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'Blood Brothers' on Disc and Video

‘Blood Brothers’ on Disc and Video — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band release an EP and performance footage

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‘Blood Brothers’ on Disc and Video

Watching the in-studio documentary Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Blood Brothers is a little like sitting through the Beatles’ equally unrevealing Let It Be: Occasionally a bit of rehearsal banter sheds light on the creative process, but mostly you’re left wondering why no one’s acknowledging the elephant in the room. Indeed, the E Streeters — briefly reunited by The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Boss — still appear shell-shocked from his breakup of the band in 1989. These January 1995 sessions, to record new tracks for the Greatest Hits package released later that year, represented the band’s first studio time together in 11 years. In the closest the 90-minute video comes to candor, drummer Max Weinberg admits he found the prospect of never playing the old songs again ”extraordinarily depressing.” Organist Danny Federici feigns happiness at being pushed from the nest. Springsteen himself never addresses the subject. You’re left to envision thought balloons over everyone’s head: What the hell were you thinking, Bruce? Shane Fontayne is hot stuff and we’re chopped liver? Wake up, man!

Mindful that few fans would want this puff piece for any reason but the previously unreleased music therein, Springsteen and company have done the honorable thing and issued most of those outtakes on a five-song EP bundled with the videocassette. It’s B-level Springsteen, which is to say, enjoyable any way you slice it. A new version of ”Blood Brothers,” done mostly in the hard-boiled style of ”Murder Incorporated,” bears little resemblance to the lulling crescendo on Hits. On the other hand, an alternate ”Secret Garden” is identical but for a subtle string section and viola finale (a debate over which mix to use comprises the tape’s most interesting segment). Finally, the previously unreleased ”Without You,” with its group-sing chorus, provides the kind of Belmonts flair not heard since ”Out on the Street.” With such irresistible chemistry, is it possible Springsteen’s pendulum might swing back this way post-Tom Joad? Video: C- EP: B