The River

Despite the acclaim accorded Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, this is the album that broke Springsteen into the big leagues, thanks to “Hungry Heart”, then his most pointedly commercial song; it had new fans swooning but some old ones grumbling for the “poetic” Springsteen of days gone by. Not to worry–though more economical lyrically, The River had something to offer nearly everyone: There’s old-time bar-room rock (“Sherry Darling”), empathetic character studies (“The River”, “Stolen Car”, “Independence Day”), passionate rockers (“Out in the Street”), dramatic ballads (“Point Blank”), and even a couple of good-natured goofs (“Cadillac Ranch”, “Crush on You”, “Ramrod”). A sprawling double-disc set, The River offers proof that Springsteen could do it all and could do it better than virtually anyone else. –Daniel Durchholz