The Best Albums of the 1970s: #30: Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on The Edge of Town

The ’70s sometimes get a bad rap: Often these years are remembered as the musical era that brought us disco at its absolute gaudiest. But there was far more going on in the decade than polyester, sequins and cocaine; the 1970s saw the rise of the singer/songwriter, the birth of punk rock, reggae’s infiltration of the mainstream and the long, strange trip led by some of psychedelia’s finest.

In fact, it’s a decade so musically diverse, we had quite a time whittling it down to our top albums. When we polled our staff, interns and writers, over 250 albums received votes, but ultimately these 70 emerged as clear favorites.

Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town-1978
In 1977, Springsteen’s songwriting made a dramatic shift, breaking with his previous romanticism to write with a hard-edged realism and in a populist vernacular about and for the working-class kids he’d grown up with and still saw in his audience. The result was some of the best songs he’d ever write: “The Promised Land,” “Badlands,” “Racing in the Street” and the title track

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. The fact that Springsteen insisted that he could “still believe in the promised land” after all the injustices he’d described created the dramatic tension that drove the record. And the songs blossomed from their overly studied studio versions into liberated and liberating live versions, best represented by the bonus DVD of a Houston show on the 2010 box set, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story.—Geoffrey Himes

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