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6. 'Tracks' (1998)
I hear you screaming that this does not officially count as an album, but the 4-CD box set contains too many gems not to include it, including Springsteen’s audition tapes for Columbia. These 66 songs (56 of which had never been released) provide a treasure trove and crash course in all things Springsteen, from his fascination with biblical themes/shame in “Gave It A Name” to rave-ups like “Thundercrack” (which it’s hard to even imagine hearing again without Clarence Clemons) and his most romantic, redemptive songs ever “Happy” and “Back In Your Arms.” It’s worth it for the minor-key, slowed down version of “Born In The U.S.A.” that is much truer in spirit to his intent than the anthem it became. Not just for hardcore fans.