"Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs" (Rowman & Littlefield), by Jim Beviglia
Music blogger Jim Beviglia is trying to do far more than start arguments with his latest book, "Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs." He ranks Springsteen's officially released studio recordings song by song from No. 100, "The E Street Shuffle," to the predictably No. 1, "Born to Run."
"Sometimes the obvious choice is obvious for a reason," Beviglia argues in support of his cliched top pick. Overall, six cuts from the eight-song "Born to Run" album made Beviglia's list, all ranked No. 19 or better.
Still, Beviglia's choices are hardly predictable.
Fan faves like "She's the One," ''Ramrod" and "Something in the Night" are missing, while "Cautious Man," ''Zero and Blind Terry" — and even "Outlaw Pete" — made the list.
"He's become so revered for his live music, and rightfully so," Beviglia told The Associated Press. "But I don't want people to lose sight of those original recordings, and he's really meticulous about how these records are supposed to sound. He's an amazing record maker, and I hope (the book) sends people back to those original recordings."
Beviglia reviewed every studio-recorded song Springsteen has "officially" released, the lone exception being "American Skin (41 Shots)," which debuted on a live album chronicling the tour when it was written.
Some ranked songs come from after-the-fact compilations like the 66-song "Tracks" box set or "The Promise." Both include songs left off original albums, which nonetheless became known to fans through bootlegs or word-of-mouth from live performances.
Only a few artists record enough songs to even make the "100 Finest" treatment worthwhile. Beviglia's first book ranked Bob Dylan's Top 100. Next up: The Rolling Stones. For some perspective, The Eagles, one of the largest-selling bands in the world, have released barely more than 80 studio-recorded songs.
Springsteen is unusually prolific, one reason why his devotees track concert set lists like degenerate gamblers poring over horse racing forms. Fan website Backstreets.com notes that Springsteen played 182 different songs at 34 concerts this year alone.
And before streamlining his songwriting and recording on more recent releases, Springsteen commonly recorded more than 60 songs for some albums, before choosing the 10 or 12 that would make the final cut.
Beviglia found himself drawn to some of Springsteen's more contemplative work — eight of 10 songs made the top 100 from the "Nebraska" album, an acoustic demo Springsteen recorded at home on a four-track tape machine. But songs featuring the E Street Band in full flourish, with notable contributions by late members Danny Federici, the organist, and saxophonist Clarence Clemons are well represented, including several on relatively recent albums, 2007's "Magic" and 2009's "Working on a Dream," which drew a lukewarm response.
The latter album opens with an eight-minute, tongue-in-cheek Western opus, "Outlaw Pete," which, Beviglia notes, has been nicknamed "Out to Pee" because some fans head to the restroom when Springsteen plays it live. The song ranked 79th on Beviglia's list.
"The thing about Springsteen, musically and lyrically as well, is he's never afraid to go for something big, he's never afraid to go for broke on some things," Beviglia said. "It's the willingness to go for something big that makes him special."