On March 31, 1992, Bruce Springsteen released two albums: Human Touch and Lucky Town. The albums were controversial among fans who were upset that he had let go of the E Street Band. Meanwhile, Bruce (or at least his management team and record label) were trying to figure out where his place was in a new pop culture landscape that was increasingly dominated by hard rock, hip-hop and alternative.
Springsteen’s first eight albums — 1973’s Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, 1975’s Born To Run, 1978’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town, 1980’s The River, 1982’s Nebraska, 1984’s Born In The U.S.A. and 1987’s Tunnel Of Love — were all classics. But after the “Tunnel of Love Express” tour, things really started to change: Bruce divorced his wife Julianne Phillips, and he started his relationship with Patti Scialfa. He also parted ways with the E Street Band, and moved from New Jersey to L.A. Clearly, this was a new era.
Human Touch was made up of sessions that he started in ’89 with a very L.A. band: there was E Street keyboardist Roy Bittan, who had also moved to the west coast, in order to get more production gigs. On bass was a pre-American Idol Randy Jackson, an in-demand session player who had recorded and toured with Journey. On drums: Jeff Porcaro of Toto, another session guy whose discography included Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Madonna’s Like A Prayer. It was a tight and professional-sounding album, but it lacked the ambition of his prior LPs and seemed fixated at getting him on VH1 — back then, the channel could be relied on to give middle-aged legends lots of airtime, as long as their music was accessible.
But then Springsteen started working on other sessions with former Steve Miller Band drummer Gary Mallaber; Bruce played most of the other instruments himself. Those sessions took just a few weeks and made up the Lucky Town album. He put together a touring band anchored by Bittan, which lasted from 1992-1993.
Most fans don’t look back at the Human Touch/Lucky Town era fondly, but few would deny there were a bunch great songs from that time. Here, we reimagine the two albums as one streamlined LP: 12 tracks, clocking in at just under 48 minutes. This isn’t a song ranking: we’re imagining what the record might have sounded like with a shorter tracklist and different running order.