Record Of The Week – # 140

Bruce Springsteen – Only The Strong Survive

The Boss’ catalogue stands up there with the best of popular music. However, I lost interest in him in the 80s and Bruce, in fairness, has ploughed on ever since with fairly crafted affairs that always have something to say. I’m unenthusiastic about older artists’ recorded output after their peak. I mean who wants the latest Neil Young, Elton John or Paul McCartney offering?

However my interest was piqued when, on social media, I saw a clip of Springsteen bashing out that hallowed Northern Soul classic Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). It’s a remarkable soul number that gets you from the first few bars. Ironically the composer and performer, Frank Wilson, decided with Tamla Motown, not to release the record in 1965 and destroyed all but 5 copies of the 250 initially pressed. As the record seeped out and became a Northern Soul staple it was re-released in 1979 and everyone could get a copy. Of the 5 original remaining 1965 copies one fetched near £26,000 in 2009.  That’s ridiculous for a 7 inch single but also testament to the magnificence of the record.

Springsteen has done the song justice and with his lion’s roar of a voice. Throughout the reproduction is faithful to the originals. The producer, Ron Aniello, has played most of the instruments – bass, drums, guitars, percussion, keyboards, vibraphone etc. and the only other players are the backing vocalists and the E Street Band horns. With such a construction it’s clear Aniello has listened closely to these 60 and 70s originals and, in effect, paid homage.

The curation speaks of Springsteen’s youth and what he heard of the radio. In fact I feel the same with versions of What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted (jimmy Ruffin), When She Was My Girl (The Four Tops), I Forgot To Be Your Lover (William Bell) and Someday We’ll Be Together (Diana Ross and the Supremes). All these played on my Triumph Herald car radio, crackling on AM. However it’s the former member of the Impressions, Jerry Butler, who provided the title track and also Hey, Western Union Man that are newer delights to my ears.

Springsteen has a majestic voice that’s maybe short on subtlety or sweetness but here he lives every song and has the range to sit above the arrangements and literally take your hand and lead you onto the dance floor. I’m not sure I’ll be listening out for the next Springsteen release but this, however, is a 5 star gem.

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