The Music Hall, Boston, MA, USA – 29 October, 1974
Disc 1: Incident on 57th Street, Spirit In The Night, Does this Bus Stop At 82nd Street?, The E Street Shuffle, Cupid, It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City, Jungleland, She’s The One
Disc 2: Kitty’s Back, New York City Serenade, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), A Love So Fine
Straight To My Lover’s Heart For Me is the first release from Jersey Devil Records. The only other CD release was Loose As A Goose (Tarantura), which I reviewed in June 2011, making reference also to two earlier CD-R releases, Flesh And Fantasy (Doberman) and Cupid (Anubis). Readers are directed to that review for my comments on the performance and fuller comments on the comparative sound of those releases.
By the time I wrote that review in June 2011 the show had circulated for some time from Steve Hopkins’ master tape. There had been an Ev2 torrent, Walking Tall, derived from a low generation tape but not the master, and the appearance of the master tape prompted an upgraded version entitled Walking Tall Vol. 2. Contradicting Brucebase’s assertion that this constituted, “great sound and a big upgrade over previous releases of the show,” the Ev2 artwork site states: “Now edited from master source, sound not much better but some I guess.” The Anubis release also claims to be “from the original master tape,” and presumably utilized the second Ev2 torrent.
The current Brucebase entry states that,”this show circulated in November 2014 from the famous Boston taper Steve Hopkins’ master recording via JEMS,” contending (using the exact same phrase) that the JEMS version, which is the source for this new release, offers, “great sound and a big upgrade over previous releases of the show, including ‘Walking Tall Vol 2’ (Ev2).” A dealer from whom I occasionally make purchases has mentioned another, more recent CD-R release, Boston 74 (Red Devil), which he states, “was released a couple years ago in much better quality than the Anubis version.” I have not heard this, but the fact that it has appeared fairly recently and that it has been claimed to be an upgrade, suggests that it too is sourced from the JEMS torrent.
The Jungleland notes, by “BK for JEMS,” state that, “Hopkins recorded from the second row of the center orchestra section on the floor,” and also give the following details:
“Hopkins did such a remarkable job capturing the show…using two AKG mics…Given his location so close to the front, with sound reaching the mics both from the PA and the band’s gear on stage, the stereo image shifts noticeably as the mics move in several spots on the tape. You’ll recognize those as passages where the sound gets thinner/narrower or fatter/wider (the first minute of ‘Cupid’ is a good example), but they don’t materially detract from the overall recording.
Otherwise the band is right there, up close. JEMS did a little work to tame and shape the bass, which was way up on the master tape…Circulating versions of this recording also seem to suffer from some wow and flutter, and even with the fluctuations noted above, we think this transfer smoothes out most of those previous issues, resulting in a more consistent and balanced final product.”
However, it was evident when listening, that although the overall sound quality of this release is something of an improvement (though, again, not a “big upgrade”) there are instances where the slight refinement of the sound actually seems to point up fluctuations, for example during Rosalita and She’s The One.
The two discs are housed in a tri-fold card sleeve with numerous photos from the era, mostly onstage shots, together with an advertisement for the show, another for Springsteen’s then-current album, The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle with the date and venue of the show added, a torn ticket and a review of the performance from The Heights, the newspaper of Boston College (all of which can also be seen on Brucebase). The latter is hilariously ill-informed, noting the contributions of an unnamed “first women [sic] in the band,” pianist “Roy Bippy” and “Joe Drummer,” the performance of the song “The Jungle” and, oddly, Springsteen “acting like Sei-ji [sic] Ozawa,” music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1973-2002. As well as an image of this review appearing on the sleeve, it is reproduced in the middle of the four-page foldover booklet, which also features further onstage photos. There is also a single sheet insert with the Jersey Devil Records logo (a cartoon representation of the eponymous cryptid) on one side and a short account of Springsteen bootlegs on the other. This is also included with the label’s second release Hitting the Coast and will therefore presumably be an ongoing feature of the label’s titles. The logo also appears on the discs themselves, which erroneously bear the title of the second release, which has prompted the inclusion of a further small insert apologizing for the mistake, but suggesting that it adds to this release’s rarity value!
First choice for a Lahav era show undoubtedly remains with the Main Point show, though I was very impressed with this performance, stating in my previous review that, “this is a most enjoyable show which I would recommend as a valuable supplement to Main Point Night.” Indeed, listening again for the purposes of this review has served only to increase my admiration for the performance. BK, makes several positive comments about individual songs as follows:
“The Suki Lahav-era of the E Street Band is one of its most enchanting, as her violin playing added poignant texture and musical depth to songs like “Incident on 57th Street” and ‘Jungleland.’ The period also served as the prelude to Springsteen’s third album and this show offers wonderful, embryonic versions of ‘She’s the One’…and…’Jungleland.’
Late 1974-early 1975 is also a transition phase from the jazzier explorations of the second album to the mini rock operas found on Born to Run. The former gets its due this night, as the band flexes its muscles on ‘Kitty’s Back’ and an epic ‘New York City Serenade,’ blissfully complete here in all its 21-plus-minutes glory. That performance alone is worth the price of admission/download.”
Unsurprisingly, BK agrees that the Main Point show is the “definitive recording” from the Lahav era, and also echoes my comment that this show is a “valuable supplement” to that performance by calling it “a close second,” before concluding that, “the new line-up with Max and Roy and Suki’s addition are still fresh, and every song and arrangement feels alive in the moment. It is a magical performance and a must for anyone interested in this chapter in the band’s history.”
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)