Last week I wrote about my five favorite albums from the year 1984, as part of my recurring Decades series. This week I’ll shift to five albums from that year that I know primarily through their singles. I can’t say I’m familiar enough with any of these albums to include them in my personal list of faves, but I know enough to separate them from the true unknowns to come.
It probably seems crazy that I’m including Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. among this group. After all, it’s by far his most popular album, 15X Platinum in the U.S. with sales north of 30 million worldwide.
I wasn’t really aware of Bruce Springsteen as a career artist when I was 15 years old, the year 1987’s Tunnel of Love came out.
Of course, I was aware of the runaway smash Born in the U.S.A. (1984) from its radio and MTV airplay, but I had no concept of his prior work or his importance to the rock music landscape. And this album missed my radar entirely until years later.
‘The Angel’ is a quiet piano ballad that kicks off side two of Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, 1973’s Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Half of the album’s tracks featured a full band while half were performed solo, this one being an obvious example of the latter.
Springsteen was very proud of the song and (for some reason) vowed never to play it live, though he caved and played it in a London show in the mid-90s, then again as part of a live performance of the full Greetings album in 2009.
Despite starting his recording career four years earlier than Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen has released 11 fewer studio albums. The Boss dropped Letter To You, his 20th, late last month.
The album finds the 71-year-old legend in a contemplative mood, mourning the deaths of past band members and looking back nostalgically at the way music shaped his life.
‘Leah’ os a lovely grace note in the middle of Bruce Springsteen’s 2005 album Devils & Dust, an otherwise somber collection. This song isn’t exactly ‘Walking on Sunshine,’ but compared to some of the downers on this record, it may as well be.
Springsteen has released a lot of good albums in the 15 years since Devils & Dust, but I’d call this record his last great one. It has an intimacy and power you don’t encounter very often.