Putting Bruce Springsteen's "Party Lights" Into Proper Perspective!

In hyping the December 4th release of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, Bruce Springsteen has released a nifty little video for the tune "Party Lights" and, in doing so, hopes to whet the appetites of Boss fans who somehow remain on the fence at the prospect of shelling out $130  for this 4 CD overview of Springsteen's The River-era output.

Truth be told, what might be more valuable to Bruce fans would be a respectfully remixed version of The River once and for all. After all remastering the original's muddy and compressed mixes will do little to give the tunes their rightful sonic clarity.

Nothing proves this more, in my estimation, than the release of this outtake from the sessions, which boasts a mix that makes it jump out of the speakers. While the song itself is perhaps a little too Byrdsy, and not as Dylan-esque as most Boss fans would like (at least the ones I know), it does paint a different picture of the Boss as an artist who would wind up having this period of his career defined by "Hungry Heart", a song he wrote for The Ramones. Yes, you read that right.

As a song, "Party Lights" is a mature examination of a man wondering aloud if his wife misses the nightlife that was where the two of them first fell in love, but sacrificed for domesticity. It's a sentiment many a husband has pondered and there is a tenderness to Bruce's lyrics that would soon become his hallmark - especially during the Tunnel of Love period - but the song itself is musically derivative and, at the end of the day, on-par with a number of power pop acts whose albums were gathering dust in the bins at around this same time.

Like most of these retrospective box sets tend to do, the outtakes are interesting in a "what could have been" sort of way, but ultimately lead most to believe the artist made the right choice leaving most of the outtakes on the cutting room floor. None of the songs featured on CD 4 (the River outtakes) screams "career-defining hit", but they do shed light on an ambitious artist churning out a great number of songs that would have deemed great if performed by lesser artists, but that's the whole point and proves that the main reason Bruce went on to become a great artist and not merely an also-ran is because The Boss matched their ambition, replicated the recorded results, and then pushed past it in search of something more.

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