Bruce Springsteen – American Beauty EP (2014)

Bruce Springsteen’s American Beauty finishes with a multi-tracked solo celebration of 5 o’clock freedom, and a layered meditation on the shelter that love provides. But that’s not how it starts.

Instead, this four-song Record Store Day extra, comes haul-assing out with its title track, a wall-to-wall blast of rock power only tempered by Springsteen’s country yowl.

Like “Hurry Up Sundown,” this song was a considered and then left aside during the run up to Springsteen’s just-released full-length High Hopes, and like that song, “American Beauty” is meant to be played loudly. But the track has something else going for it: the power and glory of the full E Street Band sound. This song rumbles across the horizon like a succession of broken-muffler backfires.

There’s something about that sound, something about its classic E Street Band width and its depth. As good as “Hurry Up” is, it gets blown all the way off the road by the unstoppable force that is “American Beauty.”

Then there’s “Mary Mary.” Cast aside during the winnowing process for 2007’s Magic, begins with a confidential whisper before the song begins assembling around Springsteen — a pulsing bass, a plaintive fiddle, a honeysuckle backing vocal from Patti Scialfa.

If you get to be old enough, you’ll recognize the song’s plaintive rumination on a lost opportunity. If you’re wise enough, you’ll recognize why he isn’t chasing this particular one.

After all of that, “Hurry Up Sundown” suddenly is revealed as a bit of a letdown. Recorded with drummer Josh Freese but unused on High Hopes, it sounds like what it is: A demo, noticeably thinner in this new context. Still, there’s no denying its raucous, hard-bitten celebration. Who, ultimately, can resist a clarion-call for quitting time? It’s like a scuffed-up Beach Boys song, created especially for the Rust Belt.

Finally, there’s “Hey Blue Eyes,” a love song from sessions for 2009’s Working on a Dream that doesn’t consider, not even once, taking the easy way out. Not about love, not about this world, not about anything. It could be seen, really, as the next scene after “Hurry Up Sundown.” After all, that place you go after a hard-day’s work might be as close as you ever get to safety, and it doesn’t last long.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso