The Essential - Overview


In early 2003 Sony Music approached the Springsteen camp requesting that a Springsteen release be part of its Essential series, a group of “best of - anthology” releases from major Sony and affiliate label artists that the company had been marketing (with good commercial results) for several years. Springsteen agreed to be part of the series. Unlike Greatest Hits (1995) or Tracks - 18 Tracks (1998-9), the Essential release does not appear to have involved any associated recording sessions and very little, if any, additional mixing. So Springsteen’s involvement in this project was very minimal, which is evidenced by the fact that Jon Landau is credited as Essential's sole Producer.

The Essential is, at its heart, a two-CD, thirty-track package that culls cornerstone songs from all of Springsteen's original studio albums (up through The Rising), as well as 2001's Live In New York City package. It does not include any recordings from 1986's Live 1975-85 package or 1992's Live Plugged. Essential is geared towards the new or casual Springsteen fan and offers a partially duplicated but slightly broader representation than the earlier Greatest Hits package. The third disc, only available on the regular 2003, and 2008 (3.0 Edition), encompasses an additional twelve recordings of rarities - a mixture of b-sides, charity album releases, movie soundtrack items and previously un-issued studio or live recordings. The bonus CD was not included with some overseas issues, and was also dropped when the set was re-issued in Europe in 2011. Springsteen was the first artist in the Essential series that included such a bonus disc (i.e., the list price of the package is as per a two-CD set, not a three-CD set).

The Essential was reissued on October 16, 2015, this time as a 2-disc set with a radically updated track list, compiling songs from all of Springsteen's studio albums to date plus his Greatest Hits (1995 edition) collection. Not only were tracks from recent albums like Devils & Dust, Magic, Working On A Dream, Wrecking Ball, and High Hopes added, but the set has been revised from the beginning, for instance, swapping "Blinded By the Light" out, and "Growin' Up" in. This is a thoroughly remade set, and it also features remastered tracks not found in that form on other Springsteen releases. But the most notable change from the 2003 issue is the dropping of the bonus third disc which had 12 rare and previously unreleased recordings, now "de-released"? It was described as a "limited edition" bonus disc. Springsteen's involvement in this project was very minimal, which is evidenced by the fact that Jon Landau is credited as Essential's sole Producer.

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