It is fair to warn you that when it comes to early Springsteen recordings, from the period '74 to '77, I'm a bit biased. I love those shows with a vengeance. Springsteen as an artists was still trying to find his groove, the E-Street Band wasn't set in stone yet. Especially in '74 and '75 in the months going up to the Born To Run album exiting things were happening. Tracing the bootlegs from that period you can slowly see how the songs of that land mark album are taking shape. Some might even say that this is Springsteen's peak as a song writer. Though I do not agree with that assessment it is certainly a period where Springsteen wrote his most romantic street scenes in his own brand of verbose beat poetry. You could see the cosmic kid growing up before your eyes.
The Kivak master series have been a blessing if only for that reason. "From The Churches To The Jails" is now available through Jungleland. Like many of the tapes Mister Anonymous provided to Joe Kivak the sound quality leaves somewhat to be desired. "From The Churches" is an audience recording with a hopelessly muffled sound suffering from the echo of the venue. The drums often sound flat and the various instruments leak into each other. But the show is absolutely amazing.
The set opens with a haunting "Incident on 57th" street, Springsteen backed with Suki's lonely violin and some spare piano. Enough to get you sold. But it doesn't stop there, the show also sees the debut of Springsteen's version of Dylan's "I Want You" and has an early study of "Jungleland" where Clarence's epic solo is still missing. "New York City Serenade" here is able to compete with the definitive version of all time although you could argue that Max's drumming misses a certain swing the song needs. The show closes with a trailblazing encore made up from three cover songs amongst which "A Love So Fine" and "Wear My Ring (around your neck)". It's in those encores and "NYC Serenade" though where this boot becomes frustrating to listen to at times. Though there are moments where the music carries you away and you forget the mud and hiss, there are just as many moments where you'll find yourself cursing the sound. In essential moments in the show Springsteen isn't allowed to fly. And that's a shame, because even though his land mark songs are missing, this is a stellar show!. Kivak created Fanatic records for these releases, but I'd say that this is a must have recording for anybody who enjoys the '74 shows despite the frustrating sound. I applaud Mister Anonymous and Joe Kivak for all the effort they put in this series.
Download the complete show in mp3 format here.
Sound: 2,5 out of 5
Show: 4,5 out 0f 5
Artwork: 3 out of 5