Bruce Springsteen surprised fans when he slinked in like a spirit in the night to check out a New Jersey listening party previewing his upcoming box set, Bruce Springsteen: The Album Collection Vol. 1 1973-1984.
The Boss snuck his way in through the back entrance of Jack’s Music Shoppe in Red Bank (which was famously featured in Jersey-born director Kevin Smith‘s 1997 film Chasing Amy) on Sept. 24, the same day Springsteen filmmaker Thom Zimny was shooting footage to preview the album.
Kevin Farrell, a contributor to SiriusXM’s E Street Radio, was in the crowd of Springsteen enthusiasts when he caught a glimpse of the rocker in the back of the room.
“I was answering a question and everyone was staring at me, and I thought, ‘What’s wrong?'” Farrell told the Asbury Park Press. “I looked behind me, and all of a sudden there he was. He was listening without us being aware of it.”
And just like that, like the “Ghost of Tom Joad,” he was gone.
“It was a shocking surprise,” Farrell said. “It added to the magic of the whole day.”
The box set, set for release Nov. 17 on Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings, comes just in time to provide fans of the rocker with some Christmas cheer. Each of his first seven albums — Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. (1973), The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle (1973); Born to Run (1975); Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978); The River (1980); Nebraska (1982) and Born in the U.S.A. (1984) — has been remastered on both CD and vinyl by engineers Bob Ludwig and Toby Scott, along with Springsteen.
“The sonic difference in the new records is where the early records really shine,” Scott explained in a new video. “The sparse arrangements allow you to hear every one of the instruments with a quality and a visibility … that you did not have the chance to hear before.”
Additionally, a 60-page book with photos, clippings and memorabilia is included to give fans a more intimate glimpse into the records and the period in which they were released.
Fans at the listening party took sort of a Pepsi Challenge listening to the old records and the new offerings back-to-back, and praised the new-and-improved sound of the albums, which they said brought a warmth and intimacy to the recordings.
“You hear vocal patterns that you’d never heard before,” said Tom Cunningham, who hosts The Bruce Bunch on 105.7 The Hawk every Sunday at the Jersey Shore, about the new sound on The River. “This was always a highly produced album, obviously, and then you get the subtlety that was going on in the studio. Pretty incredible.”
“The old recordings are so flat, and the new recordings have a depth to them. … You hear the instrumentation. It’s so clear,” said one fan.
“The clarity is remarkable,” said another, who added that you can hear individual guitar strings, handclaps, percussion and piano.
The price lists $84.98 for the CD version, $199.99 for vinyl and $49.99 for digital.
Springsteen has been a regular around Red Bank this month. He was spotted with his wife, Patti Scialfa, paying a parking meter while local Springsteen tour guide Stan Goldstein was hosting fans from the United Kingdom.
Wife Scialfa also Instagrammed an adorable picture of the couple pumpkin-picking in Colts Neck, as well as the couple’s outing on Oct. 27 to check out Sting‘s play, The Last Ship, on Broadway.
Springsteen’s next stop is at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 5 for the eight annual Stand Up for Heroes concert.