Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Bruce Spingsteen’s 1978 follow-up to his breakthrough album, Born to Run. And though I wouldn’t say it’s quite as good as that masterpiece, it’s still one of The Boss’s very best albums.
Darkness on the Edge of Town came after a lengthy legal battle with his former manager, and subsequently kept Springsteen and the E Street Band out of the studio for over two years. This probably had something to do with the less-hopeful, beaten-down content of the songs on Darkness on the Edge of Town as compared to his first three albums. Themes of dissapointment and regret are explored on songs like “Racing in the Street” and “Factory”. However, songs like the “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”, still have that Born to Run feel of being about reaching for something greater.
Still, even with the Boss’s somewhat darker approach to songwriting, the E Street Band’s playing is just as powerful as ever. There’s definitely a bit more of an emphasis on Bruce’s and Steven Van Zandt’s guitars on this album, whereas Born to Run seemed to rely more on Roy Bittan’s piano work. And topping all this off with Max Weinberg’s commanding drum work, and Clarence Clemens always memorable saxaphone solos, the E Street Band was a very tight sounding unit at this point. This probably had to do with the fact that they had been touring relentlessly for the past two years up until recording this album, and they had already been playing the songs from Darkness of the Edge of Town live for some time.
So all in all, Darkness on the Edge of Town is a more than worthy follow up to Born to Run. It’s pretty amazing that The Boss was on such a roll back then, having this album come out after Born to Run and the suberb The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, with the haunting Nebraska and hugely successful Born in the U.S.A. still to come.
Favorite Tracks: “Badlands”, “Candy’s Room”, “Prove It All Night”