Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen was born on September 23, 1949 in Long Branch, New Jersey. He released his debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J., in 1973. It was his seventh studio album BORN IN THE U.S.A. (1984) that really resonated with me as a kid with its awesome title track, and other songs including ‘Glory Days, and ‘I’m on Fire’. Fast forward to 1992 and he released two studio albums via Columbia Records on my birthday, March 31st. They were his ninth and tenth and entitled HUMAN TOUCH and LUCKY TOWN. Here I’m reviewing the second one. It peaked at #2 on the UK Albums Chart and at #3 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The album was produced by Bruce, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, and includes additional production by Roy Bittan.
‘Better Days’ is a mid-tempo rock song on which Randy Jackson (who would go on to be a judge on ‘American Idol’) plays bass. The song tells this story: “Well, I took a piss at fortune’s sweet kiss/It’s like eatin’ caviar and dirt/It’s a sad, funny ending to find yourself pretending/A rich man in a poor man’s shirt/Now my ass was draggin’ when from a passin’ gypsy wagon/Your heart like a diamond shone/Tonight I’m layin’ in your arms carvin’ lucky charms/Out of these hard luck bones/These are better days baby/These are better days it’s true/These are better days/There’s better days shining through”. The title track, ‘Lucky Town’, is a melodic one of determination: “Well, here’s to your good looks baby/Now here’s to my health/Here’s to the loaded places that we take ourselves/When it comes to luck you make your own/Tonight I got dirt on my hands but I’m building me a new home/Baby, down in lucky town/Down in lucky town/I’m gonna lose these blues I’ve found/Down in Lucky Town”.
Lisa Lowell, Patti Scialfa, and Soozie Tyrell sing backing vocals on ‘Local Hero’ which includes these interesting words: “Well, I learned my job/I learned it well/Fit myself with religion and a story to tell/First they made me the king/Then they made me Pope/Then they brought the rope/I woke to a gypsy girl sayin’ ‘Drink this’/Well, my hands had lost all sensation”. ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ is a short, beautiful ballad about commitment: “Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead/There ‘neath the oak’s bough soon we will be wed/Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees/I’ll wait for you/And should I fall behind wait for me”.
Roy Bittan plays keyboards on ‘Leap of Faith’, a gospel music influenced light rock song. These words from it might make some blush: “Now your legs were heaven, your breasts were the altar/Your body was the holy land/You shouted ‘Jump’ but my heart faltered/You laughed and said ‘Baby, don’t you understand?’/It takes a leap of faith to get things going/It takes a leap of faith, you gotta show some guts/It takes a leap of faith to get things going/In your heart you must trust”. ‘The Big Muddy’ serves as a warning: “Billy had a mistress down on A and 12th/She was that little somethin’ that he did for himself/His own little secret didn’t hurt nobody/Come the afternoon he’d take her wadin’/Waist deep in the big muddy (2X)/You start out standing but end up crawlin’”.
Next up is ‘Living Proof’ which opens with these wonderful words about a baby being born: “Well now, on a summer night in a dusky room/Come a little piece of the Lord’s undying light/Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon/In his mother’s arms it was all the beauty I could take/Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make/In a world so hard and dirty, so fouled and confused/Searching for a little bit of God’s mercy/I found living proof”. ‘Book of Dreams’ is an easy listening number that includes these intimate lyrics: “In the darkness my fingers slip across your skin/I feel your sweet reply/The room fades away and suddenly I’m way up high/Just holdin’ you to me/As through the window the moonlight streams/Oh, won’t you baby be in my book of dreams?”.
‘Souls of the Departed’ is an adult rock song full of meaning: “On the road to Basra stood young Lieutenant Jimmy Bly/Detailed to go through the clothes of the soldiers who died/At night in dreams he sees their souls rise/Like dark geese into the Oklahoma skies/Well, this is a prayer for the souls of the departed/Those who’ve gone and left their babies broken hearted/This is a prayer for the souls of the departed”. Closing things out is ‘My Beautiful Reward’, which speaks of life’s ups and downs: “Well, your hair shone in the sun/I was so high/I was the lucky one/Then I came crashing down like a drunk on a barroom floor/Searching for my beautiful reward”. Ian McLagen plays the Hammond organ.
LUCKY TOWN is a roots rock album. You won’t really find stadium rock anthems here such as the song ‘Born in the U.S.A.’. When the songs do rock here, it is in a more laid back fashion. Four of the ten tracks are what you would call mellow. Bruce’s vocals are gravelly sounding which is a good thing here. There are happy love songs, songs about having a good time or longing for better times, and selections about blue collar life in small towns. While not Bruce’s most dazzling album, LUCKY TOWN is a solid rock effort and it is worthy of several listens. I’m rating it 95%. For more info visit: www.brucespringsteen.net.