Bruce Springsteen released his second album on September 11, 1973. The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle was another critical success but again was a commercial failure. Rolling Stone Magazine would name it the 132nd best album of all time.
The Wild, The Innocent & The E. Street Shuffle featured lengthy songs that allowed Springsteen to paint pictures and create stories at his leisure. Freed from any time constraints he would experiment and be more adventurous than on some of his best selling releases. Keyboardist David Sancious would also provide stellar work on the album. His jazz and classical training would shine on such tracks as “Kitty’s Back” and “New York City Serenade.” He would leave the band in 1974 and release a number of solo albums and become a noted session player for such artists as Peter Gabriel, Sting, Eric Clapton and many more.
“The E Street Shuffle” is a jazz and percussion fueled adventure complete with a cast of characters from the inner city. This song is different in that Springsteen is feeling out the musical landscape and alerting his listeners that he has moved on from his first release.
“4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” is not just a sensitive love song but emerges as a powerful performance that would resonate with anyone who has had a Sandy in their lives. It was Springsteen striking a chord with the common person. It would be a part of his live act for years, and is remembered today as one of the late Danny Federici’s signature songs with the E Street Band because of it’s trademark accordian. “Kitty’s Back” is a wonderful counterpoint to the preceding song. Springsteen’s superb guitar work propels another diffuse set of characters that are from a different part of town. This is a darker, more depressing track that would allow for improvisation when performed live, sometimes stretching out to 15 minutes or so.
“Wild Billy’s Circus Story” finds Springsteen taking everyone to the big top. The lyrics are not his strongest and do not fit the song structure perfectly. While the musical track is good, if I had to select a weakest song on the album, this would be it as it really never takes off for me.
I have always liked the original vinyl release of this album as you actually had to flip it over to play the three songs on the second side. This simple act sets them apart, while the CD release just flows along without interruption. This suite of songs is some of the best music of his career and in the history of American rock music.
"Incident On 57th Street” has been described as a rock version of West Side Story. It is an almost cinematic presentation of an ill fated romance.
The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame has recognized “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll. It is an energetic and joyful ride and would be a show closer for years. It remains essential listening for any fan of American rock music. Don’t forget to play it loud.
“New York City Serenade” is close to ten minutes in length. While this is another portrait of life that resonates, it is the music that remains intriguing. Jazz keyboards and some fine acoustic guitar plus the room to improvise make it a treat for the ears.
The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle should have been Bruce Springsteen’s breakout album. It was a look into the heart of American rock ‘n’ roll and remains a tremendously strong listen 35 years after its release.