Bruce Springsteen 1992 albums

Human Touch & Lucky Town
by Bruce Springsteen

Buy Human Touch
Buy Lucky Town

Bruce Springsteen 1992 albumsThe 1980s were incredibly successful for Bruce Springsteen, both commercially and critically. However, with the break-up of the E Street band in late 1989 and Springsteen’s relocation from New Jersey to Los Angeles, the next decade proved to be a more uneven decade for the boss musically. Human Touch and Lucky Town, the first two albums he released during the 1990s were released simultaneously on March 31, 1992. It had been nearly half a decade since Springsteen’s last studio album release in 1987. While these two works will be forever linked, they each had a distinct origin, approach, style and running length.  These differences were ultimately reflected in their differing sales and critical responses.

After the pop/rock 1984 blockbuster Born In the USA, Springsteen released the more contemplative Tunnel of Love in 1987. The following year saw Springsteen headlining a concert in East Germany with 300,000 attendees as well as the worldwide Human Rights Now! tour for Amnesty International. Not long after the break up of the E Street Band, keyboardist Roy Bittan presented Springsteen with three instrumentals to which he later added lyrics. With this, Bittan was the sole E Street Band member involved in the production of either of the 1992 albums.

Human Touch was recorded through 1990 with Bittan, bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Jeff Porcaro joining Springsteen. Porcaro, a legendary session drummer and member of the group Toto, was asked by Springsteen to join him for the subsequent tours, but he declined due to scheduling conflicts (Porcaro would tragically die in 1992 of a heart attack). Human Touch was originally set for a early-to-mid 1991 release but Springsteen was not quite satisfied with the material at the time. He returned to the studio in September 1991 to record an extra “song or two” for the album. However, these sessions yielded ten new tracks, recorded in a more stripped-down fashion with Springsteen playing most of the instruments. Ultimately, he made the decision to package this newer material as a totally separate album, Lucky Town.

 

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Human Touch and Lucky Town by Bruce Springsteen
Released: March 31, 1992 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Roy Bittan & Bruce Springsteen
Recorded: A&M Studios, Los Angeles and Thrill Hill, Colts Neck, NJ, September 1989 – January 1992
Human Touch Lucky Town
Human Touch
Soul Driver
57 Channels (and Nothin’ On)
Cross My Heart
Gloria’s Eyes
With Every Wish
Roll of the Dice
Real World
All or Nothin’ at All
Man’s Job
I Wish I Were Blind
The Long Goodbye
Real Man
Pony Boy
Better Days
Lucky Town
Local Hero
If I Should Fall Behind
Leap of Faith
The Big Muddy
Living Proof
Book of Dreams
Souls of the Departed
My Beautiful Reward
Primary Musicians
Bruce Springsteen – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica, Bass (Lucky Town)
Roy Bittan – Keyboards
Randy Jackson – Bass (Human Touch)
Jeff Porcaro – Drums (Human Touch)
Gary Mallaber – Drums (Lucky Town)

 

Human Touch begins with it’s title track, an extended, six and a half minute journey into pleasant enough adult contemporary pop. Lyrically, the track explores a reflection on a failed romance, making it compatible with the previous Tunnel of Love album, and the song reached the Top 20 in the US and fared even better in Europe. “Soul Driver” features synth and guitar trade offs along with excellent vocals, both lead and backing, throughout. “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” is an interesting track, driven by Springsteen’s bass line and chanting vocals, which really hone in on the hook. This amped-up, rockabilly screed on the (then) state of mass media is dripping with irony.

Next, the sparse, slow rocker “Cross My Heart” uses lyrics from a 1958 tune by Sonny Boy Williamson, followed by the upbeat rocker “Gloria’s Eyes”, with Springsteen’s blues-based lead guitar intermittent between the vocals. “With Every Wish” sees a switch to in Americana mode with slight flourishes of fretless bass by guest Douglas Lunn and trumpet by Mark Isham. The next pair were co-written by Bittan, with “Roll of the Dice” featuring a classic E Street vibe and “Real World” showcasing a great array of sonic effects, more great harmonies, and Springsteen’s finest guitar lead on the album.

"Human Touch" by Bruce Springsteen“All or Nothin’ at All” is rockabilly, retro fitted to a modern-day hook and offers nothing really groundbreaking. This may also apply to the tracks “Man’s Job” and “The Long Goodbye”. As Human Touch nears its conclusion, “I Wish I Were Blind” is the best track late on the record as a ballad with great melody and mood and a thumping bass by Jackson which finely contrasts the overall melancholy feel. “Real Man” features a soulful sound due to creative synths, leading to the closer “Pony Boy”, a traditional track scaled down as a simple folk duet between wife Patti Scialfa and Springsteen.

Moving on to Lucky Town, it commences with a perfect opener, “Better Days”, with lead vocals intensity amped up to ’11’ over a moderate rock beat with excellent backing vocals. The title track, “Lucky Town” is alt country with a dark folk feel initially and, in contrast to the opener, is mostly a solo recording by Springsteen, being joined only by drummer Gary Mallaber. This is an arrangement that will be predominant through much of the remainder of the album.

Lucky Town by Bruce Springsteen“Local Hero” starts with slight harmonica lead before settling into another upbeat storytelling tune, while “If I Should Fall Behind” is the best overall track thus far, as a folksy acoustic love song with just the right amount of accompaniment throughout. After the thumping “Leap of Faith”, we reach the heart of the Lucky Town record with “The Big Muddy” and it’s interesting, Delta-blues sound above an electric arpeggio, along with distinct acoustic slides and echo-laden vocals which guide the song along. “Living Proof” starts with a disco-like kick drum but the vibe is soon altered by jangly guitar in this moving song Springsteen wrote about becoming a father after he and Patti welcomed their first child in 1990.

“Book of Dreams” is a ballad with introspective lyrics, delivered with soft vocals and an even softer musical arrangement with synths and bass. “Souls of the Departed” has a sharp, jagged electric guitar sound with a slight harmonica which becomes more prominent as the tune advances, with lyrics offering commentary on the first Gulf War. Wrapping things up, “My Beautiful Reward” is an acoustic ballad with a good, folksy vibe.

Bruce Springsteen 1992

Both Human Touch and Lucky Town fared well commercially, each reaching the Top 5 on the album charts and each respectively reaching platinum in sales. However, Springsteen’s first albums without the E Street Band have come to be known as the “bastard children” of his pristine discography and, since reuniting with his old band at the end of the century, he has rarely revisited any of this material during live shows.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1992 albums.

About Face by David Gilmour

About Face by David Gilmour

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About Face by David GilmourThere are some musical creations that are astoundingly forgotten. David Gilmour’s 1984 solo album, About Face, is one of these. This is sad considering it just might be one of the better albums produced in the 1980s. Of course, it is impossible to discuss this album without touching on the era in which it was put together, as About Face was forged in the fire of Pink Floyd’s darkest hour. The band’s internal tensions had reached all-time highs and Gilmour was feuding internally with Roger Waters, after the latter accused the former of not contributing enough to the band. This was sadly ironic for Gilmour because he had complied (and even agreed) with Waters when he decided to kick Richard Wright out of Pink Floyd prior to the release of The Wall in 1979, for basically the same reason. So, in a true bout of rock and roll rebellion, Gilmour went off and created a solo album which served to prove Waters wrong by establishing that he could create music on his own and channel his anger about the situation at the same time. The result is nothing short of superb.

Co-produced by Bob Ezrin, this is the second solo record by Gilmour following his self-titled 1978 debut. The album is filled with great and diverse music and, in contrast to the recent Waters-dominated Pink Floyd era, it is not concerned with creating giant lyrical operas, just a solid collection of songs. Change is consistent throughout as each song goes in unique directions that are unexpected and pleasing to the ear. Gilmour explores sounds that he probably could not explore within the confines of Pink Floyd. The lyrics are soaked with subtle references to the Waters’ feud and many of the songs reflect the conflict.

Gilmour was backed by a solid core of musicians and also invited some famous contemporaries to work on the album with him, adding depth to his artistic work. A bit uneven sequentially, the earlier songs on the album are slightly superior to the closing tracks, but none of the tracks are by any means boring or without merit. With that in mind, let’s dive into the individual songs.


About Face by David Gilmour
Released: March 5, 1984 (Harvest)
Produced by: Bob Ezrin & David Gilmour
Recorded: Pathé Marconi Studio, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, 1983
Side One Side Two
Until We Sleep
Murder
Love On the Air
Blue Light
Out of the Blue
All Lovers Are Deranged
You Know I’m Right
Cruise
Let’s Get Metaphysical
Near the End
Primary Musicians
David Gilmour – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass  |  Ian Kewley – Piano, Organ
Pino Palladino – Bass  |  Jeff Porcaro – Drums, Percussion

The album opens with “Until We Sleep”, a great jam with some really fantastic guitar. The lyrics are a straightforward call to action, essentially saying to live your life to the fullest before you sleep, which is taken as meaning both literal sleep and metaphorical death. “Murder” may be the best overall song on the album. It starts off as a very somber folk song with some excellent fret-less bass by Pino Palladino. Then it crashes into a crescendo as other instruments join the fray. About three quarters of the way through the song it takes an abrupt change as the guitar becomes more pronounced and reverberates through the song. The lyrics describe Gilmour’s anger over the murder of John Lennon.

Both Pete Townsend (lyrics) and Steve Winwood (organ) worked on the third song, “Love On the Air”. Its opening is reminiscent of Townsend’s own solo work, while most of the song sounds a bit more like a Townsend song viewed through a Gilmour prism as a great combination of the two artists’ work. After this comes “Blue Light” with a super jazzy intro. The use of horns in the song adds an unexpected and welcome element to the song that elevates it. This song is a great example of why someone like Gilmour does a solo album since I can’t imagine this song being done by Pink Floyd. Winwood also gets a great moment to shine while playing a smooth organ solo during this song.

 
Following “Blue Light” is another song with blue in the title, “Out of the Blue”, a slow, reflective piano-driven melody, led by keyboardist Ian Kewley. In the middle section of the song it picks up a bit but still relies on Gilmour’s vocals and the piano. “All Lovers Are Deranged” is the second Townsend-written song on the album. It is a wild counterpoint to “Love On the Air”, in title as well as music, as this song itself sounds a lot more like Gilmour’s own as he jams on the guitar throughout. “You Know I’m Right” is slower than other works on the album but has a lot of interesting layers to it, despite sounding a tad dated. Lyrically, Gilmour takes a direct shot at Waters, discussing one person who is unable to see another point of view in an argument;

Why should you bother with the other side / when you know that yours is right…”

“Cruise” is one of the most interesting songs on the album, as a tongue-in-cheek love song dedicated to a ballistic missile. With some Paul McCartney influence musically blended with 1980s elements like Palladino’s fret-less bass and a great Hammond organ by Kewley, the song unexpectedly adds some reggae elements near at the end, led by the drumming of Jeff Porcaro. Next comes a fantastic instrumental, “Let’s Get Metaphysical”. It starts with only an electric guitar and a piano, evoking a wonderful sense of the classical and modern coming together. Later, the song feels very orchestral in a great kind of way as it builds layers, almost as if Gilmour is telling the listener a story with instruments alone as he leads the listener through the different movements of the song. The album closes out with “Near the End”. There is an interesting use of bells in the song which add to its lullaby feeling. Again, the lyrics seem to directly address Roger Waters with lines like, “And there’s a stranger where once was a friend”. The song not only serves to end the album but in its own way it speaks to the end of the previous era of Pink Floyd.

In the thirty years since About Face was released it seems to have relatively vanished from many music lover’s horizons. This is a tragedy as the album not only encapsulates some of Gilmour’s finest work but also a dramatic period for him and Pink Floyd. His solo work is great and Roger Waters’ solo work has its merits as well. Although I must admit my personal opinion is that Gilmour’s focus on music makes his work superior to Waters, as Waters seems to focus a bit too much on his grand concepts that all seem to revolve around himself. That said the tragedy of this album and the situation as a whole for Pink Floyd is that none of them seem to recognize that their best work was done in a period when they all shared an equal amount of the creative process. Gilmour’s focus on music combined with Waters’ grand concepts created multiple masterpieces. That said, this album seemed to prove exactly what Gilmour wanted it to prove.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1984 albums.

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Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan

Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan

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Pretzel Logic by Steely DanAt first glance, Steely Dan‘s third album, Pretzel Logic, may seem almost too short and efficient. Many of the songs do not even reach three minutes in length and the album as a whole barely surpasses the threshold beyond EP territory. However, after a few listens you realize that this may be the true genius of the album after all. Composers Donald Fagen and Walter Becker started their studio practice of employing scores of session musicians to record just the right part, phrase or note so that not a moment is wasted on filler. By expertly mixing pop, rock, and jazz intricacies into direct and succinct album tracks, the duo found a sonic sweet spot for the mid seventies. This allowed them to proliferate on pop radio while hardly ever seeing the light of public performances.

Following the success of Steely Dan’s debut Can’t Buy a Thrill, the group felt that the 1973 follow-up Countdown to Ecstasy was rushed and incomplete due to their hectic touring schedule not allowing time to develop the material properly. As a consequence, that second album did not receive good critical or commercial marks. Further, after the departure of front man David Palmer, Fagen was the sole lead singer, a role he did not like performing live.

When the band entered The Village Recorder studio with producer Gary Katz in late 1973, they decided to write material without regard to live performances. Fagen and Becker also decided to use many Los Angeles-based studio musicians, something that eventually led to the departure of all remaining “band” members and solidifying Steely Dan as a duo for the rest of their career. Also, following the release of Pretzel Logic in 1974 when the group ceased performing live and focused on studio recording exclusively.


Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan
Released: February 20, 1974 (ABC)
Produced by: Gary Katz
Recorded: The Village Recorder, Santa Monica, CA, October 1973-January 1974
Side One Side Two
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
Night by Night
Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Barrytown
East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
Parker’s Band
Through with Buzz
Pretzel Logic
With a Gun
Charlie Freak
Monkey In Your Soul
Primary Musicians
Donald Fagen – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Saxophone
Walter Becker – Bass, Guitars, Vocals
Jeff Baxter – Guitars
Denny Dias – Guitars
Jim Gordon – Drums

The album begins with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, which would become the biggest hit of Steely Dan’s career, topping out at number four on the pop charts. Musically, this is about as smooth as any song by the band, led by the simple piano line of Michael Omartian and great samba-inspired drums and percussion by Jim Gordon. During the lead and bridge section, the song morphs from jazz to rock seamlessly and the rather obscure lyrics tend to add to the overall mystique of this unique song (although artist Rikki Ducornet believes it was inspired by Fagen approaching her at a college party years earlier).

The choppy rock rhythm and spectrum of brass intervals of “Night by Night” is followed by the cools and somber “Any Major Dude Will Tell You”. Starting with a brightly strummed acoustic that soon settles into an electric piano groove with electric guitar overtones, this latter song offers great little guitar riffs between the verses composed of uplifting lyrics of encouragement;

“Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door, in the morning it won’t be there no more
Any major dude will tell you…”

The oldest composition on the album, Fagen’s “Barrytown” is lyric driven with a moderate piano backing, not all that complex but with good melody and arrangement. Named for a small upstate New York town near the duo’s alma mater, the song is a satirical look at the small town class system. The first side concludes with the only cover and instrumental on Pretzel Logic, Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”. This modern interpretation, features the indelible pedal guitar lead by Jeff Baxter, who emulated a mute-trombone solo masterfully. The rest of the piece pleasantly moves through many differing lead sections before returning to Baxter’s guitar to finish things up.

“Parker’s Band” contains much movement as a funky track with rock overtones. Perhaps the highlight of this track is the dual drums by Gordon and Jeff Porcaro, which are potent and flawless. “Through With Buzz” is a short, almost psychedelic piece driven by mesmerizing piano and a strong string presence. This is another example of how the Katz and the group gets everything out the door with extreme efficiency in this lyrical proclamation of a resolution. The title track, “Pretzel Logic”, contains a slow electric piano groove and verse vocals which are the most blues based of any on the album of the same name. This song contains lyrics that are cryptic, driving rhythms and grooves, a pretty respectable guitar lead by Becker, and is also the only song on the second side which exceeds three minutes in length.

Steely Dan 1974

The album’s final stretch features three very short tracks of differing styles. “With a Gun” is like an upbeat Western with strummed fast acoustic, Tex-Mex styled electric riffs, and a strong, Country-influenced drum beat. “Charlie Freak” features a descending piano run, which the vocals mimic with simple, storied lyrics of a downtrodden man who pawns his ring to the protagonist at a discounted price to buy the drug fix that ultimately does him in. The closer “Monkey in Your Soul” features the coolest of grooves, with an electric piano and clavichord accented by horns between the verses and a Motown-like clap to end the album on an upbeat note.

Pretzel Logic reached the Top Ten on the album charts and remains one of the group’s most critically acclaimed releases. Two of many session players used on this album (Jeff Porcaro and David Paich) went on to form the group Toto and Becker and Fagen continued the formula of using the best possible musicians on several more fine albums through the 1970s.

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1974 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1974 albums.

The Pretender by Jackson Browne

The Pretender by Jackson Browne

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The Pretender by Jackson BrowneWritten the the wake of a personal tragedy, The Pretender, by Jackson Browne brings the listener on a subtle journey. It begins by exploring the heavy burdens and trials of life from which you must fight your way through to the elusive goal and the ultimate reward – happiness. The whole thing is obviously written by someone in the midst of great despair, but the overall theme is that things will somehow work out despite all the darkness and pain. A thought that somewhere along the line you’ll be rewarded for simply doing the right thing as long as you keep plugging along is a general theme of the album.

The Pretender was written and released months after the suicide of Browne’s first wife, Phyllis Major. Browne was left with their two-year-old son. Finding one’s way through darkness and heartbreak in life is the universal theme that gives this collection its staying power. While Browne had intentionally explored many dark issues on his first three albums in the early seventies, on this fourth album he seems to be desperately crawling in opposite directions by trying to make sense of it all and understand the larger picture.

Browne continues to use his signature style of Southern California piano-folk, there are many subtle intrusions that seep into these (largely) unassuming ballads. He plays on sonic dynamics from very simple melodies to much richer musical arrangements backing up a very specific type of poetic philosophy.

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The Pretender by Jackson Browne
Released: November, 1976 (Asylum)
Produced by: John Landau & Jackson Browne
Recorded: The Sound Factory, Hollywood, CA, 1976
Side One Side Two
The Fuse
Your Bright Baby Blues
Linda Paloma
Here Come Those Tears Again
The Only Child
Daddy’s Tune
Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate
The Pretender
Primary Musicians
Jackson Browne – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitars
Fred Tackett – Acoustic & Electric Guitars
Billy Payne – Piano, Organ
Leland Sklar – Bass
Jeff Porcaro – Drums

The album commences with “The Fuse”, a strong yet confusing song which may be interpreted in different ways by different people. It may mean the fuse that leads to the ultimate destruction or it may simply mean light the fuse to happiness and you are what you choose to be. The music consists of choppy little piano note riffs with nice lead guitar overtones by David Lindley. “Your Bright Baby Blues” is a more measured, standard song with dynamic vocals by Browne and another nice guitar lead, this time by Lowell George, with lyrics that speak of a temporary fix but persistent issues;

“No matter how fast I run, I can’t run away from me…”

The Pretender contains a few tracks with cross-genre and diverse sounds. “Linda Paloma” has an interesting Mexican sound with a harp by Arthur Gerst and Roberto Guiterrez on guitaron. However, this song does tend to drone after a while. “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate” is a more succinct ballad with thick strings backing the core piano, bass, and acoustic guitar and speaks of a sudden awakening after years of sleepwalking through life, apparently a direct reference to his wife’s suicide.

“Here Come Those Tears Again” was co-written by Browne’s Mother-in-law Nancy Farnsworth. Although it is probably the closest to a “pop hit” on the album, it is very poetic in its approach with a strong musical arrangement and well blended guitar and piano. “The Only Child” apparently speaks of Browne’s son and is another “journey” kind of song with a fiddle by David Lindley throughout. “Daddy’s Tune” starts as a basic ballad with some very good piano that later breaks into a highly enjoyable, upbeat, horn section.

The closing title song is the best song on the album as well as the theme which ties it all together. It is a multi-part, lyric rich, mini suite, which is basically poetry set to music. It speaks of getting lost in the details while losing sight of the big picture, starting young and strong but ending up living the life of a “happy idiot” with “paint by number dreams”. Browne began recording “The Pretender” in the late winter of 1975, after first joining up with rock critic and producer Jon Landau. A few weeks into the song’s development, Browne’s wife committed suicide, changing the perspective completely.

Still, the song and album ends with a tinge of hope;

Are you there? Say a prayer for the pretender /
Who started out so young and strong only to surrender…”

The last lines of the song are a call to wake up and start realizing your dreams before it’s too late – time marches and what you choose to do with your time is up to you – don’t let it pass you by or you will be the Pretender.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1976 albums.