Bruce Springsteen – Definitive Soul Crusaders (no label)

BS SC-FDefinitive Soul Crusaders (no label)

Maple Leaf Gardens, ON, Canada – 13 February, 1977

Disc 1: Night, Rendezvous, Spirit In The Night, It’s My Life, Thunder Road, Mona/She’s The One, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Something In the Night, Growin’ Up

Disc 2: Action In The Streets, Backstreets, Jungleland, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Raise Your Hand, Born To Run

The Toronto show presented here was Springsteen’s first performance at Maple Leaf Gardens, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team from 1931 to 1999.  The show, which exists in an audience recording, has had only one previous CD release on the old E. St. Records label with the title Soul Crusaders.  This was directly copied by the CD-R label Alternative Edge Productions with, as the Killing Floor database puts it, “some artwork arrangement to eliminate ES logos.”  Soul Crusaders was awarded seven out of ten for sound quality by Lynn Elder in Bruce Springsteen: You Better Not Touch.  Brucebase notes the existence of the E. St. release, together with two more recent (and upgraded) torrented versions:

“Audience tape of excellent quality released on CD ‘Soul Crusaders’ (ES) and remastered in improved quality as ‘No Trouble In Receiver’ (Ev2).  Later released in June 2015 in upgraded quality via JEMS’ ‘Nothing To Lose: The 1977 Tour Revisited Volume Six’ directly from the master tapes.”

Notes on the EV2 torrent (which additionally features five bonus tracks from the show at Central Maine Youth Center, Lewiston, MA on 19 March 1977) given on the Springsteen Bootlegs site state: “Source: Soul Crusaders, ES44/45.  Stereo channels edited (fixed some drop-outs), tracks re-indexed, removed some cuts and raised volume on more quiet parts of show.”

The show has also had a recent CD-R release (2015) on the Midnight Dreamer label entitled First Toronto 1977.  Details added to on, in imperfect English, 30 June indicate that this is sourced from the Recent JEMS torrent: “Upgrade live sound source with the latest remastered appeared from the US tour of 1977…Although sound source of this day was known as an excellent live sound ever further improved quality is by remastered from a new master.”

The show explodes into life with Night, which BK, writing on Jungleland, considers, “one of Bruce’s greatest show openers.”  This is the song’s first confirmed performance in Canada, as is also the case with Growin’ Up, Action In The Streets and Raise Your Hand.  Next up is the catchy, poppy, mid-paced Rendezvous, which had often featured in the setlist since its debut at the beginning of 1976, and then Clarence Clemons’ sinuous sax propels Spirit In The Night’s ribald tale of sex in the dirt.

It’s My Life is tremendously atmospheric and powerfully intense, a performance which goes far beyond Brucebase’s description of it as, “particularly good.”  The song is, as so often at this time, prefaced with the narrative of how the younger Springsteen would return home late to find his father waiting for him in the dark in the kitchen with his cigarettes and a six-pack of beer.  This version concludes:

“We’d end up screaming at each other and my mother, she’d end up, she’d always end up running in from the front room to pull him off me, try to keep us from fighting with each other.  I’d always end up running out the back door screaming, screaming, telling him, telling him he was gonna have to understand that it was my life and I was gonna do what I wanted to do.”

As the number reaches its shattering climax, it is difficult to disagree with BK’s contention that Springsteen’s interpretation of the song, “had reached its zenith.”

A brief piano intro from Roy Bittan opens a splendid full-band Thunder Road, the first of a trio of songs from Born To Run which close the first set.  The second is a vigorous rendition of She’s The One, prefaced by Mona, which features the customary night-creature noises from the band and the effective addition of tubular bells.

The horn section emerges to enhance the performance of the third of the trio, a vibrant Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.  These players were not Southside Johnny’s horn section which had toured with Springsteen during 1976 but the Philadelphia-based faux-Miami Horns who played with Springsteen from September 1976 to March 1977 and consisted of  Ed De Palma (sax), Dennis Orlock (trombone), John Binkley (trumpet) and Steve Paraczky (trumpet).  This is the first known Springsteen show known to have an intermission and we hear Springsteen announce the short break at the end of the song.  J, who taped the show, explains that, “the Toronto show was unique, in that the fire marshall insisted there be an intermission, making it the first time Bruce had split the set.”

The second set opens with Something In the Night, a song which BK reckons to be “an under-appreciated classic.” notes that, “this version of SOMETHING IN THE NIGHT was used between 08 Feb 1977 and 15 Feb 1977,” and it features the lyrics that would later appear on the album version, with the exception  of the second verse.   This opens with the line, “Well God’s angels can tear this town down and blow it all into the sea,” which also sometimes appeared during the spoken interlude in Backstreets.  (I noted the use of this alternative verse in my review of the no label release of the 15 February show, Detroit 1977.)  Brucebase rightly considers this performance of Something In The Night “outstanding.”

A vivacious Growin’ Up, receiving its first performance of the 1977 tour, includes a version lengthy mid-song story in which Springsteen is granted a wish by a “gypsy lady” or a “spaceman.”  In this variant of the tale a hapless alien, obviously possessed of limited navigational skills, has failed to reach his destination of Mars and pitched up in New Jersey!  In return for directing him to the Turnpike, Springsteen is granted a wish, and he finishes the story by saying,  “OK, Mr. Spaceman…Mr. Spaceman…Mr. Spaceman, I wanna be…Mr. Spaceman, my wish is, I wanna be…I wanna be…I wanna be…a rock and roll star!”

Next up in an infectiously bouncy rendition of Action In The Streets, buoyed up by the return of the horn section.  Clinton Heylin, in E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, calls the song, “a singular attempt [by Springsteen] to convince himself that he could still write a song with all the good-times-roll zest of teenage years AM radio favourites…In concert, with the Miami Horns lending a hand…it works a charm.”

An impassioned Backstreets includes a poignant version of the spoken interlude, in which the story’s protagonist and his girlfriend plan to run away together (“I took all the money outta the bank and you was gonna quit your job, I was gonna quit my job too.”)  As the tension builds, heightened by Springsteen’s repeated references to the rain tumbling down, the story reaches its inevitable denouement:

I remember I stood, was right at the bus-station, and the buses were pulling in and pulling out.  I was standing there, I remember there was a newspaper on my head…and the rain came tumbling down…and I was thinking of you and waiting…and I remembered that you promised…and the rain came tumbling down…and all the while I was standing there, I just remembered that you promised…and the rains came tumbling down…and then I remembered that you promised…as the rain came tumbling down…that’s when I knew…that’s when I knew…and I remembered that you swore to me and that’s when I knew..that’s when I knew…I know no matter what was said…I knew that no matter what was said…and I knew…YOU LIED!…YOU LIED!…YOU LIED!…YOU LIED!”

BK contends that the “‘You lied!!!’ moment in ‘Backstreets’ may never be rivalled.”  J considers the song to be the show’s highlight of highlights, arguing that, “we got great versions of ‘Rendezvous,’ ‘Something In The Night’ and ‘Action In The Streets,’ but the real highlight this night (and at all 1977 shows) was the incredible version of ‘Backstreets.’  It was never better than it was in 1977!”

Backstreets is followed by a stunning rendition of Jungleland.  Clarence Clemon’ sax solo is magnificent and the closing section remarkably poignant.  The second set then concludes with a rollicking performance of Rosalita, with the horns adding to the fun.  As usual the song contains the band introductions (or the “long, long list of luminaries,” as Springsteen puts it), with a snippet of the Theme From Shaft used to represent Clemons.

The horn section remains to enhance the performance of Eddie Floyd’s Raise Your Hand, a regular part of the setlist since its first performance in March 1976.  Brucebase notes that this was the last recorded performance of the song in 1977.  The show then concludes with an exciting, frenetic Born To Run.

Paul McGrath’s review of the show (reproduced by Brucebase from an unnamed newspaper) demonstrates that he was impressed by what he witnessed:

“[Springsteen] is…a superb performer who can command rapt attention for two hours…he led his seven-man band through two sets of occasionally imitative but undeniably powerful music…All the stock rock metaphors concerning electricity apply to Springsteen in spades…What Springsteen offered last night was…total commitment…There’s only a handful of performers who can generate his sort of excitement.”

Posting on Jungleland, jbeaulieu calls it, “an incredible show.”  Fellow poster hathnham argues that, “if I could time warp back for one Bruce show it would be a tough choice between this show and Winterland,” and, also referencing the Darkness On The Edge Of Town Tour, mattdad goes so far as to say that, “1978 gets all the press/hype because of the 5 radio shows etc…But 1977 is when the band was at its very best.” 

Of the recent JEMS torrent is the source for this new release, BK states:

“Toronto ’77 has circulated among collectors since not long after J taped it…A master-to-DAT transfer was done in the early days of the format, copies of which almost certainly provided the source for releases like Soul Crusaders (E Street) and No Trouble In Receiver (EV2).  It’s long been one of the better audience recordings of the tour, but it has never sounded as good as it could.  This marks the first direct digital transfer of the master, and every step along the chain, from the azimuth-adjusted playback to high-resolution capture to final mastering, is superior to what was done to DAT 25…years ago.  Additionally, it lacks some of the minor edits found in the extant versions…

The Toronto performance is a pleasure to listen to and the sound quality (to my ears) approaches the best tapes of the tour, including those of our pal Steve Hopkins and whoever did the official audience tapes.  It offers an airy high end, punchy low end and vivid clarity to pick out each member of the band…

Toronto has always sounded good, but I think this version is definitive.”

J notes that:

“Fellow taper The Lewk…[got] me and my friends great seats at Maple Leaf Gardens, curtained off lengthwise to form the ‘Concert Bowl.’  The curtain improved the notoriously bad sound there, and The Lewk got me a seat just off the center aisle, ten rows back from the stage…[I used] my Sony TC-153SD and Teac M-100 mic, which I mounted high in a headband.”

Posters on Jungleland are clearly impressed, with comments such as: “sensational!! Incredible upgrade” (hatnham); “Absolutely fantastic recording…To my ears, this one sounds nearly flawless.  It is for sure in the same category as Hopkins Boston ’77 recordings.  This one is a must have.” (jbeaulieu); “My gosh, the dynamics of this AUD recording are hair-raising. Wow!” (sqolston); “It was recorded in mono…[but]…I actually prefer this recording to any of the ‘Official’ audience recordings. (buckshot).

The two discs are housed in a slimline double jewel case.  As usual with these no label releases, there are front and rear inserts but no booklet.  The front cover features a familiar posed shot of Springsteen and the band and this is reproduced on the discs themselves.  The inserts also display three onstage shots and two tickets for the show.  There is clearly a nod to the packaging of the old E. St. release – I suspect anyone who owns that will immediately recognize the style and colouring of the front cover reproduced above, though the photo is completely different (the old release showing an onstage shot of Springsteen).  On the first disc, the brief introduction to the show is tracked separately, so that Night is track two, not track one as listed, and so on.

Overall this is an excellent release, restoring to circulation a tremendous show in very fine sound.  Elder, somewhat less convinced by the performance than the commentators quoted above, writes in his assessment of the original release, that, “while Bruce easily surpasses this performance later in the tour, this is still a fine set.”  While I would partially agree, contending in several previous reviews that the four outstanding Boston concerts which ended the tour collectively remain the first choice for 1977 shows, I would also argue that this Toronto show is far better than Elder suggests.  Indeed, I would argue that this release constitutes an essential supplement to those Boston performances and therefore that Definitive Soul Crusaders, like the recently released Definitive Bomb Scare Show, constitutes an essential acquisition for Springsteen collectors.


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