If your were a Bruce Springsteen fan in the 1970’s, there is no way that you would have ever believed that you may one day be reading an article about the Best Bruce Springsteen Box Sets. The man just did not release much material in the 1970’s and even 1980’s. Springsteen was very meticulous with what he released, even though the man had an abundance of outtakes from every recording session. His live shows were chock full of amazing cover versions that deserved to be heard, yet were only presented in the form of bootleg recordings and sparse radio broadcasts. However, time seemed to change his mind over releasing multiple box sets, and we now have a rather nice collection of Bruce Springsteen material to choose from
In 1985, the first Bruce Springsteen box set was released. The Live 1975-85 box set had a significant impact on the growth of a new format called the CD. However many years passed before Springsteen would release another box set, as the artist focused all of his attention on recording new material and maintaining what he believed was artistic integrity and growth. For a while there always seemed to be a sort of “Don’t Look Back,” mentality to Springsteen’s career choices.
Some of Springsteen’s great box sets have focused on expanded additions of individual albums. These releases have been cherished by Springsteen fans as they have presented both audio and video presentations of material from each albums appropriate time periods in a context that clearly presented his frame of mind during those album releases.There are also various other sets that we felt were great additions to the Bruce Springsteen catalog and great presentations of one of rock and roll’s most cherished artists.
The smallest set in our Best Bruce Springsteen Box Sets list was released on October 3, 2006. The set contains one audio CD and one video DVD. The CD contained 18 songs including three that were not on the original CD release. The American Land Edition also contained a DVD featuring a 40 minute behind the scenes documentary and four live performances. Springsteen’s venture into American folk music was a daring career side step that proved once again how commercial success always took a back seat to artistic integrity, creativity and growth.
# 8 – The Essential Bruce Springsteen: 3 CD Limited Edition
The Essential Bruce Springsteen CD release was originally issued as a limited three CD set. It’s the limited edition that we have included here as one of the Best Bruce Springsteen Box Sets. The first two CD’s were basically just a greatest hits package spanning from “Greetings From Asbury Park,” to 2001’s “Live In New York City,” CD. The third CD featured a series of 12 songs that were taken from B sides, movie soundtracks and unreleased outtakes. The 3rd CD of rarities was only included on the original limited 3 CD set. The set is now out of print but can still be found on Amazon and other online retailers. The price on this one changes dramatically from month to month depending on the supply. However, grab this one because the rarities CD is fantastic and Columbia’s Essential Series sounds great.
This wonderful box set which was released in November of 2014 contains the first seven Bruce Springsteen albums in original thin LP style sleeves in the CD format. The box set also features remastered versions of Bruce Springsteen’s first seven albums on CD which are an essential upgrade from the original CD issues in the 1980’s. Over time, many of Springsteen’s earlier efforts like Born To Run, and Darkness on the Edge of Town were already released in box sets containing newly remastered CDs. However, one of Bruce Springsteen’s most loved records entitled The River had always sounded a bit muffled and thin on CD At the time in 2014, The River Box Set had yet to be released, so the Album Collection Box Set presented fans with the first remastered version of The River album on CD. Bruce Springsteen fans had for a long time, rightfully complained about the sound quality on the original River CD. The Album Collection featured a much better sounding River CD than had previously been released. While many of Bruce Springsteen’s other albums had already been remastered on CD in recent reissues, this box set served them all up in a nice and neat package that was priced fair.
Watching the video of a very cleaned up Bruce Springsteen dance on stage to a heavy driven dance oriented groove was quite a shock for hardcore Springsteen fans in 1984. Well, the video wound up becoming one of those historic moments in classic rock history as it featured the unknown star at the time – Courtney Cox. It also set up a trend in which Bruce Springsteen would grab an audience member up on stage to dance with him during his 1980’s concerts.
What we never expected would be a box set of extended dance mixes of the multitude of singles that would be released from the successful Born in the U.S.A .Album. The Box set was only released in the UK and was not easy yo find in the U.S.A.
Now here’s the good news on this one. The 12 singles also contained many early Bruce Springsteen songs that made up the B sides of the extended Born In The U.S.A 12′ records. Any audiophiles would argue correctly that the wider the grooves are on vinyl , the greater the sound quality. 12′ dance records have always been known to offer perhaps the most stunning audio quality because of the size of the record opposed to the short length of the audio tracks. The grooves are wider because the factory only has to fit about 10 minutes of music on a vinyl album side as opposed to 25 minutes. With the inclusion of the studio versions of “Rosalita, Racing in the Street , Sherry Darling,” and the B sides “Pink Cadillac, Jersey Girl (live), Johnny Bye-Bye, Stand On It, and Shut Out The Light,” this box set became a vinyl collectors dream.
# 5 – Live 1975-1985
Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 defined the meaning of the concept of the “Box Set.” First off, it came out in a large 12′ by 12′ hard cardboard box. The set contained a large thick booklet. The set also contained a fold out poster. Every song on the box set had never been released before outside of their studio versions. The set contained rarities, cover versions, and spoken stories. The set also contained a large volume of music. At the time in 1985, people collected music on three formats that included the new CD format, the faltering cassette format, and the vinyl record.
The Live 1975-1985 contained either 3 CDs, 3 cassettes or 5 vinyl records depending on which format was purchased. At the time, the CD issue was the most expensive option.
When the box set was released, lines formed at record stores all around the world. I stood on-line for at least an hour waiting for Crazy Eddies to open up in Smithtown, Long Island. The Box Set was released on a Monday morning early November 1986. It was one of the most eagerly awaited follow ups in classic rock history. It remains to this day one of the most successful box sets ever sold. However, for long time hardcore Springsteen fans, there were many issues based on song selection, song placement, and the edits of some of the classic live performances.
One of the highlights of the 1978 Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour was the ending coda of “Backstreets.” Springsteen’s passionate and heartbreaking cry of betrayal blew away audiences night after night at the end of “Backstreets.” Unfortunately, the Live 1975-1985 Box Set omitted that ending. Springsteen fans were not happy about that one, including this writer. The great instrumental opening to “Prove It All Night,” and the song itself was also not included on the Live Box Set.
The original Born To Run album was never a really great sounding record. There was too much going on sonically for any one instrument to stand out, with of course the exception of Bruce Springsteen’s vocals and Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. Listening to the record, one can hear layers and layers of strings, guitars, bells, drums and backing vocals. Springsteen set out to deliver a Phil Spector wall of sound production quality recording that featured an emotionally charged sound scape as opposed to a sharp clearly defined drums, bass and guitar rock record.
The release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run: 30th Anniversary 3-Disc Set was never really about sound quality, but rather about the two extra bonus discs included besides the remastered version of Born To Run. The set also included two DVDs. The “Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75,” DVD was a full length video concert of one of Bruce Springsteen most legendary shows. The second DVD was entitled “Wings For Wheels: The Making of Born To Run;” which as the title so clearly defines is a wonderful documentary based on the recording of the Born To Run album. The box set also included a 48 page booklet. The inclusion of a complete live 1975 show was something most Bruce Springsteen fans had never expected and clearly defined the Born To Run 30th Anniversary release as one of the greatest Bruce Springsteen Box Sets of all time.
Well now we are just getting started, because if you thought the Born To Run 3 disc set was a mind-blowing presentation of Springsteen’s glorious 1970’s era, than the next two box sets will knock you all way to Greasy Lake. The The Ties That Bind: The River Collection is the most recent Bruce Springsteen Box Set to have been released. It is also sadly the first Springsteen release I did not purchase the first day of release. The reason for that is rather simple; it is very expensive coming in at around 100 dollars. Now that does not stop the set from being classified at least here by us as one of the top 3 Bruce Springsteen Box Sets ever released.
The Ties That Bind: The River Collection Box Set contained 4 CDs, 3 DVDs and a 148 page booklet. The initial officially released 2 CD River album was remastered for the first time on two CDs. The original River album that had been intended to be a single disc is also presented in the box set. This was a heavily booted item that hardcore Springsteen fans had heard or owned for many years, but not in the same sound quality. Also included on the audio side was a separate disc of more River period outtakes.
Hold On, its gets better, the box set also includes an outstanding documentary on the making of the River album. However, the highlight of this amazing box set is the inclusion of a full Bruce Springsteen concert from the River Tour. The concert included was filmed professionally on November 5, 1980 at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. It is unbelievable that this show in this quality has never been officially released. If it was not for the cost of this Box Set, we would have labeled this one as the greatest Bruce Springsteen Box Set of all time. But its price has proven to be an obstacle for many long time fans who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s a shame because it is worth the money, if you have it to spare.
Ask any longtime Bruce fan who has been following Springsteen since the 1970’s to name their favorite Springsteen concert, odds are pretty high that they will choose a show from the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. I saw Springsteen at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the summer of 1978, and I have never seen a rock concert since that will ever top that show.
The release of the Darkness on the Edge of Town Box Set was a spectacular tribute to what was celebrated as the most important year in Springsteen’s career. It was the year when the man broke free and took us all on a ride that would last a lifetime.
The Darkness on the Edge of Town Box Set presented fans with the first remastered CD disc of the original Darkness on the Edge Of Town CD. Darkness always had a great punch to it especially on songs like “Adam Raised a Cane.” The remastered CD sounded incredible.
The Darkness and River sessions helped fuel the bootleg scene of the 80’s and 90’s because of the abundance of outtakes from theses sessions. On the great Darkness on the Edges Of Town Box Set, Springsteen finally delivered those amazing outtakes in a great 2 CD set called The Promise. The Tracks Box Set which we will shortly get to had already presented fans with so many of the outtakes. However, what was not released on Tracks, appeared on the amazing 2 CD outtakes collection called The Promise.
The box set also included three Blu-Ray discs or DVDs depending on the configuration one purchased. The first disc entitled The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, was a brilliant documentary exploring the making of the Darkness On The Edge Of Town album. The second Blu-Ray disc presented a complete live performance of the Darkness on the Edge Of Town album recorded in 2009. The disc also included archival footage from various Darkness era live concerts, band rehearsals and various recording sessions.
And if all of that was not enough, the box set’s crown jewel is a Blu Ray Disc of a complete concert performance from Houston Texas recorded during the Darkness on the Edge Of Town Tour in 1978. There have been so many poor bootleg videos of this tour, so it was unbelievable to finally be presented with a Blu Ray remastered disc of the December 8, 1978 show.
The Darkness on the Edges Of Town Box set also comes with a beautiful hardcover bound 80 page book with a spiral edge.
This one was pretty expensive also, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter as much when it was released almost 7 years ago in 2010. Must be getting old!
# 1 – Tracks Box Set
The Bruce Springsteen collector’s dream box set was released on November 10, 1998. It was released as a 4 CD set containing 66 songs that had never before been officially released by Columbia Records. At least half the box set contained songs that hardcore Springsteen fans recognized from previous live performances and bootleg recordings. However, it was great to finally have clean and great sounding recordings of songs that had we had been enjoying for years on bootlegs.
The great surprise to Tracks was the release of close to twenty songs that had never gotten into the hands of bootleggers. Songs like “Sad Eyes, Dollhouse, and Rockaway the Days,” simply blew away Bruce Springsteen fans. It left us all scratching our heads wondering why Bruce never released these great songs before the box set.
The box set was also released with a large booklet. The original release in 1998 came out in the longbox format. The Tracks box set went out of print and became a highly collectible item. It was re-released in 2013 in a smaller box but still containing all 66 tracks. There were rumors that Bruce was working on a Tracks II Box Set, but it seems as if he has been releasing the material in other projects such as the Darkness on the Edge Of Town and River Deluxe Edition Box Sets.
In choosing our Number One spot on our 9 Best Bruce Springsteen Box Sets, we simply could not ignore the release of 66 unreleased Bruce Springsteen Songs in one sitting. And theses were not thrown away songs. These 66 tracks for the most part were unbelievably well written and recorded selections that were simply killer tracks. Like we said before, it’s amazing that Bruce Springsteen held these songs back from being released. Of course we knew the B sides, but the unreleased outtakes were to die for.
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