Human Touch


Human Touch
Bruce Springsteen
Columbia

Produced by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin, Roy Bittan

Released 31 March 1992

TRACKS

The LP is NOT the primary artefact here. By 1992 CD was in ascendancy, and I bought both the twin albums on CD, so “sides” may be irrelevant.

59 Minutes (And Nothin’ Strong)

It’s 59 minutes long. Too long. Certainly way too long for a quality pressing on a single LP – compare Jefferson Airplane from 1989, also in this series. It’s a classic example of why the sixty minute albums cut for CD in the late 80s and 90s are so often inferior to albums designed at 40 to 45 minutes for vinyl LP.

side oneside two
Human Touch
(Bruce Springsteen)
Real World
(Bruce Springsteen, Roy Bittan)
Soul Driver
(Bruce Springsteen)
All or Nothing At All
(Bruce Springsteen)
57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)
(Bruce Springsteen)
Man’s Job
(Bruce Springsteen)
Cross My Heart
(Sony Boy Williamson / Bruce Springsteen)
I Wish I Were Blind
(Bruce Springsteen)
Gloria’s Eyes
(Bruce Springsteen)
The Long Goodbye
(Bruce Springsteen)
With Every Wish
(Bruce Springsteen)
Real Man
(Bruce Springsteen)
Roll of The Dice
(Bruce Springsteen, Roy Bittan)
Pony Boy
(Trad. Arranged by Bruce Springsteen)
Human Touch, LP Columbia 1992

MUSICIANS

Basic band:

Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar
Roy Bittan – keyboards
Randy Jackson – bass guitar
Jeff Porcaro- drums, percussion

SEE individual tracks for Patti Scialfa, David Sancious, Bobby King, Sam Moore, Bobby Hatfield, Tim Pierce, Michal Fisher, Mark Isham, Ian McLagan, Douglas Lunn, Kurt Wortman

Bruce Springsteen dissolved the E-Street Band in 1989, and to their chagrin, did it by phone. They were lucky; nowadays it would be a text message. In his autobiography, Born to Run, he says he had gotten tired:

There were some bad habits that had taken hold. I felt I’d become not just a friend and employer for some, but also banker and daddy … On the day I called each band member to explain that after years with the same lineup, I wanted to experiment with other musicians.
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run, 2016

Sounds familiar? Cue Robbie Robertson, but Bruce was not going to do a The Last Waltz. Maybe the band members suggested that four hour shows were worth double the normal rate.

Bruce had also left New Jersey for California, not an uncommon move (Dylan, The Band again), but one that caused disgruntled murmuring from the fan base because he was so identified with New Jersey. A few years ago, Ringo Starr was interviewed on TV, and asked if he’d thought of returning to live in Liverpool. His honest but acerbic, ‘You’ve never been to Malibu, have you? There’s no contest,’ caused fury back in his home town.

In LA, Bruce had dinner with E-Street pianist Roy Bittan and went back to admire Bittan’s home studio synth set up, and hear the drum loops and synth guitar lines demonstrated. Bittan had created the backing music for three songs, but no lyrics. Bruce asked for a cassette, went home and phoned Bittan early the next morning to say he’d composed lyrics and melodies for all three.

Bruce has said he was fascinated by West Coast pop and settled to record in Los Angeles with top session players Jeff Porcaro (from Toto) on drums and Randy Jackson (who’d played on three Journey albums) on bass. He also brought in back-up vocalists … Patti Scialfa, Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers, Sam Moore of Sam and Dave and Bobby King, a stalwart of Ry Cooder recordings. Roy Bittan was enlisted as co-producer and keyboard player … on the strict instruction that he’d be using synths, not piano. They demoed several with just the two of them, Springsteen and Bittan.

His writer’s bock cleared away, Bruce turned to cranking out more songs than he could possibly use. Most didn’t survive the editing process, but of the ones that did stick, more than a few bore the mark of psychotherapy, while others had the determinedly upbeat, structured language of self-help books.
Peter James Carlin, Bruce, 2012

Human Touch was recorded between September 1989 and March 1991 and it was due for release in Summer 1991, but was shelved when Springsteen was inspired by the birth of a son to start a whole new series of songs, which became Lucky Town.

The release was unusual, though not unique. Bruce Springsteen released two albums on the same day with co-ordinating sleeves, Human Touch and Lucky Town. Guns ‘n’ Roses had released Use You Illusions I and Use Your Illusions II on the same day in September 1991, and those were both double albums on LP, but they probably thought of the CD version as the basic version.

Bruce’s twins were not a quasi double album. They had been conceived separately, and that was how they met the world. Radio One in the UK declared the release date Bruce Springsteen Day and played the albums all day. I believe most people bought both simultaneously. I did.

Dan Ienner, President, Columbia Records: It would have been tough, and not right, to try to combine them into one. They were so different from one another. And scrapping one, yet again in Bruce’s life, was obviously not the answer, either. So the sense was, Guns ‘n’ Roses had just done it, let’s give it a shot.
Quoted in Peter James Carlin, Bruce, 2012

Lucky Town / Human Touch: two separate albums on the same day, my CDs

I considered choosing both of the twin albums. Initially, Human Touch sold slightly better than Lucky Town, and was rated more highly at first, but in retrospect Lucky Town is easily the better of the two albums. That’s my opinion anyway. In terms of live shows, If I Should Fall Behind from Lucky Town is the most played song of the pair. And the best.

The sales were a million each, so Platinum. Respectable, but the Guns ‘n’ Roses twin album set sold 5.5 million each, and were 7 X Platinum.

CHART:

HUMAN TOUCHLUCKY TOWN
SALES USA1.2 million, Platinum1 million Platinum
SALES UK100,000 Gold100,000 Gold
Billboard USA#2#3
UK chart#1#2
German chart#3#4
Spain chart£1=
  • The pair of albums finished bottom, the least liked, in a 2012 poll of Springsteen fans. This one was below Lucky Town.
  • In Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, neither get a specific mention.
  • In Mojo’s Glory Days Special Issue on Springsteen in 2021, Human Touch gets barely a mention.

So that’s pretty reviled, though on release, Bruce Springsteen was regarded so highly that initial reaction from some was very good indeed. For me, it was the Cahoots syndrome, but more so. Bruce had been on a roll for seventeen years. If the album sounded dull and generic, it had to be that I hadn’t given it enough time. Play it more. Get the subtleties. But it never stuck. I suspect the first reviews thought, ‘If I don’t think it’s good, it’s my fault.’ It wasn’t.

What The Critics Said

The Rolling Stone Album Guide sums up the reassessment. Third edition? Four and a half stars. Fourth edition? Two stars. It’s the reverse of what normally happens with these Reviled! selections. Usually critics re-assess and get more positive as time passes.

It started so well …

Without question, the aesthetic and thematic aims of Human Touch and Lucky Town would have been better realized by a single, more carefully shaped collection that eliminated their half-dozen or so least essential songs. But taken together, the two albums chart the fascinating progress of one of the most compelling artists of our time, a man who has found what he was looking for and who is searching still. ****
Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone, 30 April 1992

It didn’t continue …

Windbag in love, * (That is the entire review)
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide to Albums of the 90s

After scrapping the E Street Band, Springsteen tries to return to the arenas with a band of technically proficient stand-ins. One star *
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, 1992

Shockingly generic … the unfocussed blur of clattering guitar and faceless rhythm sections.
David Browne, Entertainment Weekly, April 1992

 Human Touch is about the worst piece of shit you can imagine coming from a talent on Springsteen’s level, and he must have felt he had to do something to offset the incipient disaster. But why he had to release both albums is as unclear as why it took him five years to make one in the first place. And while the second, Lucky Town, is obviously the superior work, it sounds like what it is–a collection of hurriedly recorded demosHere’s what’s wrong with the record: (1) The cover sucks. (2) Of the 14 tracks, I count one passable Springsteen song, “The Long Goodbye.” The lyrics don’t make much sense, and Springsteen used to give songs like this to Greg Kihn, but it has a bruising musical onslaught that covers up a lot. (3) “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” is a song about TV. The conceit of the song’s climax (“So I bought a .44 Magnum it was solid steel cast / And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast”) is so tired that even Bob Dylan, not exactly a zeitgeist bronco buster these days, used it two years ago. (4) The song “Real World” ends with these lines: I wanna find some answers I wanna ask for some help
Bill Wyman, READ, 9 April 1992

His dismissal of the E-Street Band and the hiring of session professionals was taken as a betrayal – so much so that the albums he made with them, which I think are good, though I prefer the neo-soul of Human Touch to the folk rock of Lucky Town, went for the most part unheard.
Dave Marsh: Two Hearts: The Definitive Biography, 2004

He simultaneously released two heavily-hyped comeback albums, but the songs were lugubrious and out of focus, overplayed by the hack L.A. studio band, and the fans didn’t bite. **
Rob Sheffield, New Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2004

Human Touch is a boring record by a rock star. Its sound is shiny, its lyrics are generic., its songs are often as cliched as their titles … and the band members, such as they are, sound too focused on following instructions (or replicating the demos Springsteen and Bittan had done) to internalize the songsThe shorthand was Human Touch: Bad. Lucky Town: Good.
Jimm Guterman, Runaway American Dream: Listening to Bruce Springsteen, 2005

Working on a Dream” ranks with the forgettable “Human Touch” (1992) as the most underwhelming Springsteen studio release. 
Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, 25 January 2009

The 14 Tracks on Human Touch contain among them the half dozen worst songs Springsteen has recorded.Human Touch is a muddled, uncertain, half-baked answer to a question that has tormented every rock singer who finds himself 40, rich, a husband and a father. After a youth spent selling rebellion, the romantic beatnik life and escape – something which Springsteen did with rarely equalled gusto- what can be left for your muse to live on now that you’re a respected and admired cultural figure, happy, playing with kids, and in love with your wifeHuman Touch is often derided, and generally quite rightly. It is worth dusting off though … with the decent tracks installed on your iPod, your long-neglected copy of Human Touch can be shuttled off to join the uncountable, unsellable secondhand copies that have dogged secondhand record shops these last half dozen years.
Andrew Mueller, Unlucky Twin in Uncut Legends #4: Bruce Springsteen, 2004

Human Touch is an album that should have never been created. It does absolutely nothing for Bruce’s catalogue of music, and only ends up smearing his name through the dust of the country. Without a lyrical focus his work is sub-par and he never manages to fire on all cylinders, despite there being plenty of fuel in the tank. Human Touch was the beginning of a dark era for The Boss, one which would not lighten up until the end of the decade, when he re-united with his E street band, something which he should have done ten years previously.
Sputnik Music, 2013

After reading that, I checked a couple of local stores. Both had secondhand CDs.

What Bruce Springsteen and the rest of the team said

People talk about the records from the early 90s … I joke about it on stage, “I’m told this is my weakest record.” But if you go back to the songs from Human Touch and Lucky Town, I play a lot of them on this tour. The production of Human Touch we didn’t get quite right, I think, but I look at those records, Tunnel of love, Human Touch and Lucky town, and it was me writing personally, talking about relationships and how they were playing. I was also interested in not being “the other guy” at that moment. I wasn’t writing like that for a time. I didn’t have those good songs in me, and the moment you’re trying to write something that conforms to a particular … (tails off)
Mojo, October 2005

OK, but Tunnel of Love towers above the other two.

A lot of it is generic. It was definitely something that I struggled to put together.
Bruce Springsteen, quoted by Andrew Mueller, Uncut Legends #4: Bruce Springsteen

When he played the nearly finished albums for Steve Van Zandt, his ex-bandmate and oldest friend first advised Bruce to trash all the Human Touch recordings and redo them with the E Street Band. “And he might have been right,” Bruce says, “But it just wasn’t something I was in the mood to do at the time. In fact, it was exactly when I was in the mood NOT to do it. But then I played him Lucky Town, and said, “Oh, yeah. That’s more like it.” But van Zandt still couldn’t abide the chilliness he heard in the production of Human Touch. Bruce: “It was outside his self-interest to say that, ’cause he wasn’t in the band at the time. But once again, he said, “Look this’ll be good with the band, this’ll be good the way they play.” And he was probably on the money in that.”
Quoted in Peter James Carlin, Bruce, 2012

He didn’t have a real good vision of where he wanted to go, and the production suffered as a result.
Roy Bittan

The atmosphere was occasionally a little glum, and other times it was exciting. It was a very challenging spot for Bruce to be in. He was trying to make a rock album in this new world without E Street. I think he was taking a lot of time doing the work he was doing and thinking about the work to come.
Jon Landau, co-producer

Side one

Human Touch
+ Patti Scialfa- harmony vocal

The single was twinned with Better Days from Lucky Town in the USA
The UK release had Souls of The Departed from Lucky town on the B-side

Human Touch: Bruce Springsteen, UK single Columbia, 1992
Human Touch: Bruce Springsteen US CD single

CHART:
US Billboard #16
UK #11
Ireland #4
Germany #15
Netherlands #3

There’s a great deal of yelping in the background, as if he’s trying to drive himself on.

Human Touch: official video

There was an official video, Bruce never forgetting the effect of that Dancing In The Dark video. This was the only representative of the album on my in car iPod playlist and where I started this re-assessment. The more I play it now, the less I like it. It’s dull, and the rhythm track cries out for … a human touch.

By this date they were working to build irregularities into drum machine programs to make them sound human, dragging the beat here, pushing it there just so it didn’t sound like a metronome was controlling it. My first thought was that they needed to do the same with an implant to Jeff Porcaro. However, Carlin’s biography Bruce makes it clear that the synth-and-drum loop backdrop pre-dated the arrival of Porcaro and Jackson, so Porcaro was playing to a percussion track most of the time. Hence the occasional breaks to try and embellish it.

Soul Driver
+ David Sancious – Hammond organ
+ Sam Moore- vocals
+ Tim Pierce, second guitar
+ Michael Fisher, percussion

David Sancious had played on the first three E-Street Band records, but had quit in 1974. Tim Pierce is credited with second guitar, but i’d assume lead is Bruce, though the theme must be over-dubbed. I reckon he’s enjoying displaying his lead guitar chops. The bass and drums are already tiring me by track two. I’m not ten minutes in and I’m bored stiff.

I enjoyed the Hammond organ when it finally broke through the insistent guitar, but it was a blessed relief from the monotony, rather than an integral part of the song.

It needs more than Sam Moore on distant backing vocal to be ‘soul’ of any variety, or in Dave Marsh’s terms, ‘neo-soul.’ This has zero to do with ‘soul.’

57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)
+ Bruce Springsteen, bass guitar

gallery: click to enlarge

The second single
CHART
US #68
UK #32
Ireland #26

Version of the 45s had the LP track on side one and Little Steven Mix One on side two.

It starts well, as a change of pace with just bass guitar and drums and the bottom guitar strings. It has a curiously monotonous appeal. However …

The appalling nadir and belief-beggaring choice as a single … a leaden non-event over which Bruce grumbles about the lack of anything good on the telly The songs plodding music reinforces the lyric’s evocation of complacent idleness.
Andrew Mueller, Unlucky Twin in Uncut Legends #4: Bruce Springsteen, 2004

For me too, in the end it’s one of the worst tracks Springsteen has recorded. Why on Earth did he release it as a single? I will admit quoting the title several times, so I guess that stuck in the general consciousness. Even now when One Hundred and Fifty Seven Channels (And Nothin’ on) is nearer reality.

It is a long, long way from Born to Run:

In the day, we sweat it out on the streets
Of a runaway American dream
At night, we ride through mansions of glory
In suicide machines

… to sitting in a La-ZEE-Boy relaxer chair, remote in hand, channel-surfing then complaining that you found the Shopping Channel boring. It comes across as peevish and middle-aged. This is a song with trite lyrics, and the recording doesn’t help.

The problem is this. If it were Randy Newman, you’d know he’s adopting a character with more money than imagination, note the pronunciation of ‘bourgeois.’. How rich is he with his “Japanese car”? Must be a Lexus or an Infiniti. Bruce always had cooler cars than that.

 I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on

Then there’s the ending with the singer blasting the TV with a .44 Magnum, Elvis style. That brings to my mind Mark Germino’s later (and better) Fire In The Land of Grace. But Randy Newman’s ironic aura is missing, leaving us to think it’s only about a character very much like Bruce …

I’d spent some money. Quite a bit actually. We bought a house on a canyon road near Sunset Boulevard. It was luxurious and extravagant and I was ready for some of that.
Bruce Springsteen Born In The USA, 2016

Carlin’s biography calls it ‘a comic blues plaint.’ Bruce never got away with being ironic. Maybe he just seems too sincere. Look at what Reagan and et al perceived of Born in The USA – not that they listened to more than the title line. In his defence, I think and hope that he was adopting a persona.

Cross My Heart
(Sony Boy Williamson / Bruce Springsteen)

The co-credit with Sonny Boy Williamson by Bruce is very generous on Bruce’s part. Has he taken much more than the title and two lines from Sonny Boy’s verse 2:

The first time I crossed my heart
I was by your bedside on my knees
Yes, the first time I crossed my heart
I was by your bedside down on my knees

(Sonny Boy Williamson)

Then it’s not exact. He hasn’t taken the melody or the style, and the rest of the lyric is all Bruce’s. Would that Led Zeppelin and others had been as generous to bluesmen. I know the original well … Down & Out Blues was one of the first blues albums I bought and I played it to death. Yet without reading Bruce’s credit, I wouldn’t have noticed it as the same song.

One of the better tracks for me. Bonus points for integrity.

Then I switched to Sonny Boy’s original song, and the languid walking bass (Willie Dixon) and slightly dragged drums (Fred Below), insistent piano (Otis Spann), and evocative guitars (Robert Lockwood Jnr and Luther Tucker) are in a different league. Try it on YouTube and you’ll see how mechanical and boring that Porcaro / Jackson … and Springsteen … rhythm section sounds in comparison.

On credit for titles, I’ve been listening to Jackson Browne’s The Human Touch this week in between listening to Human Touch for this article. Jackson’s song is superior to Bruce’s in every way.

Gloria’s Eyes

Borrowed Beatles riff at the start. Bruce shouting and echoed. A song that defines generic. A guitar solo that is cliched.

With Every Wish
+ Mark Isham, muted trumpet
+ Douglas Lumm, fretless bass guitar
+ Kurt Wortman, drums, dumbeck

Acoustic guitar! Bruce’s Nebraska voice. Phew, that makes such a change. Then we get a new bass guitarist, a bass player who sounds as if he’s thinking what he’s doing. The trumpet way in the distance. Ethereal synth pipes.The drums are no longer slamming metronomically along. It sounds human!

AND a story lyric too, even if the lines are stilted:

With every wish there comes a curse”
I fell in love with beautiful Doreen
She was the prettiest thing this old town’d ever seen
I courted her and I made her mine
But I grew jealous whenever another man’d
Come walkin’ down the line
And my jealousy made me treat her hard and cruel

Completely atypical of the album. Easily the best track. Having a different set of non-robotic musicians is a major part of it.

Roll of The Dice
(Bruce Springsteen, Roy Bittan)
+ Bobby King, vocals
+ Tim Pierce, second guitar

The most generic sounding Springsteen rocker- glockenspiel and all – on these two albums.
Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone, 30 April 1992

It was what you’d do if you were imitating Bruce and the E Street Band. Show me the way to the stadium. It has a classic Springsteen sound, right down to breaking into an impassioned shout. The intent took me back to the sixties when artists laboured to produce a follow up as close to the previous hit as was humanly possible.

Side two

Real World
(Bruce Springsteen, Roy Bittan)
+ Sam Moore- vocals

There’s a November 1990 performance, accompanying himself on piano. It’s the definitive version of the song. He’s singing better, and the piano is excellent on its own. He must regret the expense of paying others to mess it up later for the LP.

I begin to dread more of Porcaro’s robot drumming, and it’s mixed to far to the front as if the band are standing behind him … a common live fault with over-mic’d drums in the era. It reminded me that Clarence Clemons got his ‘It’s all over now’ phone call in Japan while playing in Ringo Starr’s All Star Band … with three way better drummers than this; Ringo, Levon Helm and Jim Keltner.

Bruce’s vocal is committed, but so it was even more on the solo piano version.

All or Nothin’ At All

All or Nothin’ by The Small Faces was a great rock song. This, on the other hand, is not. It starts with drums only, then adds bass. So relying on the two weakest points in the band.

But when it comes to love there ain’t no doubt
You just ain’t gonna get what you want
With one foot in bed and one foot out
You got to give it all or nothin’ at all

I wish Bruce had covered The Small Faces instead.

Man’s Job
+ Sam Moore- vocals
+ Bobby King, vocals

Man’s Job is another ostentatiously priapic swagger which could feasibly win the heart of its subject only if she’s the sort of woman impressed by how many press-ups her suitors could do.
Andrew Mueller, Uncut Legends #4: Bruce Springsteen

So she’s gone off with someone wimpier and nerdier than the Boss. Lovin’ her is a hand man’s job. Both backing vocalists do well. The guitar is more interesting.

But I’ve got somethin’ in my soul
And I wanna give it up

He is trying to sound soulful, it’s just a pity about the lyric and the rhythm section.

I Wish I Were Blind
+ Bobby Hatfield, vocals

Quick break to listen to Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind. I can only listen to a couple of tracks of this at a time. Ah, back to work, more Streets of Philadelphia in style. An improvement again. She’s still off with another man for the second song in a row. Do I detect a theme? It’s atypically poetic:

I love to see the cottonwood blossom
In the early spring
I love to see the message of love
That the bluebird brings

Bruce ditches the careful grammar in verse two and sings I wish I was blind … perfectly acceptable alternative, and somehow a bit more rock than I wish I were …

It is one of the best vocal performances on the album, and he stretches his range more. Bobby Hatfield comes in after a minute and a half which lifts it. The synth is poured on towards the end.

The Long Goodbye

Ah, must be the last track. Blast! No, it isn’t.

This is a very dull song indeed. No redeeming features. The tendency to yelp is forefront.

Real Man
+ David Sancious – Hammond organ
+ Ian McLagan – Wurlitzer piano

Rolling Stone thought it ‘perilously close to Phil Collins territory.’ I thought, ‘Put your shirt back on, Bruce. We all know about your arm muscles and six pack.’

Real Man is a bellicose declaration of devotion possessed of all the charm of a rutting moose, burdened with trousers-on-fire vocals and Wurlitzers clearly inspired by Rod Stewart.
Andrew Mueller, Uncut Legends #4: Bruce Springsteen

It’s very 90s. I like the combination of Hammond and Wurlitzer. Phil Collins? He would have had a better tune.

I think the lyric is self deprecating. As with 57 channels, Bruce might be aiming for humour, but he doesn’t do credible irony.

Well you can beat on your chest
Hell any monkey can

You got me feeling like a real man

Pony Boy
(Trad. Arranged by Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen – acoustic guitar, harmonica
Patti Scialfa- harmony vocal

A traditional tune, just Bruce and Patti for the kids, presumably. Stands out by being so different. It surely has no means of fitting this album, but is more fun than the rest of it. Ad you can do it better in 2 minutes 15 seconds than you can at his standard 4 to 5 minutes.

OUTTAKES

It is the way of Springsteen to issue outtakes over the years on box sets and B-sides.

OUTTAKES ON TRACKS (1998)

There are said to have been twenty-five tracks recorded for Human Touch. An album’s worth, and most of CD4 of Tracks. When you’ve compiled what you think are the best fourteen songs out of twenty-five, what is left? Stuff that isn’t as good usually … unlike Dylan’s Bootleg Series with their rejected gems, Tracks is mainly songs that were rejected. Was he right?

Line up, basically:
Bruce Springsteen – vocal, guitar, bass guitar
Roy Bittan – keyboards

with others as listed.

Leavin’ Train
Bob Glaub – bass
Jeff Porcaro – drums
Ian McLagan- organ

27 February 1990

Guitar hero. After years of playing rhythm, it must be fun playing lead guitar and rhythm guitar too. Otherwise there’s nothing of interest. Is he backing himself on vocals?

Seven Angels
Shawn Pelton – drums

29 June 1990

Let’s try a Kinks style riff, shall we. The spaces allow the drums to come forward and this guy sounds more real. Otherwise I’d assume everything is Springsteen and Bittan. Better than some of the generic songs, but not by much.

Sad Eyes
Randy Jackson – bass
Jeff Porcaro – drums
David Sancious – keyboards
Michael Fisher- percussion

25 January 1990

A quieter one at the start. The drums are mixed way back at last, bass taking the front position. It helps. . Good keyboard work. He gets to warble on Sad eyes never lie. I prefer it to half or more the album. One he shouldn’t have rejected.

My Lover Man
Bruce Springsteen – keyboards
Jeff Porcaro- drums

Crunchy guitar part. The melody sounds as if it’s being made up as he goes along. I think it was. Dreadful.

4 December 1990

Over The Rise

7 December 1990

Given the credits, probably Bruce on bass. 2 minutes 40 seconds, which reminds me that many of these would work better at the length. The backing is atmospheric , Roy Bittan doing lots of interesting stuff, almost Daniel Lanois. Shame about the melody. Too generic.

When The Lights Go Out
Jeff Porcaro- drums

6 December 1990

Another rumbling bass guitar part from Bruce as the main thing with percussion. A grower. I found it refreshing, but then I like bass guitar. I’d have kept this over several on the album.

Loose Change

31 January 1991

A familiar gentle part. If this is Bruce on bass again, he’s better than Randy Jackson. He should have tracked the bass guitar himself throughout. It’s all about feel. This group is more Lucky Town in style than Human Touch. Haunting. I begin to think that while he dropped these slower gentler tracks in favour of stadium rockers, ihough the E Steet Band, these Tracks songs (which are just the two of them) work better.

Trouble in Paradise
One of the original Roy Bittan melodies.
Randy Jackson – bass
Jeff Porcaro – drums

1 December 1989

This was one of the Bittan tracks that persuaded Bruce to do the album. Lovely bubbling synth part. A most domestic lyric.

Part Man Part Monkey
Omar Hakim – drums
David Sancious – keyboards

January 1990

Omar Hakim on drums and David Sancious on keys, again it would be Bruce on bass with a reggae feel. Yet another better song than several on the album with a better rhythm section.

Goin’ Cali’
Bruce springsteen- keyboards

29 January 1991

A chapter title in Born To Run, his autobiography. The issue.

Spoken voice narrative almost:

So he called up his friends and they said come on out west
It’s a place where a man can really feel his success
So he pulled his heart and soul down off the shelf
Packed them next to the faith that he’d lost in himself

It’s a powerful and interesting lyric too. You could put this as a contrast to 57 Channels:

Now where the Transcontinental dumps into the sea
There’s a bar made up to look like 1963
Girl in the corner eyed him like a hungry dog a bone
As he brushed the desert dust off that Mercedes chrome

To my surprise I conclude that some of the Tracks material would have greatly improved the album.

OTHERS

Viva Las Vegas
(Pomus-Schuman)
B-side
Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003) and on the Honeymoon in Vegas (OST) in 1992,.
He often did it live. The best version of the song ever was by Shawn Colvin on a Doc Pomus tribute album, and on the Big Lebowski OST in 1998, followed by Elvis Presleys original. I don’t like Bruce’s breakneck version. Not at all.

Red Headed Woman
For Patti Scialfa. Often performed live, with a strong version on MTV Unplugged.

I thought he was going to yodel at the start. He can rock better with acoustic guitar on an overtly sexy lyric than he managed with the session band. Another one better than most of Human Touch.

30 Days Out
B-side, on the Leap of Faith CD single (from Lucky Town) in 1992. Nothing of interest and definitely a Human Touch outtake.

Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips
(John & Nancy Cassidy)
Children’s compilation For Our Children (Disney) for Pediatric AIDs. Recorded at the same time as Pony Boy. Good fun, done very well too.

Trouble River

On 18 Tracks

1990
Prominent piano for a change. Typical human Touch in a badway.

All The Way Home
Given to Southside Johnny
Later re-recorded for Devils and Dust. That’s the version online. More of the same.

Secret Garden

Released as a single in 1995.
Wiki attributes it as an outtake from Human Touch. I have my strong doubts in the absence of an earlier version. Done with The E-Street Band in 1995 for Greatest Hits. A very good song
CHART
US #15
US Adult Contemp #5
UK #17
Ireland #1

He had faith in it … it came out again in 1997 with Thunder Road. It was in the film Jerry Maguire. If there was a 1990-92 version, he was mad to sit on it.

OVERALL

When I bought the twin albums, I immediately liked Lucky Town much more. If I Should Fall Behind became almost a mantra … I’d damaged a ligament in my ankle and limped behind on walks for a year. Others have said, the best of both albums would be a considerably improved single album. Perhaps called ‘Human Town’ it might have restored Bruce’s ‘Lucky Touch.’ I disagree. I’d still just take Lucky Town.

Jimmy Guterman asked why the knives were out. He points out that with The Stones and Dylan there was ample precedent for major stars releasing lousy albums, but not with Bruce:

There was no precedent to Human Touch, the first album since his debutwith genuinely not-good songs on it, performed by a crew of frosty studio musicians, who have roughly the same relationship to the E Street Band as the cast of Beatlemania had to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Instead of using the new playes to explore something new, he tried to get them to sound like the E Street Band.
Jimmy Guterman, Runaway American Dream, 2005

Some say it took a decade after that for Bruce to regain his mojo enough to produce material to compare with Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge of Town, The River, Nebraska, Born in The USA and Tunnel of Love. I’ve bought every album. I disagree, I don’t think he’s ever matched any of them again, though Western Stars may be the closest. Then most Shakespeare plays are inferior to Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was obsessed with Born to Run. With Born in the USA, I bought all the 12″ remixes and put them on cassette. I remember a ten day speaking tour in Greece, where three of us had Born In The USA alternating with the remixes on non-stop in the car on cassette, and sang along from Athens to Thessaloniki and back (RIP to Mike, who was driving). Nowadays, whenever I go to the row of Bruce Springsteen CDs, my hand falls on Tunnel of Love first of all instead.

Human Touch? The Emperor has no clothes. He is truly in the altogether.

These albums used digital recording and mixing heavily. In such cases, I see no intrinsic analogue mystery in the LP versions, and I consider the CD the default version, specially as 59 minutes is too long for vinyl.

I usually enjoy writing these Reviled! pieces, or I wouldn’t do them. This one is like Chicago III. The more I listened and worked on this, the less I liked the album. I grew from mild dislike to admitting it is an awful album. That online survey is right. It IS his weakest album by a long way. Truly reviled.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
One Trick Pony – Paul Simon
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)
Human Touch – Bruce Springsteen

And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:

Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

This list will grow steadily

1 thought on “Human Touch

  1. Thanks Mr. Viney for this article. – At the same time I don’t understand what is the meaning of these masochistic articles without an analysis of rock INDUSTRY itself. Bruce Springsteen – from a new Dylan to a global marionnette – could be a perfect example of the disaster.

    Like

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