansion On The Hill (04:08)
  4. Bruce Springsteen - Johnny 99 (03:43)
  5. Bruce Springsteen - Highway Patrolman (05:40)
  6. Bruce Springsteen - State Trooper (03:17)
  7. Bruce Springsteen - Used Cars (03:10)
  8. Bruce Springsteen - Open All Night (02:58)
  9. Bruce Springsteen - My Father's House (05:07)
  10. Bruce Springsteen - Reason To Believe (04:07)


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