Released on October 17, 1980
01. The Ties That Bind
02. Sherry Darling
03. Jackson Cage
04. Two Hearts
05. Independence Day
06. Hungry Heart
07. Out In The Street
08. Crush On You
09. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
10. I Wanna Marry You
11. The River
01. Point Blank
02. Cadillac Ranch
03. I'm A Rocker
04. Fade Away
05. Stolen Car
07. The Price You Pay
08. Drive All Night
09. Wreck On The Highway
The tour supporting Darkness on the Edge of Town ended in January of 1979. By that April, Springsteen was back in the studio The recording sessions that followed were long, tedious, and often difficult. Bruce had stockpiled dozens of unreleased songs by this time, which made the selection process for The River very complicated.
By the end of 1979, Springsteen had reduced the wealth of material (reportedly over 90 songs) he had down to a ten track album titled The Ties That Bind. It was never released. Instead, almost a year later, Springsteen the perfectionist released The River - a double album with only seven of the original ten songs that were a part of The Ties That Bind. By the time all was said and done, the recording costs for The River surpassed the half-million dollar mark.
"On The River, I would tend to have songs that were kind of celebrations and darker songs next to each other. That was because I didn't know how to combine them. I didn't know how to synthesise it into one song. I knew it was all part of the same picture which is why The River was a double album."
The song The River was actually debuted in September 1979 at Madison Square Garden during the No Nukes concert. One critic wrote, "It was there that Springsteen blew the old guard (CSN, Carly Simon, and James Taylor) away and premiered a new song, The River." Also during this time, Bruce and the E Street Band's concerts went from 90 minutes to three and four hour marathons. Bruce did all he could to forge a bond with his audience and create a sense of community at these shows.
Bruce and the band also finally came back to Europe in 1981 while promoting The River. Called "a rock n' roll salvationist", he left there with a couple of hundred thousand new fans. Bruce had a lot of material to draw on now as well as dozens of cover tunes that also made his live shows famous: Who'll Stop the Rain, I Fought the Law, Trapped, and A Quarter to Three were some of tunes they used to bring down the house.
The River has its share of Springsteen's best and worst works. Later in the 1980s, Roulette (the first song recorded for The River) and Be True were both released as B side singles - both where left off of The River. Even Bruce himself admits that ". . . they would have been better than a couple of the things we threw on there!"
Of course, The River brought us Hungry Heart (originally written by Bruce for the Ramones), which was Springsteen's first hit in the USA (made it to number five on the charts, Born to Run barely hit 30). The Ties That Bind, Two Hearts, Out in the Street, You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch), Cadillac Ranch, Ramrod, and I'm a Rocker still stand up today as vintage Springsteen Rock 'n Roll gems - especially during the live shows. Loose Ends, which didn't make the album but was part of The Ties That Bind, was one of the most popular cuts on the 1998 Tracks box set and a favorite on the Reunion tour.
Then there are the usual Springsteen opuses as well: Independence Day tells the story of Bruce's abiding love for his father and his inability to communicate that affection. A critic once wrote, "The song ebbs and flows on Danny Federici's fluting organ, the delicate acoustic guitar work and Clemons' sax break. But the over-riding image is of a teenage Bruce Springsteen, crouched in his bedroom, alone against the world, while downstairs, his father sits, smoking cigarette after cigarette in the darkness of the kitchen. The two men never talk, they communicate only by shouting at each other about all the bitter divisions that rule their lives and mark out the no man's land which father and son will never get across." One of Springsteen's best works and best studio vocals ever.
The title track is another masterpiece. Springsteen's harmonica add major poignancy to the story, Roy Bittan's piano meanders like moonlight on the water, and lyrics such as "Is a dream alive that don't come true, or is it something worse?" all make The River unforgettable.