L.A. Working On A Dream Night (Crystal Cat Records CC 928-29)
L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA, USA – 16 April 2009
Disc 1: Badlands, Candy’s Room, Outlaw Pete, No Surrender, Adam Raised A Cain, Working On A Dream, Seeds, Johnny 99, Youngstown, Raise Your Hand, Proud Mary, Growin’ Up, Hungry Heart, The Promised Land
Disc 2: The Wrestler, Backstreets, Bad Luck, Lonesome Day, The Rising, Born To Run, Hard Times Come Again No More, Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Land Of Hope And Dreams/People Get Ready, American Land, Glory Days/Louie Louie
I have already reviewed this concert in its Godfather incarnation, A Good Job In The City, during which I referred to this show as “a tremendous performance.” In a comment on my review Ledman, who was also clearly impressed, wrote that “the performance is one I wish I could have seen live.” Readers are directed to that review for further comments on the quality of the concert itself. Here I shall concentrate on the comparative issues of sound quality and packaging. Both versions fit the concert on to two CDs, so neither has bonus tracks.
In my review I described the sound of the tape utilized by Godfather, which is a soundboard/audience matrix, as “undeniably excellent.” One internet seller describes the Crystal Cat version as “supposedly from the audience…Different from the Godfather release.” This appears not to be the case. Comparative listening reveals virtually no difference between the two releases, both sounding as if they originate from the same source. While listening together with my wife to Outlaw Pete I thought that it bore out my opinion that the Crystal Cat version has slightly more presence throughout; she, however, preferred the Godfather version on the grounds that Springsteen’s voice possesses greater clarity. Conversely, she discerned a clearer separation of instruments in Candy’s Room on the Crystal Cat release. Overall, the differences are marginal and both versions provide a rewarding listening experience.
Crystal Cat’s packaging has always been impressive, but for its Magic and Working On A Dream Tour CDs the label has excelled itself. This release is no exception. It comes in a slimline double CD case with a hinged tray. The front of the twenty-page booklet depicts Springsteen on the cover of Rolling Stone. The majority of the other shots consist of onstage photos, which I presume are primarily from the show itself (although they include the shot of Springsteen and Van Zandt from the previous night’s show, also in Los Angeles, which is familiar from the front cover of Godfather’s release of the later Atlanta show, Got To Be Good). There is also a photograph of Springsteen at home in his writing room and a reproduction of the sign requesting Growin’ Up which features a photo of a very young Springsteen. Additionally, the booklet features band personnel and track listing, Springsteen’s handwritten set list and Erik Flannigan’s review of the show from the Backstreets website. There is also a single sheet insert with a shot of the band onstage and part of the audience on one side and the tour itinerary on the other. The rear insert features another shot of Springsteen on stage and the track listing on the outer side and a picture of the outside of the venue and a ticket for the show on the inner side. Crystal Cat’s usual glossy paper is used throughout and the label side of the discs bear full colour photos. The Godfather version comes in the usual tri-fold sleeve, again featuring some effective onstage photographs, band personnel, tracklisting and Flannigan’s review. There is no booklet.
Overall, Godfather’s packaging, though most attractive, is simpler, whereas Crystal Cat’s is much more elaborate and I would imagine that most collectors will therefore be more impressed by the Crystal Cat version. However, with the honours effectively shared in terms of sound quality, there is no need to replace the Godfather release if you have already acquired it.