Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Ties That Bind: The River Collection” box set

I’ve always considered Bruce Springsteen’s 4th, 5th and 6th studio albums a trilogy of sorts. “Born to Run” is filled with the optimism of youth. Dissatisfied? Get in your made-in-Detroit muscle car and drive! Baby, we were born to run!

With “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a new reality begins to set in. You can drive to another town, but there’s no real escape. It’s more of the same, just like the hometown you tried to shake off your once youthful shoulders.

“The River” finds our hero bent and broken, returning to his hometown to face a half-century of manual labor, in the mold of his father and his father before him. By the end of “The River,” you’re left with a handful of regrets and some lingering love for the family and friends who survived.

“The River” is a bit of a bummer, but it is one glorious bummer.

To mark the 35th anniversary of the debut of “The River,” Springsteen and company have released the box set “The Ties That Bind: The River Collection,” containing four CDs of music and three DVDs of videos.

The first two CDs contain the remastered version of the original two-disc album, the third is the original single disc version of “The River” that Springsteen submitted to Columbia Records, and the fourth disc is filled with songs recorded during “The River” studio sessions that didn’t find their way onto the original release.

The DVDs include the spectacular documentary “The Ties That Bind” and the two-disc video recording of The E Street Band performing in Tempe during The River Tour in 1980.

The documentary is a fascinating look into Springsteen’s songwriting and recording process. During the sessions for “The River” Springsteen was enjoying the most prolific songwriting period of his career, often writing and recording two or three songs in a single day.

It is also interesting to hear him explain why the somber ballads on the album such as “The River,” “Point Blank” and “Wreck on the Highway” were interspersed with lightweight rockers such as “Sherry Baby,” “I Wanna Marry You” and “Two Hearts.” Basically the rockers were there to insure that the live shows during The River Tour didn’t get bogged down with too many ballads such as the wonderful “Independence Day.”

The resulting album was criticized by many as being uneven in tone, especially when compared with the previous two albums, but live shows during The River Tour cemented the E Street Band’s reputation as a well-oiled machine capable of delivering three-and-a-half hours of musical dynamite on any given night.

The CD of songs that were culled from “The River” will provide a source of debate for hardcore Springsteen fans. Some of the songs such as “Roulette” and “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)” have become staples of Springsteen’s live shows, and are as good as anything on “The River.” Others, such as “Mary Lou” and “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own,” probably deserved their place on the cutting room floor.

“The Ties That Bind” seven-disc collection is quite an investment, and probably one where only longtime fans will take the plunge. That said, fans who do take the plunge will be rewarded time and time again.

By Jeff Eason

J-Law’s word

is law in ‘Joy’

Infomercials: they’re always there, even if you don’t see them. Sometimes, you’ll even wake up after falling asleep watching TV and realize the reason why you had dreams about Proactiv is because a celebrity spokesperson has been whispering in your ear all night.

To those who grew up in my generation, the millennials, TV infomercials seem like an echo of the past. I admittedly thought that way, and was blown away after seeing “Joy,” a movie loosely based on inventor and Home Shopping Network regular, Joy Mangano.

“Joy” shows the gritty, and oftentimes hopeless, rise of Joy and what she had to overcome to become the person she had always wanted to be. Joy is portrayed by America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence (the “Hunger Games” series), in what some say is a questionable casting call — I disagree (and so do the folks at the Golden Globes who nominated her for best actress in a comedy/musical).

Joy supports generations of her own family, including her grandma, mother and two children, as well as her ex-husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), who lives in the basement. She’s an airport gate agent, but it’s easy to tell by her vast skill set that she, and everyone around her, feels that her soaring potential is being wasted.

One fateful day, Joy is cleaning up broken glass with a mop when she cuts her hands wringing it out. Between this incident and the hectic mess that is her home life, Joy is inspired to create a new product, the Miracle Mop, which as many of you probably know is self-wringing.

Although Joy has invented an incredibly groundbreaking mop, she has to find a way to get it made, and sold. She asks her father (who is played by Robert DeNiro) if he could ask his wealthy girlfriend Trudy (Isabella Rossellini, TV’s 30 Rock) to invest in the product, and she ultimately does.

Through connections with her ex-husband, Joy pitches her mop to QVC, and from there, the rest is history. Amid betrayal, fraud, lawsuits and more, “Joy” (sort of) tells the story of how Joy Mangano rose to success.

The movie received mixed reviews, and it seems although a lot of the negative reviews cite that the movie doesn’t really follow the true story of Joy Mangano’s life. Upon doing some basic research, you’ll quickly find that there are a few discrepancies between the movie and real life – but writer David O. Russell hadn’t really intended it to be a documentary.

Lawrence told TIME that the movie was only about half inspired by Mangano’s life, while the other half comes from Russell’s own imagination and inspiring women he has known. “Joy” even got the stamp of approval from the protagonist herself.

“Not a doubt in my mind that he would just do everything right, and he did,” Mangano told TIME about Russell’s writing.

The verdict: Personally, I found the film exciting and enthralling. Every minute, you can’t help but root for Joy and despise anyone who acts out against her. This film of a working mother and turned mega-millionaire matriarch is a fun ride that will give you a new appreciation for television-based entrepreneurship.

“Joy” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

By Erika Giovanetti

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