Bruce Springsteen has recorded with the E Street Band on and off through the years. He was in one of those “off” periods when in 1995 he decided to bring the band back together after eleven years off from recording and seven from appearing together to record a few songs for the Greatest Hits album Springsteen was about to release. With just three days notice, the band went into the studio with “The Boss”. This DVD chronicles those sessions.
I can remember being so excited when I first heard they were all getting back together. Most of Springsteen’s fans agree that his best recordings have come from the work he’s done with The E Street Band and watching this it’s easy to see why. There’s a camaraderie between all of them that goes beyond the studio. I can tell they are friends and have a respect for each other, which is probably one of the reasons they have avoided the trap of infighting over the years.
Filmmaker Ernie Fritz was given unprecedented access to the band during the short recording session. It covers a seven day period during which they discuss what songs actually would be Springsteen’s “Greatest Hits” as well as recording the new material. Longtime manager Jon Landau is there as well. It’s interesting to watch him try to steer what’s going on while at the same time coming off as a huge fan.
I found it very interesting to see what goes into a recording session. Usually I hear about bands being in the studio for months and to watch the process be compressed into just a few days and for them to nail it so well after not playing together so long speaks to the talent of the E Street Band. There’s input all around as they debate what songs to include. At one point there was talk of leaving off Thunder Road – sacrilege! With so much input and so much material to work from, the release was expanded to two DVDs.
There’s no surprises here, if that’s what you are looking for. None of the band members seems to harbor any ill-will or resentment for how Springsteen dismissed the band and chartered a different path years earlier. Instead, they all seem enthusiastic to work together again despite the fact that their lives had moved on. There’s also no God-like gratitude to Springsteen for bringing them back together. Instead, they just seem like a group of normal guys who share a history and are happy to be able to come together and work with it again.
I also got to see Springsteen in a different setting. He is much more subdued than his onstage personality, although the creativity is still there. He’s always open to suggestions from his band and comes off as valuing their input and taking their suggestions to heart. When I’ve heard about infighting in so many other bands during the making of an album, watching what seems to be a very democratic process is refreshing. It’s not a unanimous decision on which version of one song will be included on the album, but watching the well-thought-out reasoning behind the various opinions and how they all get around to that point made me feel like I was getting a glimpse in a secret club making their decisions.
There’s also time to cut loose as they venture outside of The Hit Factory (where it was recorded) and on the streets of New York. They encounter fans and fan requests, some of which Bruce politely turns down. It’s another glimpse inside his world. His wife, Patti, is of course there recording with the band.
Springsteen fans will love this and need to have it in their collection. People who want more insight into the music business would also get a lot out of it. But if you’re looking for industry gossip, bitterness, or a lot of flashy videos, you won’t find it here. What you do get is a look inside the studio as an album is being put together and recorded. Done on such a low-key and open scale, it’s a rare treat.
Also included on the DVD:
“Video for “Murder Incorporated”
“Video for “Secret Garden” (not Jerry Maguire footage, thank God!)
available in PCM Stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound