David Browne
November 21, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Essential Bruce Springsteen

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Bruce Springsteen
genre
Rock

We gave it an A-

How to lure fans who already own 1995’s ”Greatest Hits” into buying another, more expansive Bruce anthology? Tag on a limited-edition bonus disc of rarities dating back to ’79. Sounds cynical, but guess what? The Essential Bruce Springsteen is less bloated and more rewarding than the ’98 outtakes box, ”Tracks.” The frenetic ”Held Up Without a Gun,” the troubled ”Missing,” the wistful ”County Fair,” and the Asbury Park reminiscence ”None but the Brave” deserved rescue from the vaults. Except for a few duds (the field-holler version of ”Countin’ on a Miracle”), disc 3 is as engaging a ride as any through Springsteen’s ’80s peaks, ’90s valleys, and current rebirth.

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