TV Review: The Ties That Bind (2015)

Posted: December 18, 2015 in Documentary, TV

the ties that bind springsteen

Rocker Bruce Springsteen talks about the making of his double album “The River.”

Bruce Springsteen recorded 14 songs and was ready to release an album.  14 songs would have been good enough for most other singer/songwriters, but Springsteen wanted to tell a story and he didn’t think the original songs told it in the right way.  So he scrapped the songs and recorded more and wrote more, until in the end, he had 53 songs, and rejected 33 of them.  Along the way, he decided to make “The River” a double album to give himself more room to share his thoughts and tell his story.  The recording process was downright prehistoric compared to today’s methods, but there was method in his madness there too, Springsteen decided to incorporate more of the live feel of his shows into the music and get away from the stale recording techniques of the 1970’s.  The result is a deeply personal, sometimes autobiographical album, where Springsteen is able to inhabit the voice of the characters he creates and express their doubts and fears of an uncertain future.

Director Thom Zimmy best known for directing 12 episodes of the Wire, and a bunch of Springsteen documentaries gets some rare archival footage of Springsteen and the E-Street Band, but the truly compelling parts of this documentary is listening to Springsteen play the songs, and hearing him play the songs on acoustic guitar, listening to him explain the songs, and understanding what a struggle it was to reject all those songs makes the experience all the more intimate for the viewer.  I’m not even that big a fan of “The Boss” but this documentary made me want to listen to this album.

Of course, there has to be some crass marketing strategy to a documentary like this, and that is the release of a 4 CD 3 DVD collection of all 53 songs that Bruce Springsteen recorded for “The River” album, so if you were just itching to get your hands on the 33 songs that Bruce rejected, now you can hear them all, because where there’s an opportunity to make money, a record company or a movie studio will do just that.  I just wish the documentary was a standalone project, and the unreleased songs had stayed unreleased.  A very good documentary gets cheapened to the level of an infomercial, and that’s a shame.

The Ties That Bind:  Gets bound up in commercialism.


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