I became a fan of Bruce's music because of his brilliance as a latter-day rock'n'roll singer, exemplified best on his classic album, Born in the USA. I was therefore somewhat doubtful when I learned that this album was very different with none of the hard rocking songs I'd come to expect from him (although some songs get close, notably Spare parts). Nevertheless, there is a lot to like about this album, which reflects the difficulties he was having in his personal life - he was heading for divorce - during the period he was creating this album. As usual, Bruce wrote all the songs by himself.
One of the more upbeat songs here (compared to the rest of the album) is All that heaven will allow, which was later covered by the Mavericks. This song exactly suited their style and I prefer their version although I also enjoy hearing Bruce sing it. Another song that I became familiar with via a cover is Tougher than the rest, a song of defiance in the face of adversity, which has been covered by Emmylou Harris.
The set open with Ain't got you, which Bruce starts singing unaccompanied, although the musicians join in eventually. Spare parts, a tragic tale about a woman who gets pregnant only for her man to desert her, has a driving rock beat to disguise the sadness. Bruce pays tribute to his father in Walk like a man. Most of the other songs are love stories, generally sad.
In its way, this is a great album, but Born in the USA remains my favorite of Bruce's, with The River second. If you are new to Bruce's music, this is not the best starting point - however, it is a fascinating album that shows a different side to him. No self-respecting fan of Bruce's music should overlook this album.