Bruce Springsteen played the Easter Bunny this weekend for thousands of his most dedicated fans. Springsteen released 7,500 copies of American Beauty, a four song EP on Record Store Day that will hit the mark with E Street Nation, the nickname he tagged his fandom with.
The EP was released only in vinyl and was on sale for one day only as Springsteen joined Jack White, REM and Devo among others in supporting record stores.
Springsteen’s four tunes were all recorded in the last decade yet never found a place on one of his albums and typical of Springsteen these are not “throw away” songs. They each have a distinct sound to them that at times resemble the different albums they fell short of making.
The title track kicks off side one and features what Springsteen describes as a “guitar wall of sound” gives it a little “exile on E Street’ power,” in one of two rockers on the EP. Side two leads off with ” Hurry Up Sundown,” rich with blue-collar themes that have marked Springsteen’s music since the began recording back in 1973.
“Mary Mary” is a must listen, a song Springsteen refers to as “a lovely mystery, a small piece of heartbreak poetry” that sounds like it is an outcast from the “Devils and Dust” album released in 2005, but Springsteen claims it nearly made the “High Hopes” record.
The highlight of this EP though is “Hey Blue Eyes” with a title that has the listener thinking love song but this tune is anything but. The Boss has penned a political piece aimed directly at the Bush and Cheney era of the White House. “In this house the guilty go unpunished and blood and silence prevail” sings Springsteen referencing Abu Ghraib and the actions there. This dark piece leaves no doubt about the author’s opinion on the matter. It is also the most stripped down song on the record while featuring most of the E Street Band members on it.
E Street fans will take whatever they can get from Springsteen and this small piece of music delivers while acknowledging independent record stores across the country. “It’s got some nice things on it. This is material from the past decade,” Springsteen said. “It’s a nice time to support the record stores, which are dwindling, and get some new music out at the same time.”
These are good times for Springsteen, just coming off introducing the E Street Band at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Brooklyn. His lastest album “High Hopes” met with critical and popular acclaim as the 64-year old rocker continues a world-wide tour that kicked off in Australia at the beginning of 2014 that features another stop at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and is rumored to be adding more tour dates this summer.
A Springsteen show still runs over three hours and he is still playing packed houses full of adoring fans. On top of this The Boss is still as vibrant and necessary an artist as there is on the music scene today as he continues to churn out good music on a consistent basis. With American Beauty, Springsteen adds to his vast catalog hitting the mark again with fans and critic.
Commentary by Mick Varner