Bruce Springsteen
The Lost Masters I – Alone in Colts Neck (The Complete Nebraska Session)
(Labour of Love 001)

Despite the way clunky title, this is a fantastic boot of Springsteen's bleak Nebraska era, probably his best music ever. The casual listener won't hear all that much difference between this and the actual album, but serious fans will recognize the blessing of having more.

Here's the "Hungry Heart" guy in the era of "Morning Train" and "9 to 5," turning out these very isolated, anxious acoustic folk ballads alone with a guitar and harmonica, besting pretty much anything Dylan ever did. The distant reverb on his vocals drives everything straight to your heart – never before or since has he so successfully captured the emotion of the characters he writes about.

In addition to the Nebraska tracks you already know, there is a nervous, uptempo "Downbound Train," a completely different, bluesier, better "Born in the USA," and a few other outtakes: "Losin' Kind" (very similar to "Highway Patrolman"), the "Pink Cadillac" demo, and "Child Bride."

A couple of seemingly inebriated cover snippets are added as "bonus tracks" ("Dream Baby," "Precious Memories"). Almost Jandek-like, actually.

Springsteen never intended to release this stuff, then one day he realized it was perfect, and there was Nebraska. This is a completely fascinating look behind the curtain.

Review by Sandy Jensen