Sound — 6
The Boss's raw and wordy debut is one herald that delivered on its promise of coming greatness. Lead-off track "Blinded By The Light" is quite funkier and looser than the omnipresent Manfred Mann cover classic rock radio listeners are familiar with. I cringe even mentioning the blatant Van Morrison influence, as it's been beat to death over the years, but there are worse folks to pay homage to, and certainly worse homages to hear. "Growing Up" is a nostalgic slice of Americana which, a decade later, he'd be the undisputed king of. Evocative guitar strumming and tentative harmonica weave "Mary Queen Of Arkansas", a lovely acoustic faux-Irish ballad, which is the album's first out-of-the-park home run. That home run, however, leads to a foul tip with "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?", a filler track not much different than "Blinded..." save for being not as good. The album quickly recovers with "Lost In The Flood" a sparse ballad in the truest sense of the word, a narrative told atop building organ tones and sung with nuance and emotion. Usually two back-to-back ballads grind an album's momentum to a halt, but "The Angel" - an ethereal, melancholy piano and vocals number - takes flight, carrying the album to greater, more resonant, heights. "For You" picks the pace back up a bit, while then-local radio hit "Spirit In The Night" is rife with the type of saxophone flourishes and casual call-and-response chorus that epitomized his early bar band sound. The album closes with "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City", its jazzy interplay and stream-of-consciousness vocals evokes Steely Dan while remaining more Sears than cerebral.
Lyrics — 7
Verbose, thy name is young Springsteen. The wordplay can be too clever by half and overwhelming to some listeners no matter how passionately and earnestly our blue collar bard delivers it, yet props must be given to the man for pole vaulting over the triteness of standard issue rock/pop lyrics and landing somewhere between Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. On a side note: One rarely, if ever, hears Springsteen acknowledged by fellow guitarists. While, yes, his Olympian songwriting clearly overshadows mere instrumental prowess, The Boss can and does deftly handle a wide variety of guitar styles - as well as other instruments - herein.
Overall Impression — 6
"Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J." is far from flawless, but it was the caterpillar from which "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" became the chrysalis that the monstrous "Born To Run" emerged from, so it deserves an occasional spin as a historical touchstone.