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‘Lucky Touch’? ‘Human Town’? We Cut Bruce Springsteen’s Two 1992 Albums Down to One

Columbia
Columbia

On March 31, 1992, Bruce Springsteen released two albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town. It was similar to what Guns N’ Roses had done six months earlier with the Use Your Illusion records, but while Guns N’ Roses simply split up what could have been a traditional double album into two parts, Springsteen created two separate listening experiences, with different musicians and production approaches.

Human Touch was created with Los Angeles studio pros like drummer Jeff Porcaro and bassist Randy Jackson, and sounded very much like an overthought studio creation. But Springsteen played nearly everything except drums on Lucky Town, and it has a much looser, natural and spontaneous feel to it.

But, as is often the case when an artist spreads his work across two discs, too much of the material is substandard, and would have made for a much more enjoyable single record. As we did with Use Your Illusion, we’ve asked four of our writers to do the editing job that Springsteen should have done. Interestingly, three of them chose the same song to begin and conclude the album. Check out their choices below.

Dave Lifton — For starters, I’ve named the single album Living Proof, after the best song he wrote at the time. Given how much better Lucky Town is than Human Touch, I was surprised to see that my track listing is almost evenly split, with seven of the 12 tracks coming from Lucky Town. That just shows how “Gloria’s Eyes,” “The Long Goodbye” and “Real Man” — a candidate for the worst song he’s ever released — dragged down the rest of Human Touch. Still, “Leap of Faith” came close to replacing “Roll of the Dice,” and “Soul Driver” almost made it solely on the strength of the line “Here’s to our destruction.” Also, in my head, it’s all being performed by the E Street Band, except for “Real World,” which is a solo piano rendition similar to when he premiered it at the Christic Institute shows in 1990.

Side A
1. “Human Touch”
2. “Real World”
3. “Lucky Town”
4. “If I Should Fall Behind”
5. “Local Hero”
6. “Roll of the Dice ”

Side B
1. “Better Days”
2. “Living Proof”
3. “I Wish I Were Blind”
4. “Man’s Job”
5. “Book of Dreams”
6. “My Beautiful Reward”

Michael Gallucci — My first inclination was to divide this new album equally between the two released records: Side A – Human Touch songs, Side B – Lucky Town. But after revisiting Human Touch, I realized why I always considered this one of Springsteen’s weakest albums. So for my revised track listing, only three songs from Human Touch survived: the title track (the album’s best cut by far), the modern blues “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” and the traditional number “Pony Boy,” an effortless antidote to the rest of the overly labored LP. Lucky Town makes up the remainder of this new album, with the relatively loose title track kicking off Side B, and the equally rousing “Better Days” following the album’s “Human Touch” opening. The poignant “My Beautiful Reward,” which ends Lucky Town, also serves as an appropriate closer here too. My 10-track, less-than-40-minutes offering doesn’t exactly salvage these shunned 1992 albums (in truth, a five-song EP is really all you need here), but it skims off the dead weight and tightens up the end result.

Side A
1. “Human Touch”
2. “Better Days”
3. “Living Proof”
4. “Local Hero”
5. “Pony Boy”

Side B
6. “Lucky Town”
7. “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”
8. “Leap of Faith”
9. “If I Should Fall Behind”
10. “My Beautiful Reward”

Debra Filcman — In recent years Springsteen has let us see not only what a masterpiece looks like, but how he shapes one: why he scrapped this chorus, double-dipped on that lyric or whittled more than 70 songs down to a single, laser-focused album. It’s a joy for fans, and especially writers, to observe the editing process. Which is why the double release of Human Touch and Lucky Town stings. What happened to the relentless editor? The thematic genius? I suppose he was busy, falling in and out of love (not necessarily in that order) and starting a family, so here we are. As it happens, Lucky Town is a terrific record on its own — though not his peak performance, and regrettably missing more than half of the E Street Band — with a solid track listing that stays mostly on point. It’s a happy album, on which he finally seems ready to recognize and appreciate his own success, as well as the family life he was building. “The Big Muddy” and “Souls of the Departed” are notable exceptions, and once we remove them and a couple of weaker links, we have room in the mix for Human Touch’s brightest spots like the titular track and “I Wish I Were Blind.” The sequencing progresses thematically from longing and despair to hope and happiness.

Side A
1. “Human Touch”
2. “Man’s Job”
3. “Real World”
4. “I Wish I Were Blind”
5. “Soul Driver”
6. “Roll of the Dice”

Side B
7. “Better Days”
8. “Lucky Town”
9. “If I Should Fall Behind”
10. “Living Proof”
11. “Book of Dreams”
12. “My Beautiful Reward”

Matt Wardlaw — The simultaneous arrival of Human Touch and Lucky Town felt like a really big deal because of how notoriously selective Springsteen is about the material he would release for public consumption. Listening to the two records, it was pretty clear that Springsteen, not surprisingly, had a certain story that he wanted to tell with each album. But in trimming the songs down to a single album, I wanted the first side to end with the lovely “I Wish I Were Blind” and the second side to wrap up with “My Beautiful Reward,” which originally was the closing track on Lucky Town and also the same song that brought the live shows on this tour to an emotional conclusion. For the others, I took things in more of a rock direction over the more introspective songs he wrote at the time.

Side A
“Lucky Town”
“Local Hero”
“Gloria’s Eyes”
“The Long Goodbye”
“All or Nothin’ at All”
“I Wish I Were Blind”

Side B
“Better Days”
“Souls of the Departed”
“Roll of the Dice”
“Leap of Faith”
“My Beautiful Reward”

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