Chapter & Verse is an odd one. Less of a real record and more of a step by step guide to Springsteen’s long and illustrious career, it’s been released as the companion to The Boss’ new autobiography.
All the old classics are on there, the ones you’re used to hearing pumped out of your family stereo – ‘Born To Run’, ‘The River’, ‘Born In The USA’ and the more modern ‘The Rising’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’. You’d be forgiven for asking, does the world really need another Springsteen compilation album? As a Springsteen aficionado, I’d argue yes. But the main selling point of this album is the inclusion of five previously unreleased songs, by the bands Springsteen dabbled in before forming the infamous E-Street Band.
Operating out of Freehold, New Jersey where Bruce was born, the bands are almost amateur, and the recordings are sometimes poor quality. Still, they’re an insight into the stepping stones of Springsteen’s brand of rock and roll. On The Castille’s songs ‘Baby I and You Can’t Judge a Book By The Cover’, you can barely hear Springsteen’s voice mixing with the other vocalist, but it’s easy to believe the strong jangly guitar work is his.
The early rock ‘n’ roll influence is clear, and the songs emulate icons Bruce has long since cited as his biggest influences – Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown. ‘The Steel Mill’ is another straight rock and roll jaunt, but it’s with the The Bruce Springsteen Band that things get interesting; ‘The Ballad of Jesse James’. It’s undeniably his songwriting, character-driven lyrics, and a more gospel infused tone reminiscent of later cuts like ‘Spirit In The Night’, On ‘Henry Boy‘, Springsteen’s authorial voice is even clearer, a clear pre-runner to ‘Blinded By The Light’.
The album’s a treat for hard-core Springsteen fans who get to pick over his early beginnings, but perhaps has less to offer the casual fan.