Anyone hoping to hear how Bruce Springsteen has aged on his newly released best of album “Chapter and Verse” will be somewhat disappointed.
However, a significant number of the songs on the album are still “new.” Of the 18 songs on the album, the first five have never been publicly released. This makes for a unique blend of his most popular hits and some fresh songs that show a seldom-seen side of Springsteen.
The leadoff song, “Baby I,” is undoubtedly the weakest, but all other songs pull their own weight. New songs such as “Henry Boy,” “Ballad of Jesse James” and “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song)” are particularly effective at bringing out the blue collar voice and attitude that personifies Springsteen while showing his versatility.
“Henry Boy” utilizes a fast-paced acoustic guitar as the sole instrumental. Combining the guitar with Springsteen’s raspy, gasping style creates a feeling that is softer than he is known for, but still unmistakably Springsteen.
“Ballad of Jesse James” and “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song)” take the opposite route and utilize all manner of guitars, piano and backing vocals. The result is a sound that is not as overpowering or raspy as Springsteen’s trademark sound, but is still quite enjoyable.
However, “Baby I” sounds as if it was recorded in a garage and the backing vocals and instrumentals are either too loud or Springsteen is too quiet. With poor vocals, the song ends up sounding closer to something from the British Invasion, an ironic circumstance for Jersey’s golden-boy.
The same could be said of the album’s second song, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover,” but in this case Springsteen uses his less-than-perfect vocals to create a sound that is almost unheard of from him. More of an emphasis is put on the levels of the instrumentals than seen in “Baby I.”
Though “My Father’s House” was released in 1972, it is a less popular tune of Springsteen’s and it shows new and familiar aspects of his talents. “My Father’s House” is an acoustic piece, but it comes off as more of a slow, somber ode to family. It makes use of more instruments than “Henry Boy,” but the harmonica solo is the most noticeable presence, accented by an ever-present guitar picking in the background.
Of course, the well-known songs should not be glazed over either. “Chapters and Verse” also includes favorites like “Born in the U.S.A.,” “The River” and “Born to Run.”
These are the songs for which Springsteen is not only known, but loved and revered. It is here that he showcases his trademark style, complete with verse belted at max volume and the all-too relatable life of America’s everyman.
In the end, “Chapter and Verse” should be taken with a grain of salt and enjoyed for the autobiography-accompanying album that it is.