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“I’m on Fire” reminds me more than any other track of the 50s rock Bruce Springsteen loves. I hear some Roy Orbison in the song. “No Surrender” and “Glory Days” recall John Mellencamp’s records, as Springsteen’s example helped Mellencamp focus on his own regional background.
“Glory Days” would form a good background for a tale about an aging ex-jock. “My Hometown” could work in a film about the decline in the fortunes of the working class in the80s and the tensions that resulted.
Bruce Springsteen was already a star when he released Born in the U.S.A. in 1984, but the album moved him into the kind of mega stardom enjoyed by the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, and few others. He went from playing sports arenas to stadiums. The record is bigger-sounding than its predecessors—and very much an 80s production. Synthesizers take the place of pianos and organs, and the drums get moved forward in the mix. For all the 80s production techniques, Born in the U.S.A. remains still a rock n’ roll album filled with memorable songs and strong performances.
Bob Ludwig remastered Born in the U.S.A. using the Plangent Process, which removes wow and flutter and other anomalies from analog tape. Chris Bellman took the resulting digital file to cut the lacquers for the LP reissue. On the latter, the top end is less aggressive than on the original. The synths still sound dated, but less insistent and intrusive, and Max Weinberg’s snare drum on the title track feels more authentic and less electronic. The instruments aren’t as forward, allowing Springsteen’s voice extra room to register and making the chord changes easier to hear.
Springsteen’s guitar on “Cover Me” still stings, but other instruments, especially Garry Tallent’s bass, get more space to catch your ear. “Working on the Highway” features a more pronounced vintage, slap-back rockabilly vibe. The clearly presented background vocals on “No Surrender,” along with the less-dense sound, grant Springsteen’s singing added focus and take the track out of the Reagan Era to make it timeless. Vocals possess a deep, choral-like aura that links the song to the 50s doo-wop and R & B that inspired it. Every tune benefits from a more spacious presentation and less digital reverb, along with the aforementioned refined top end.
Some of the most pleasing tunes on the reissue are the quieter ones. Weinberg’s drums come across as less forward and more fluid on “I’m on Fire.” Keyboards on “My Hometown” are warmer and Springsteen’s voice more centered and expressive, traits that emphasize the song’s emotional depth. The entire album benefits from a deeper soundstage and a more balanced sound that lets the work bloom.
MPO’s high-quality pressing is very quiet and flat. The album jacket seems a little thicker than the original to allow for the heavier vinyl and the reproduction of the inner sleeve and lyric sheet. A good-quality paper sleeve houses the record.
Born in the U.S.A. is not just the Boss’ biggest-selling LP, but one of the most popular recordings ever released. I enjoyed the anthemic title track significantly more than in the past while also rediscovering (and appreciating once again) everything else on the landmark album.
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