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Albums Of The Week: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band | Greenvale, NY 1975

A holiday favourite, an Animals cover, a stripped-down classic and a slate of of early hits highlight the latest historiic archival release from The Boss and his road warriors.

That version of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town you’ve been hearing every holiday season for decades now? It comes from this show. So I guess that makes it pretty historic. But this 18-song set from the Born To Run Tour has plenty more to offer besides that. There’s a starkly powerful piano-ballad version of For You, a darkly muscular cover of The Animals It’s My Life (supposedly an unrehearsed audible called by The Boss, if the essay/press release below is anything to go by), and the usual slate of early hits and highlights delivered by one of the world’s greatest live bands on a great night. Merry Christmas. (Springsteen’s Live Archive releases aren’t on streaming services, but you can sample some snippets HERE.)

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “At its core, the Bruce Springsgeen Live Archive series functions as an aural time machine, transporting us back to performances preserved in our memories or, better still, to shows only a few fortunate souls witnessed in person.

Based on that criteria, C.W. Post College, Dec. 12, 1975 announces itself as an exemplar of the series, placing us in the best seat in the house on Long Island to experience a stupefying performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the height of their circa 1975 powers. This is the Born to Run tour show you didn’t know you needed but unequivocally do. The 24-track, Plangent-Processed analog recording, newly mixed by Jon Altschiller, is 4K vivid, rich in both on-stage detail and event atmosphere.

We start in traditional 1975 tour fashion with the stark, piano-version of Thunder Road, a rollicking, pacey Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, and Spirit in the Night. Immediately, Stevie Van Zandt’s guitar work jumps to the fore, as he improvises atop familiar licks, adding appealing shading and variation throughout an evening where his playing is the first among equals.

Lost in the Flood benefits from the aforementioned looseness, as Bruce unwinds the tale a little differently, while the E Streeters enhance the drama. She’s the One opens on a long harmonica intro riding Stevie’s guitar-pedal prowess and Roy Bittan’s peerless piano. The band joins full force after the first verse and chorus, another moment of irresistible dynamics as the rhythm section makes their presence known through Garry Tallent’s deep bass and Max Weinberg’s big beat and splashing cymbal work. An outstanding version.

Following Born to Run comes the first-ever performance of The AnimalsIt’s My Life, a cover that would become a cornerstone of Springsteen shows for the next 14 months. As Brucebase writes, “In the 1987 BBC documentary Glory Days, Max Weinberg spoke about the premiere of It’s My Life when he was asked if Bruce had ever launched into a song without telling the band what he was going to play. Max said that the band had never rehearsed the song before playing it in concert, but fortunately they all knew it.”

It’s My Life would go on to become a setlist staple for the next year and into early 1977. Its sentiment and the story-intro that developed around it set the stage for Independence Day. In the 2000s, the band regularly assayed cover songs suggested by signs in the audience, but this isn’t a one-off — it’s the origin moment for one of the most significant cover versions Springsteen ever performed. Sure, any card-carrying member of the E Street Band knew The Animals’ original, but to drop It’s My Life in mid-set, seemingly unhearsed as Weinberg claimed, is audacious, joyful, and thrilling to hear.

Be that as it may, Bruce wastes little time segueing into a sprinting Saint in the City, and again the E Street Band flex their musical muscles all the way through to the breakneck conclusion. A passionate Backstreets ensues, and one can only marvel at the level of performance by each member of the band. The spotlight justly turns to them for a long Kitty’s Back showcase, which finds the E Streeters in fine form not only instrumentally but vocally, too.

Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) (including Roy leading a Hernando’s Hideaway vamp), and Sandy continue an exceptional evening, each rendered as good or better than its 1975 peak. Bruce’s famous cover of Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town follows. The performance was quickly mixed after the show and released to supportive radio stations on tape. In the early 1980s, it was officially released, first on Columbia’s In Harmony 2 children’s compilation and later as the b-side to My Hometown. The new version proves to be virtually identical to the original, save for a charming mix change that lets us more clearly hear the bandmembers’ distinct responses to Bruce’s intro, including Steve’s emphatic, “IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME!”

The encore extends with a cracking Detroit Medley that starts with a bang and rides some awesome chugga-chugga guitar riffing from Van Zandt. The stage then clears, and Bruce moves to the piano for a scintillating solo performance of For You, dedicated to his then-girlfriend Karen Darvin. The solo For You is a high point in the London 11/24/75 Archive release as well, but each reading is unique, and the C.W. Post version is distinctly captivating.

The band return, and as they get set, Roy does another “name that tune” vamp, this time on Don’t Be Cruel. Bruce tells the boisterous crowd, “You guys are nuts!” before counting in Sha La La. Once more, Van Zandt lays down a blazing guitar lead and Springsteen’s high-energy vocals reflect his mood, which carries through to the closing number, Quarter to Three. The audience response during the song is bananas.

Quarter to Three concludes — as it must — with Bruce declaring, “I’m just a prisoner… of rock and roll!” Of that there can be no doubt, vouched for by those fortunate enough to be at C.W. Post on that December night, or the rest of us reliving the experience through this sublime addition to the Archive series. — Erik Flannigan