Why Born to Run is not a 10/10 album.
First, let me start by saying what a 10/10 album is in my book:
Each song is great, and the track listing makes a greater unified whole (basically, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).
Second, my approach to music in general is that it has to be both interesting AND melodic.
That said: let me go, song by song (and I’ve re-listened to this album just now to make sure it was all fresh in my ears).
Thunder Road – great song, piano start, with adding instruments build up.
But this effect was done much better by Stones on “Can’t Always Get” and by Bob Segar. Guitars sound a bit too thin.
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out – got a nice groove, but this song sounds like it would be better if done by Steely Dan. Vocals are annoying.
Night – Sounds like a Jim Steinman tune done sloppily.
Backstreets – Tempo too fast. This song would be improved by slowing it down and making it darker. Vocals still screechy.
Born to Run – the hit tune from the album, and rightly so. This is the track where the production and the performance all come together. I would have added some acoustic guitars to fill out the mix, but that’s just me being a lifelong Who fan.
She’s the One – everything about this song has already been done in other songs on this same album. This could have been cut from the whole disc.
Meeting Across the River – musicianship is great, and the production really works on this. Again, though, his vocals make it sound somewhat ridiculous. Should be more subdued, or even half-spoken (like Tom Waits)
Jungleland – Like Born to Run, this is one in which the production really works. This is anthemic at its best. Fun and over the top. Great song. (again, the Who fan in me just hears the Who in this song).
So … basically, I never said it was a horrible album. Like my review of “Born in the USA” – the songs are solid: great lyrics, musical structure is sound. The songs are great. The issue is with the production. Not every song needs to be hit with a sledgehammer. A lot of Springsteen’s tunes get stronger whenever you strip them down to basic elements and slow the tempo. If this was done on half the tracks, then the rockers (title track, Thunder Road, and Jungleland) would sound even better.