Having purchased all three Springsteen compilations (original `Greatest Hits', `The Essential...' and later `Greatest Hits`) I have to say that `The Essential Bruce Springsteen' is probably your best bet for your first try of what he has to offer. You get a wide selection of tracks across two CD's that are fairly representative of what his music is like. Any compilation is going to create argument about inclusions and songs left out and I am sad to see `Murder Incorporated' missing for example, but the remaining tracks more than make up for any personal opinions on running order. This album is good because it offers up the obligatory crowd pleasers like 'Born to Run' and 'Born in The U.S.A`. etc, but it also shows some of Bruce's earlier work which is quite folky and less popular, as well as `The Ghost of Tom Joad' (which I love) from the acoustic album of the same name. There is a wide spread of his careers work, as well as the excellent new live tracks from `Live in New York'. The booklet is as good as on all his previous albums and provides all the lyrics and shows how good they actually are. In fact people are often surprised at the depth of his writing if all they are used to is the stadium rockers. This limited edition version has a third disc with rare demo's and outtakes on it and is worth hunting down if you want all his albums or if you want to hear some of his more obscure stuff. There are tracks from various films , as well as live tracks. To be honest some of the songs on the third disc are a bit hit and miss, but `Lift Me Up', `Code of Silence' and the acoustic version of 'Countin' on a Miracle' all stand out and make it worth paying extra for this version. If you are a fan of Bruce then this is a great place to go for a selection of his best tracks in one place and if you are new to his work then this will be the start of one amazing ride!
Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.