Four and a half years after releasing his last album, 1987's Tunnel of Love, Bruce Springsteen is returning to action with not one but two albums of new songs. The albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, will be released simultaneously in the early spring. It is expected that a world tour – Springsteen's first since he disbanded the E Street Band – will start in the U.S. by the summer.
Unlike Guns n' Roses' Use Your Illusion I and II, which were basically two halves of a double album, the Springsteen discs are said to be distinctly separate albums, each with its own character and sound. One source who has heard the LPs described them as "different in sound – but both are rock albums." Thematically, they are said to be related in much the same way that Born in the U.S.A. was related to Nebraska. "Both have reflective material and potential singles," said another source. "What really differentiates them is the point of view of the writing, the perspective Bruce brings to the material."
Human Touch includes fourteen songs recorded at a number of Los Angeles studios, including A&M Studios, in Hollywood. It was produced by Springsteen, manager Jon Landau, Chuck Plotkin and former E Street Band member Roy Bittan. In addition to "Real World," "Soul Driver" and "57 Channels" – all of which Springsteen performed at two 1990 benefits for the Christic Institute at the Shrine Auditorium, in Los Angeles – the album includes "Cross My Heart," "Gloria's Eyes," "With Every Wish," "Roll of the Dice," "All or Nothin' at All," "Man's Job," "I Wish I Were Blind," "Long Goodbye," "Real Man," "Pony Boy" and the title track.
Lucky Town, produced by Springsteen with additional production assistance by Landau, Plotkin and Bittan, is made up of ten songs: "Better Days," "Local Hero," "If I Should Fall Behind," "Leap of Faith," "Big Muddy," "Living Proof," "Book of Dreams," "Souls of the Departed," "My Beautiful Reward" and the title track.
With the exception of "Roll of the Dice" and "Real World," which Springsteen wrote with Bittan, all of the songs were written solely by Springsteen.
Springsteen apparently settled on the musicians for his first post-E Street Band efforts quite painlessly. He initially worked with session drummer Jeff Porcaro on a version of "Viva Las Vegas" that appeared on the Elvis Presley tribute album The Last Temptation of Elvis; things "clicked," according to a source, and Springsteen brought Porcaro back for the Human Touch sessions.
In addition to Porcaro, Springsteen used bassist Randy Jackson and keyboardist Bittan as the core band on Human Touch. Another former E Street Band member, David Sancious, plays some keyboards on the album, and Mark Isham plays trumpet. Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, contributes vocals, as do Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers, Sam Moore of Sam and Dave and Bobby King, who's best known for his work with Ry Cooder.
Springsteen spent more than a year writing and recording Human Touch. His approach to making the album was to write and record a batch of songs, then take a break, then head into the studio again to record another batch. The album, which he began in January 1990, was essentially finished by the spring of 1991, but Springsteen wanted one more song to round it out. Instead of a single song, he composed an entire album's worth, and by last summer he had decided to release them both.
Lucky Town was recorded at Springsteen's home studio, in Los Angeles, in about eight weeks. The core musicians and singers who appear on the album are Bittan, Jackson, Scialfa, drummer Gary Mallaber and vocalists Lisa Lowell and Soozie Tyrell.
With one or two exceptions, Springsteen plays all of the rhythm and lead guitar on both albums. "There is a lot of guitar on the albums," said a source. "A lot of lead guitar, a lot of great guitar."
At press time, cover art hadn't been finalized. Springsteen had participated in a number of photo sessions, including one with Annie Leibovitz, who shot the covers of Born in the U.S.A. and Tunnel of Love. The first single from the albums is expected out by the end of March, and a video was being directed by Meirt Avis, who has worked with U2 and who directed some of the videos from Tunnel of Love. Neither Springsteen's management nor his label, Columbia Records, however, would identify which song had been selected as the single. In fact, security around the project is so tight that one source at Sony Music said Columbia Records president Don Ienner has been using code words when referring to the albums and single so as to prevent media leaks.
It is believed that Springsteen will begin a world tour in the U.S. no later than the summer. Promoters expect Springsteen to play multiple dates at arenas. It is thought that at least some of the musicians who played on the albums will join Springsteen on the road, although one source said Porcaro won't be touring.
Springsteen last toured in 1988, when he and the E Street Band headlined Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! world tour. Since then, he has undergone numerous changes in his personal life. Springsteen and actress Julianne Phillips were divorced in March 1989, and he subsequently married Scialfa. They have had two children, Evan James and Jessica Rae.
This story is from the March 5, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.