Into The River We Dive (Godfatherecords G.R. 464/465/46)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA – 8 November, 2009
Disc 1: Intro, Wrecking Ball, Introduction To the River, The Ties That Bind, Sherry Darling, Jackson Cage, Two Hearts[/It Takes Two], Independence Day, Hungry Heart, Out In The Street, Crush On You, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), I Wanna Marry You, The River
Disc 2: Point Blank, Cadillac Ranch, I’m A Rocker, Fade Away, Stolen Car, Ramrod, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night, Wreck On The Highway, Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, Atlantic City
Disc 3: Badlands, Born To Run, Seven Nights To Rock, Encore Break, Sweet Soul Music, No Surrender, American Land, Dancing In The Dark, Can’t Help Falling In Love, [(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me)] Higher And Higher
Bonus track: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA – 8 November, 2009 (soundcheck): Crush On You
Godfather has already released this show, which features a complete performance of The River, in an audience recording, which I reviewed in January. This second edition, utilizing, as the cover clearly states, the “IEM source” is one of a new batch of varied releases (ranging from Elvis Presley to Kiss!) that led gsparaco in the News & New Releases section for 10 March, to characterize Godfather/Apocalypse Sound as, “the world’s most active, daring and interesting label.”
As I reminded readers in that original review, I am not a great admirer of The River, though I argued that, “the performance here makes a far better case for this collection of twenty songs than the original record.” I concluded that, “if you are a fan of The River, this release constitutes a mandatory purchase.” Readers who are interested in comments on the quality of the performance of individual songs are directed to my review of the first edition.
As stated above, this new edition utilizes an IEM (in-ear monitor) source. As Wikipedia explains, “in-ear monitors are professional grade earphones which fit into the ear and are commonly optimized to suit the needs of performers and serious audiophiles. For live performers, IEMs are connected to a receiver which receives the monitor signal from a wireless transmitter that is typically hardwired to the monitor mixer. These receivers are usually wireless via radio-frequency, but can also be wired for stationary performers (such as a drummer or keyboardist).” However, this release does not derive from the IEM source alone. As the sleeve notes explain, “this new source is a so-called matrix obtained mixing the previous version with an IEM (In Ear Monitor) tape in order to reach the best possible quality and get deep into the heart of the show, to enjoy every drop of this incredible night.”
“While not absolutely top-drawer,” I wrote of the sound quality of the first edition, it “is certainly very good and, in particular, the sound allows the quieter songs to shine.” The new edition unsurprisingly represents a major upgrade from the original, with full, clear stereo sound imbued with plenty of presence. All of the songs benefit greatly from this, and Atlantic City, Badlands and Born To Run, for example, sound hugely impressive. However, (reflecting what I wrote in my original review) the quieter songs sound superb. The improved sound adds to the poignancy of songs such as Independence Day and Point Blank, and Drive All Night is gorgeous. Particularly impressive here is the coupling of Fade Away and Stolen Car. As I wrote in my original review, “an atmospheric Fade Away is followed by A brooding Stolen Car, restrained and intensely moving despite the occasional awkwardness of the lyrics, and this pairing constitutes another highlight of the show.” The two songs come across beautifully here, and the wonderfully understated backing vocals of Stolen Car, sometimes so descreet that they are barely there, are caught superbly.
The solitary bonus track, Crush On You, comes from the show’s soundcheck and the sound quality does not quite match that of the show. In particular, Springsteen’s voice does not come across well. As it reproduces one of the songs included in the show, it is hardly essential, but it indicates thoughtfulness that Godfather did not simply reproduce the same bonus tracks as appeared on the first edition. Godfather also puts the disc breaks in different places, shifting the last three songs of disc 1 onto disc 2 and doing the same with discs 2 and 3. This places the final three songs of the main set at the start of disc 3; previously disc 2 ended with the culmination of the main set and disc 3 began with the encores, which might seem to be a more logical arrangement. However, the new structure means that disc 1 concludes with The River and disc 2 begins with Point Blank, therefore mirroring the transition from first to second disc on The River itself. Also, the rather lengthy preparations neccessary before the band could launch into the first encore number, Sweet Soul Music, are banded separately from the song, being included in the “encore break.”
This new edition retains the catalogue number of the original release, and, as the above front cover picture indicates, the packaging is essentially similar to the original. Aside from the colouring of the lettering the only major difference is the addition of an extra photograph, showing Springsteen crowd-surfing. This fills the space left by the shorter sleeve notes, due to the absence of comments on the performance contained on the original edition’s bonus disc. As stated above, the bonus track is new, the original issue having contained two tracks from the Spectrum in Philadelphia on 13 October, 2009 (The Fever and This Hard Land). Moreover, as indicated above, the first edition’s bonus disc, containing the complete performance of The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle and two other tracks from the previous night’s concert at the same venue, is not included here. This perhaps indicates the assumption that this new edition will, in many cases, be bought by collectors upgrading from the original release, who have no need of the bonus disc and who may be tempted by the new bonus track in addition to the improvement in sound quality. Whether you are upgrading or buying for the first time, the combination of a unique show, a splendid performance and excellent sound makes this new edition an essential acquisition.