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Click above to purchase "Bruce Springsteen Video Anthology 1978-2000" at amazon.com

 

Bruce Springsteen Video Anthology 1978-2000

review by Anthony D.

Studio: Columbia Music

Starring Bruce Springsteen, The 'E' Street Band, various

Directors: Arnold Levine, Danny Goldberg, Julian Schlosberg, Anthony Polenza, Brian de Palma, John Sayles, Arthur Rosato, Meiret Avis, Carol Dodds, Adam Bernstein, Jonathan Demme, Peter Care, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: 5 Bonus Videos and Performances, Discography with audio clips

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM Stereo, Two-Disc Set

"I knew Bruce Springsteen when his muscles were as scrawny as his chord changes." - Bette Midler

Mud Will be Flung Tonight

Spanning two decades this collection of videos strengthens the case that Bruce Springsteen is as much "American music" as Irving Berlin is. With rare exception, (Natalie Cole, The Pointer Sisters, Elmer Fudd), Springsteen's songs have not been covered by other artists; they are personal statements that few other artists have the capacity of making their own. Whereas Irving Berlin wrote his music from the early 1900's through to the early 1960's, and wrote in the "popular" tone of the period, Bruce's musical output rivals Berlin's in terms of prolificity. Like Berlin, Springsteen's songs stand as a document to the times his life occupies.

Opening with a high-octane live performance of "Rosalita," with the immense support of "The 'E' Street Band," the anthology in its whole takes the viewer on a biographical journey focused on one the icons of Rock 'n Roll. The videos themselves range from the sublime to the ridiculous, with several concert clips and television appearances thrown in for good measure. This Anthology was previously released on videotape and laserdisc which covered Springsteen's musical career only up until 1988, but those twelve years in between have seen Bruce return to his roots several times ("The Ghost of Tom Joad" echoes of the all-acoustic album "Nebraska"), re-uniting with "The 'E' Street Band for the "Greatest Hits" album, becoming a two-time Oscar nominee and taking home the Academy Award® for his plaintive "Streets of Philadelphia."

 

After a deliberately rough-shod beginning, the videos presented here are truly the best of Bruce Springsteen. Because of the various sources used, film/video tape, clarity is never a problem. The concert clips at the start of the program are filmed, but excessively grainy, and nearly washed out color-wise, I don't think that any remastering was done here, and sadly, the clips from the film, "No Nukes" are not presented in their original aspect ratio. After those initial MINOR complaints, the video quality steps up a few notches to near-perfection. Music videos as a whole, vary in their use of colors and filtering, but those presented here are above broadcast standards. The fact that the colors remain true to their director's intention is the point, and a point adequately exemplified by the paean to feminity, "Secret Garden" (Chapter 7; Disc Two) with its lavender washes and pinks. Fleshtones are exceedingly accurate, and Patty Scalfia's red hair gleams constantly in great detail. I found only one instance of video noise and aliasing, in the harshly lit, videotaped "Fire" (Chapter 11; Disc One). And getting back to Bette Midler's statement, yes, indeed, viewers can see for themselves the growth of Bruce's frame - - especially those biceps on display in the otherwise forgettable "Dancing in the Dark), and the buns that became a national icon with "Born in the U.S.A" (Chapter 6; Disc One)!

What a fan wants from a rock star is brilliant sound, and this package delivers on its promise of Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound. Though also equipped with a PCM Stereo track, it is the Dolby Digital that will delight both die-hard Springsteen fans as well as newcomers to "The Boss'" music. Building on the Phil Spector "wall of sound" school of recording, the Dolby Digital never disappoints. Every member of Bruce's back-up bands, is given his/her due through this remastered track; though Max Weinberg's exceptional drumming truly benfits from the 5.1 channeling. The sound, I would have to say, is noticeably more involved than the cd recordings, enveloping the listener at every turn. And for once, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not used as a technogical showpiece; but rather a true document to the sound of the best rock and roll to come out of New Jersey.

Though the packaging touts all of the second disc as "15 Bonus Videos and Performances," I beg to differ. These additional, to the previous video release, are merely an extension of the former. Either way, these final fifteen videos offer up the more mature Bruce Sprigsteen that we had only glimpses of on Disc One, so they do merit the terminology of "special." THE BONUS FEATURE is truly the "Complete Discopgraphy," located on Disc Two, which allows viewers access to each of Bruce Springsteen's albums, accompanied by a stereo audio clip representative of that album; it's a nice feature that I hadn't run across before. My caveat regarding the extras is limited to what isn't there: Where are the performance clips from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? The Grammy Awards? Where are the two performances at The Academy Awards? I guess that since it is not billed as a "Special Edition," Columbia didn't feel the need to include these performances.

Taking the entire package in as a one sitting deal is akin to watching a filmed biography of Bruce Springsteen. The viewer sees the then-scrawny, energetic, playful Bruce develop track by track into a superb songwriter (his performance skills were never doubted); each chapter, like a chapter in a novel, sees the literal as well as the metaphorical growth of the artist commonly called "The Boss." It took several years before Springsteen's music caught up with MTV, so the set initiates with the three concert performances, the first time that Springsteen fans got to see him on the silver screen are the two tracks from the stil-unavailable charity event: "No Nukes: The Concert," and that concert footage, rough as it may be, started a discrete love affair with the camera. This set stands as a true testament to the power of popular music. The sublime, gritty black and white photography of "Atlantic City," presented immediately before the ridiculous Brian De palma helmed "Dancing in the Dark" (Courtney Cox fans, take note: this was her major breakthrough role!) only reinforced the camera-shy Bruce's decision to NOT make his videos for the MTV audience. Following the blow-dried, pretty boy antics on display in "Dancing in the Dark," the videos become stand-alone films, slight glimpses into Springsteen's private world. One almost feels like a voyeur while watching the courtship between Bruce and bandmate Patty Scalfia (most highly eroticized in Chapter 16, Disc One's "Tougher than the Rest.") move from the concert stage into the real-life world of Los Angeles and marriage.

The fact that Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia" captured the Academy Award as "Best Song written for a Film - 1993) only elevates Bruce's stature in the music industry, and it's video, shot by "Philadelphia's" director Jonathan Demme is as haunting as can be. Bruce's second Academy Award nomination came with Tim Robbins' "Dead Man Walking," an acoustic ballad that should have taken home the Award. Immediately following Robbins' film, Springsteen set out on a totally acoustic tour, represented here by the title song of his second acoustic album, "The Ghost of Tom Joad," (which is of course named after the protagonist in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath) which gets ample presentation here with both the video (which includes photography by Bruce's sister Pamela) and his yearning performance on "The Tonight Show."

What would a Bruce Springsteen Anthology be without the inclusion of his signature song, "Born to Run?" Or his 1984 Number One hit "Born in the U.S.A.?" Both songs are given special attention in both rock and acoustic settings. The former captures a rollicking stadium version shot at various world-wide locations as well as a pensive, introspective acoustic revisit (Disc One; Chapters 12 & 18); whereas the latter is shown through director John Sayles' video and an acoustic, strained performance on "The Charlie Rose Show" (Disc One; Chapter 6: Disc Two; Chapter 14).

Yes, all the best of Bruce is here in its digital glory. Fans of Springsteen can revisit those glory days, and hopefully, with this release, and the simultaneous release of "Blood Brothers: Bruce Springsteen and the 'E' Street Band" should garner new fans for The Boss.

(5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(5/5)

(3/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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