Sparks On The Ballroom – (Godfatherecords G.R. 154/155)
The Electric Ballroom, Atlanta, GA, USA – 23 August, 1975
Disc 1: Spirit In The Night, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, It’s Gonna work Out Fine, When You Walk In The Room, Growin’ Up, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, The E Street Shuffle, She’s The One, Born To Run, Then She Kissed Me, For You
Disc 2: Kitty’s Back, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Twist And Shout
Bonus tracks: The Roxy, Los Angeles, CA, USA – 17 October, 1975: Pretty Flamingo, Goin’ Back; Tower Theater, Philaelphia, PA, USA – 30 December 1975: It’s My life, Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
After the renowned New York concerts which yielded the famous bootleg LP Live At The Bottom Line, Springsteen and the E Street Band moved on to Atlanta for three shows (21-23 August 1975). The first recording to emerge from these shows was the LP Atlanta Georgia 1975 (no label), which contained nine songs claiming to be from the 21st. This was followed by the CD It’s Gonna Work Out Fine (Scorpio), which increased the total to eleven songs. However, the Killing Floor Database claims that the CD bears the wrong date and attibutes it to the 23rd. The Brucebase website notes the existence of a soundboard tape which it tentatively lists under the 23rd. The site states that this is “undoubtedly the same as the 21st” – i.e. the LP, the CD and the tape are all of the same concert, so that the performance on the tape could be from the 21st or the 23rd. Godfather opt for the latter date. One would imagine that this tape is the one used for the Godfather release, especially as the cuts and edits mentioned by Brucebase are present on the CDs. However, there is one anomaly – Brucebase states that Kitty’s Back is missing from the tape, yet the song is included in the Godfather set. Incidentally, there is no recording or setlist from the concert on the 22nd.
The concert begins with Spirit In The Night, with the climax of the story slowed down, as was often the case in live performance, and with Clarence Clemons’ sax prominent throughout. Unfotunately the song is marred by a brief cut near the end. This is followed by Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, an upbeat rendition fleshed out by short organ and piano solos and extensive sax soloing from Clemons which together take the song to almost twice its normal length. The next song, the Ike and Tina Turner number It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, is an undoubted highlight of the set. The song is prefaced by Springsteen remarking on how strange it is to run into old friends who are now married with children and in regular employment (in short, shouldering the responsibilities that Springsteen spent much of his early life trying to avoid at all costs). It is an excellent performance with effective piano and sax solos and vocal contributions from Clemons, all underpinned by Max Weinberg’s percussion. Another highlight follows, an up-tempo rendition of the Searchers’ hit When You Walk In The Room, which had previously been performed at the Bottom Line concerts.
After a fairly standard performance of Growin’ Up and a version It’s Hard To Be Saint In The City with a long vocal and instrumental coda there follows another high point of the concert. The E Street Shuffle is performed in its slow version, prefaced by the well known “rap” in which Springsteen gives a highly embroidered account of his first encounter with Clemons, here a huge and forbidding figure bearing an “appendage of malfeasance,” which leads a terrified Springsteen to hand over all his money. It is one of the versions of the story which, as Dave Marsh writes in Born To Run, “plays across the notion that blacks are dangerous and innately hip, two ideas central to the broad appeal of Clarence Clemons.” The song itself is played in a superbly atmospheric rendition, featuring a guitar solo from Steve Van Zandt and a further spoken interlude from Springsteen. Unfortunately, this song suffers from a far worse cut than Spirit In The Night, depriving the listener of the ending.
Further problems follow. She’s The One and Born To Run are subject to an annoying fluctuation in the sound, where the aural image goes in and out of focus every second or two. This is most disconcerting and I cannot imagine anyone wanting to listen to these two songs more than once. Fortunately this problem does not continue into the next song, The Crystals’ Then (S)he Kissed Me, which, like When You Walk In The Room, had been a highlight of the Bottom Line shows. Disc 1 finishes with an outstanding renditon of For You, played slowly and sparely, with Springsteen accompanying himself on the piano. The song is enhanced by an impassioned vocal performance entirely in tune with the subject matter of the lyrics.
Disc 2 opens with a superbly swinging version of Kitty’s Back. Extended organ, piano, sax and guitar solos, of which the jazzy piano solo is the outstanding feature, take the song to the twenty-minute mark. Unfortunately, the sound quality deteriorates for the last forty-five seconds or so. There is also a break in the tape before the beginning of Rosalita, which results in the beginning of the number being clipped. The song is given its usual effusive performance, complete with band introductions, which leaves the audience ecstatic.
Another fault in the tape robs us of the beginning of 4th 0f July, Asbury Park (Sandy) so that it begins with the words, “…along the shore.” Redolent of hot, hazy summers, this nostalgia-tinged song is, as always, enhanced by the accordion of Danny Federici. The show finishes on a high note with an exuberant performance of Twist and Shout.
As is often the case, Godfather increase our listening pleasure with some well-chosen bonus tracks. First come two tracks from the Roxy show of 17th October, an unmissable performance of the Manfred Mann hit Pretty Flamingo and a nice rendition of Goin’ Back, the Goffin/King song which had been recorded by Dusty Springfield in 1966. The CD ends with two tracks from the Tower Theater performance of 30 December. The first is a powerful rendition of The Animals’ It’s My Life which is very similar to the performance given the next night. (The latter performance is available on Godfather’s superb Mountain Of Love – see my earlier review.) The second is a raucous performance of the old Elvis Presley number Wear My Ring Around Your Neck, the last time Springsteen played this song. The complete show was, incidentally, available on its own from Wild Card or in tandem with the next night’s concert on Palace Records, both entitled Teardrops On The Tower. As far as I know, neither release is currently available.
As I have made clear, this is a problematic release. There are cuts and some sound problems on the source tape to contend with. However, the sonic limitations do not affect the whole tape and the sound, in general, is very good indeed, albeit in mono. (I have listened carefully through headphones and I can discern no stereo separation.) However, I would not want to be without these versions of It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, When You Walk In The Room, Then She Kissed Me, For You and, despite the sound at the very end of the song, Kitty’s Back.
Godfather’s release comes in the usual tri-fold sleeve with some very nice photographs from the era. The bonus songs are well chosen to complement the Atlanta concert, although, as the full Roxy show is a mandatory purchase for all Springsteen collectors, it could be argued that the first two bonus tracks are redundant. Those interested only in classic performances in excellent sound should go for the Roxy concert and the February Main Point show (both available on Crystal Cat, the former already reviewed), together with Godfather’s Mountain Of Love, which has a selection of songs from 31 December in professionally mixed sound. For those who wish to explore further, this set, despite its flaws, also brings some rewards.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)