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After several weeks of rumors and speculation on numerous Internet message boards,  it was announced last week that a new Bruce Springsteen album will be released on April 26.  It's been described as an acoustic-based record and will be followed by a tour -- possibly with a band -- of "smaller venues."

This announcement,  along with the titles of the twelve songs to be included,  has sparked all sorts of mostly negative comments by so-called "fans" on the message boards.  The prevalent complaint seems to be that they want a E Street Band album and yet another major tour of stadiums.  They don't want,  as one person so eloquently  (and offensively,  to me)  put it,  "another album of dead Mexicans"  (referring to 1995's The Ghost Of Tom Joad).

I personally find all the complaints pathetic at the very least.  Since 1999,  Springsteen has toured extensively with The E Street Band -- two of these tours were worldwide in scope and nightly shows averaging three hours in length.  Many of the concerts were peppered with rarely-performed songs dating back to Bruce's earliest albums.  The shows were great and gave many fans plenty of opportunities to see the band rocking out -- those people living in the Northeast United States certainly had more than enough concerts they could attend (including ten shows just at Giant's Stadium in the summer of 2003).

These fans who are crying out for more of the same seem truly spoiled to me.  They seem to have forgotten the long period of non-E Street Band shows from late 1988 to mid-1999  (with the exception of a few club shows here and there as well as the dedication concert for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995).  A common argument is that some of the members of the band are getting too old and they should tour until they are no longer able to do so.  Saxophone player Clarence Clemons indeed looked fairly worn-out by the end of the 2002-2003 tour.  I say give them a rest now instead of wearing them into the ground -- which is what Bruce seems to be doing  (and I think a break in playing could inspire them to give even better performances when/if they tour together once again).

I personally thought that the 1995-97 acoustic Ghost Of Tom Joad Tour was one of Springsteen's best -- the solo setting in small halls allowed him to truly relax and brought out his storyteller instincts;  indeed, often it felt like the audience was sitting in Bruce's living room while he entertained us with his music and tales.  I may be a bit biased about my praise of that tour,  however.  It happens to be the closest I've ever sat at a Springsteen show as well as the only time I've ever met him after a concert -- following his Albuquerque show in 1996.  Another highlight after that particular concert was that,  after he had gratiously signed autographs and talked with all the fans hanging outside the Civic Center's loading dock,  Bruce called for his Harley Davidson motorcycle to be taken off the truck.  When it had been,  he jumped on the motorcyle,  waved a farewell,  and roared down Tijeras Street towards old Route 66.  A classic moment!

Anyway,  I'm looking forward to whatever type of album and tour it turns out to be.  I'm not one to jump the gun and think I know what the songs will be about just from reading the "acoustic-based" general description and the song titles without knowing the lyrics.  I do applaud Springsteen for not being swayed by media or public opinion of what he should do next -- he's been like that throughout his career.  Following 1984's Born In The U.S.A. -- the height of his popularity  (and which remains my least favorite of his studio albums because of the overexposure on the airwaves) -- he could have released a similar "big rock" album to capitalize on that success.  Instead,  the low-key "acoustic-based"  (which included members of The E Street Band)  Tunnel Of Love was released in 1987 -- arguably his most romantic-themed album,  and one of my top five favorites.  1992's twin pop-oriented releases Human Touch and Lucky Town were followed by The Ghost Of Tom Joad in 1995 -- also in my top five.

Yes,  Springsteen does the albums he wants to do when he wants to do them.  He's appreciative of his fans,  but he's not going to put out a product based just on what they want him to do.  I can't believe the majority of "fans" on these message boards can't just be happy that a new album and tour are forthcoming  (and,  I think,  much sooner than most expected -- he is now very much a devoted husband and father afterall).  And,  as all of his albums,  I'm certain there will be songs I won't like initially but will grow to love,  some songs that I'll never like  (such as 1995's "My Best Was Never Good Enough" which still makes me cringe almost 10 years later),  and some songs that I just can't get enough of.  If I'm in the mood for something different than what's on the new album,  there's plenty of other CD's to listen to -- any of Bruce's previous solo or live releases,  or bootleg recordings dating back to 1966.  Video too,  for that matter.

Speaking of bootlegs  (a term I've never really liked,  preferring "recordings of indeterminate origin" or "ROIO"),  2006 marks the twentieth anniversary of beginning my collection of rare Springsteen recordings.  My very first live tape was of the very first Bruce show I attended -- Kemper Arena,  Kansas City MO,  November 19,  1984.  I had written the concert promoter asking for tickets since I was stuck three hours away attending classes at Kansas State University in Manhattan without a car.  He  (Chris Fritz of New West Presentations)  sent me a pair of excellent tickets and I attended with my roommate "Cruiser"  (we borrowed a friend's car).  A year-and-a-half later,  Kansas City radio station KY-102 broadcast an audience recording  (purported to be one of the very first digitally-recorded bootlegs)  of that concert as part of their 1986 Memorial Day Weekend festivities.  Although I did miss taping the first several songs,  I had the bulk of the show in excellent quality.  I don't remember how I found my first trading partner but I soon  (June 4,  1986,  according to the date on the original cassette)  traded a copy of that Kemper Arena concert for one of Bruce at Cleveland's Agora Ballroom in August 1978.  That began an "obsession" that has lasted to this day.  (And I did eventually receive tapes of that entire Kansas City concert;  ironically,  it was later released on a highly-regarded "commercial bootleg" by Crystal Cat Records and is today considered the best-sounding recording of the entire Born In The U.S.A. tour).

Now that I have over 500 rare and live Springsteen concerts and collections of studio outtakes, etc.  (comprising an unknown number of individual CD's),  I'm working at revamping my inventory list.  When I had my old website hosted by Angelfire,  I maintained my trading lists there.  Since they were all written in HTML,  I didn't update the lists that often.  A couple of years ago,  I began rebuilding the lists using the databases at etree who continue to host my trading list.  Since my multi-artist list has grown too large  (over 2100 separate shows listed and growing exponentially with numerous downloads each month),  I recently had to divide it into several sub-lists  (i.e.,  Springsteen,  Allman Brothers,  Marillion,  Genesis,  Video,  etc.).

However,  there have always been some faults with etree's databases -- mainly as a result that the end-users are the ones who add new shows to those databases.  Consequently, there are many errors in show dates and venues not to mention setlists  (errors which are compounded by different copies of the same shows adding various unidentified "bonus tracks" to fill up CD's).  Not everyone who adds shows to the database will do the research beforehand to make sure the information they are entering is accurate.  In the case of Bruce Springsteen,  it can be difficult to add in the numerous collections of demos and studio outtakes that circulate among collectors.

Thus,  the revamping of my Springsteen list.  Although I don't do a lot of "traditional"  (i.e., snail-mail)  trading anymore -- I download most of the gaps missing from my collection -- I have long desired a comprehensive inventory of all that I have,  not to mention where to find certain material if I need to find it.  I have numerous collections of stray songs included as "bonus tracks" and various studio material scattered across compilation CD's.  For an "completist" collector such as myself,  I wanted to organize everything into chronological order and to have lists of the songs cross-referenced with the CD's they are included on.  I've been working on that project for much of the past week -- and I'm very proud of what I've accomplished so far.  I may upload the first few sections  (covering 1966 to 1973 so far)  to my website within the next day or so.  It's much more than just a list of my bootlegs,  it's a history of Springsteen's recording and touring history -- I'm including extensive notes on all of the live shows and studio sessions and eventually want to add links to lyrics,  artwork,  photos,  etc.  Yet another project with "grand aspirations" that may take me years to complete...but at least it's started so I can work on it as the mood hits me!