Bruce is the Paul Bunyan of modern rock. He straddles the last two decades, immense in stature, brawny, rock-ribbed and deliberate. His music, as this sampler attests, is thus far aging surprisingly well.
All right, a couple of songs, like "Badlands," are beginning to sound a little pompous. But even with a few years on them, his trademark big anthems, from "Born to Run" to "Born in the U.S.A," still plunge and buck like boardwalk thrill rides. Only the arrangements have stalled, primarily due to Clarence Clemons's sallow sax solos and Danny Federici's cheesy organ washes.
Conspicuously absent from this retrospective are "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," "Spirit in the Night" or any other songs from the wild, innocent era that preceded Springsteen's monster 1975 breakthrough, Born to Run. But this package does have bonuses, like "Streets of Philadelphia," his piercingly dolorous Oscar-winning film theme. Bruce also rounded up his old E Street cohorts for four new songs. With the exception of the raucous "Murder Incorporated" (which was recorded in 1982 but never released), these are spare but gravid compositions, the best of which is the affecting processional "Blood Brothers."
What marks this collection is its passion. No surprise there. Springsteen, God love him, has always imbued his songs with exalted significance. The result is fervid music, real rock of ages stuff. (Columbia)