Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Springsteen Draft

Ed Note: This post is based on a draft conducted between Joe and Patrick over 20 days in July. For ten rounds, Patrick would pick a song followed by Joe. At the end, the song lists were compared by an impartial expert and Patrick was declared the winner. What follows is those picks and the authors' commentary. Special thanks to Christine Duda for being that impartial expert.
Go ahead and pick your own winner in the poll on our sidebar.

Round 1
Patrick Carter: Badlands
Joey Labuz: Rosalita

JL: Gotta admit, this was a Mario Williams-scale surprise for me. The very first pick in the draft with so many songs to choose from and Carter takes...the song I had always though of as The Promised Land’s little brother. It’s a good song, and the crowd is certainly rocking, I just don’t think any song set in South Dakota can hold a candle to Rosie.
PC: There are two reasons that this version of Badlands was the first pick: its an instrumental jam session and the fans in Barcelona.  Ok, so most versions of Badlands are jam sessions, but the crowd in this video is amazing.  Howabout that version of “Rosie”? Wow.  Speaking of fans, I wise I were at this concert: Bruce and the boys playing follow the leader and hide-and-go-seek while playing - incredible.

Round 2
PC: The River
JL: Thundercrack

JL: If I had to guess, Patrick, I would say The River is your favorite album? I found Thundercrack while wandering through YouTube after Clarence’s death and just wow. What I wouldn’t give to be back at one of those concerts in the 70s. Oh wait, here’s a concert from the aughts where the audience actually guesses the song and starts singing the words before Bruce begins. That’s a 30-year span of awesomeness.
PC: Joey went for an old-school obscure gem and I went for a classic.  The River has a stunning harmonica and piano intro.  Bruce is without his guitar for the song - almost making him look naked behind the mic.  But that is exactly what this song is intended to be - a personal story-time.  Such a raw piece makes a nice accompaniment to the peppy Thundercrack.

Round 3
PC: Jungleland
JL: Incident on 57th Street

JL: Carter’s Jungleland is simply sublime - matching it with any other song would be a tall order indeed. For a while I thought about going with Thunder Road, but in the end decided to go with something off Bruce’s second album. I’m pretty sure I found this song about a week before the draft began and listened to it constantly. I had heard the studio version before and was not impressed, but for some reason the violin here really struck me. Also, I think it parallels Jungleland nicely. Not sure who wins, but I think Spanish Johnny gives the Magic Rat a pretty good run for his money.
PC: This song draft was inspired by Clarence’s death.  What better way to honor the big man with one of his biggest solos (perhaps one of the most well know sax solos in rock and roll history - bold proposal, I know)?  So regardless of what Joey might say about the violin in Incident, Jungleland’s sax solo tops it.

Round 4
PC: Growin’ Up (part1 and part2)
JL: Jesse James

JL: WOW. Carter may have the best pick of the draft here - not only for the music, but what kind of person brings out some guys in bear suits during a concert? THIS. As much as I love The Seeger Sessions and some good banjo strumming, Carter takes this round coming and going.
PC: I won’t disagree with Joey’s assessment of Growin’ Up.  Speaking of growing up, next time someone asks me what I want to do for a career, I will tell them that I want to be
like Bruce Springsteen.  I want to love what I do and have as much fun and as much passion for it as Bruce and the gang do for playing music.  This love of their work is demonstrated in this piece.

Round 5
PC: Land of Hopes and Dreams (part1 and part2)
JL: Highway Patrolman

JL: The first of two picks for me off Nebraska. Maybe I was feeling a bit melancholy this week? Maybe I have a thing for lo-fi recordings? Or maybe I’m just a sucker for songs that tell and story, and this one does it better than most.
PC: Joey, I too am a sucker for Bruce the storyteller.  The difference is that I opt for blaring horns and bass drum kicks, while you opt for the acoustic Bruce.  Since you have conceded a couple rounds to me, I think it is time that I give you this one. Then again, Land of Hope and Dreams is a pretty solid little known song that packs a punch.

Round 6
PC: She’s the One
JL: Tenth Avenue Freeze Out

JL: To tell the truth, this is one I wish I could have back. There’s nothing wrong with the song, but there’s nothing particularly right with it either. There’s no interplay with Patrick’s pick nor is the live version I chose is not particularly rousing. I guess I lost focus for a round as the draft dragged on. Also, proof again that Carter loves The River. See below for picks that could (and probably should) have replaced it.
PC: Even if Joey doesn’t like his pick, I think it is awesome. There appears to be an extra layer of guitar that isn’t in any other versions I have heard.  Also, it sounds like it was a full band recording done at a high school gym.  Intimate, yet bold.  

Round 7
PC: American Skin (41 shots)
JL: Reason to Believe

JL: I’ll let Carter tell the story behind his pick - and it’s one hell of a story - but I don’t think the music comes close here - I win. I really liked this song off Nebraska where it had a much more somber tone, but throw in a little harmonica and some crazy Italians and it turns into one hell of a barn burner. Who knew.
PC: In terms of story telling American Skin has a couple layers.  Bruce wrote the song in 1999 in response to four NYPD officers shooting and killing Amadou Diallo - firing 41 shots after he pulled his wallet out of his jacket pocket to show the officers.  Bruce’s performance of American Skin in New York in 2000 led to police unions protesting his shows.  Despite the emotional story of American Skin, Joey is right to say that Reason to Believe is a stronger song.  So, if there were any doubt about me giving you the win in round 5, I will definitely give you this one. (I was going to make Reason to Believe my next pick, so I clearly hold it in very high regard).

Round 8
PC: Darlington County
JL: Workin’ on the Highway

JL: Another story song - everything comes right back to where it started. I had been saving Darlington County for the last round (again another story for Patrick to tell). However,  when Carter made his pick, there was only one choice - Workin’ followed Darlington on Born in the USA on that tape in my car.
PC: After I made this play, there was no chance that Joey could have a rebuttal. We have a collective soft spot for this song.  Beginning sophomore year of high school (when Joey got his license and a Geo Prizm), he “burned” Darlington County to a cassette (yes, a cassette) and left it in the car.  Because we lived on the same block, anytime that Joey drove to a weekend’s evening activity, I was the last person to get dropped off.  This gave us the chance to assess the happenings of the night, analyze the most recent news, or and advise each other on girls, friends, or girlfriends.  The backdrop to these conversations was always set by a slightly scratchy-sounding version of Darlington County.  If it wasn’t playing, either one of us could invoke the DC rule to shift the course of conversation to something of greater importance.  And that’s why this round goes to me (I was waiting for Joey to play it every round, and I finally had to take it for myself).

Round 9
PC: No Surrender
JL: Sherry Darling

JL: The whole idea of this song is awesome. When I get married I am going to ask my mother-in-law to dance then have the DJ queue up this number.
PC: This was the first song that I saw Bruce and the Band
play live.  While that Omaha rendition was a little more “guns blazing” than this pick, I still like the stripped-down version.  What a great song to be played with Bruce and his acoustic and a harmonica.   

Round 10
PC: E Street Shuffle (part1 and part2)
JL: Backstreets

JL: You don’t have to end with this song, but I would strongly suggest that you should. I’m not much of a music (composition) guy, so all I will say about the sound is that it is BIG.
PC: Thanks to the magic of the Internet, my actual pick was taken down by YouTube.  As you may have noticed, many of the versions that Joey and I picked were recorded why not choose one as a replacement here too. Again, this pick is a quasi tribute to Clarence as it is about the creation of the band and has a wicked sax solo. A mean, wicked, nasty sax solo.  I have a soft spot and am a sucker for sax solos.

Honorable Mention - songs that missed the cut, but maybe shouldn’t have
PC: Where to begin.  There are so many that I could include that didn’t make the cut.  The beauty of this draft was that we did not suffer from a lack of amazing songs to include on this list.  I could have included songs such as The Promised Land, Born to Run, or Racing in the Street, Thunder Road.  These would have rounded out my roster very nicely (and probably increased the number of times that fair-weather Bruce fans could have said “oh, I’ve heard that song before”).  But, these are all good songs. If I had to pick just one song that did not deserve to be on the list, but is still a solid song (yes, I did just change the criteria for this pick), I would have to say Santa Clause is Coming to Town.  Its no surprise that the Springsteen version of this song is probably the best version of a Christmas song....if you disagree Joey, we can hold a song draft for that category too.
JL: Open All Night tops my list. A healthy dose of this little guy - the song clocks in at under three minutes - before every math test of my college career is probably the biggest reason that I am an engineer (besides my underdeveloped social skills and pathological fear of girls). Otherwise if you want to head out on the town, the night starts off at a swinging bar with the Seaside Bar Song and then veers off toward the red light district with Red Headed Woman. Hungry Heart is a great tune to whistle on that Sunday morning walk home.  Finally, I would like to leave you with one simple question and about 12 killer dance moves. I could go on, but I won’t. So if you’ve stuck with us this far, thanks for reading and go ahead and tell us what we missed down below.

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