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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2014
Is this what Record Store's about then; sweeping together a bunch of second-rate leftovers and packaging them together as some kind of `exclusive'? The fact that these tracks weren't even good enough for High Hopes, which was itself a collection of outtakes, speaks volumes. Springsteen has been an idol of mine since childhood (I'm now 33) and criticism of him doesn't come naturally at all, but I found listening to American Beauty to be a thoroughly disheartening experience. The first three tracks sound like retreads of existing songs - especially the title track, which is musically indistinguishable from 'Frankie Fell in Love' off High Hopes (as Red on Black rightly points out in his review). Mary Mary sounds like a half-baked version of something off Working On A Dream to me, I can't place it - less offensive but pretty nondescript and with a fairly futile string section; it sounds unfinished. The third track, Hurry Up Sundown, is the real nadir; I can't even make it through a full three minutes - dreary, glossy, pumped-up, totally generic and self-consciously 'current'-sounding corporate pop-rock, with Springsteen's vocals subjected to some weird equalising treatment (particularly terrible backing vocals too; as with Mary Mary). Listening to these first three songs provoked in me a host of emotions that I wouldn't normally associate with listening to Springsteen: boredom, frustration, embarrassment. The last song, Hey Blue Eyes, is the only half-decent thing here, a slow, shuffling, (relatively) stripped-back rumination on Iraq, although I'm now wondering whether it's actually all that great or just sounds good compared to the dirge that precedes it: at least it sounds like he tried... but what the hell is going on with the background wailing three minutes in - as with Magic, Working On A Dream, Wrecking Ball, High Hopes: why do all the rough edges have to be polished away and everything be so blown up and embellished with lachrymose studio noodling? For people to give this five stars is a bloody joke. Springsteen needs to take a few years off, find a new producer and come back with something vital to say. Otherwise he risks cheapening a legacy that until recently felt impervious.
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3.5 Stars

"American Beauty" is a brand new EP that has been released by the Boss to coincide with Record Store Day and presents the listener with four "new" songs. Perhaps the term "unreleased songs" makes more sense than "new" since this falls into that scouring of the vaults approach which Springsteen took in terms of this January's full album "High Hopes". Indeed all the songs present on this EP were in the running for that release even though some go back to the earlier "Magic" Sessions

So what of the songs? The title track is clearly a close relative of the "High Hopes" anthem "Frankie fell in Love". It is a sort of "draft" for the song with the same melody but different lyrics. If you love "Frankie" then this track will sail your boat, however it is largely a standard Springsteen rocker and one of those songs that may not be subject to regular inclusion in the live act. Much better is the acoustic "Mary Mary" a charming song with an understated string backing and firm vocals from Springsteen. "Hurry up Sundown" is one of those "wall of sound" productions that is aimed at the onset of summer and the celebration of the working man. As a piece of power pop it is fine but by no means a Springsteen classic. "Hey Blue Eyes" alternatively is head and shoulders above the other EP tracks and is further evidence of Springsteen's continual penchant for holding back great songs. Its purpose is to launch a political pot shot at the Bush era and in particular what Springsteen describes as "a shadow we as a country have yet to emerge from", namely the naked abuse of power that characterised the scandal of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The song is a slow inditement of this dark chapter where Springsteen bitterly concludes with the lyric "Upstairs the landlord is dining here with his criminal friends/Don't worry, they'll have the bags packed and be long gone before the real f***ing begins". This is strong stuff and in this reviewers humble opinion it is better than anything on "High Hopes".

Overall the prospect of any music from the Springsteen "well" is always worth exploring and "American Beauty" will generally please completists with its a two pound price tag. It is Springsteen in a relatively high gear but not really straining the engine. Ultimately there is nothing revelatory to be found here yet the pluses outweigh the minuses and as an outtakes EP this is a genuinely solid set.
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on 28 April 2014
First these 4 tracks are (were) only available to support Record Store Day as a limited 10" or 12" vinyl single for circa £10 - £15 (depending upon where one bought it).

Then less than a week later it is available to legally download, all 4 tracks for £2.07.

All very frustrating for fans who in the end actually want it on a CD.

Record Store Day is a very worthy cause and I can understand the creating of rarities to support the few remaining independent record stores. But the fact is that by then it was already on sale on eBay, by the dozen, at prices well above £15 and also, at the same time, available from many (illegal ?) sites to download.

What was wrong with selling this as a 4 track CD. It's all a bit of a confusing mess.

It would not surprise me if shortly there is a deluxe edition of High Hopes that contains these 4 tracks just to really cheese off hard core fans.

It would be interesting to know what the artists themselves think of all this.

That aside, the music is great and these track would all have fitted nicely on to High Hopes.
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on 27 May 2015
As long as you buy this knowing that these are 4 outtakes from the High Hopes album you won't be disappointed. Those fans complaining that these songs are not that great are not fans at all and shouldn't buy releases like this. Obviously outtakes are not going to be the greatest songs ever, as they would have been released originally and not be outtakes in the first place. Also lets not forget back in the 80s us fans would have killed for him to release some outtakes to save us buying all those bootlegs, so now we are in such times when Bruce does release such material, we should appreciate it and not be so picky and blasé. Finally, lets not forget that outtakes from Bruce are head and shoulders above releases by most other artists. 4 decent songs for genuine fans to buy. Nuff said.
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on 10 April 2015
I had heard this many times digitally but the sound on the vinyl is so much better it's not even funny. three good songs, one great song (the last one, which not-so-coincidently is also the one with several members of the e street band on it).
It's also a 33, not a 45. That's not overly important, but worth noting for people whose high-end decks may not play 45s.
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on 6 April 2016
Good light hearted radio friendly tracks nothing new but good to chill to
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on 15 June 2016
Ep; from Springsteen!
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on 30 June 2014
songs that were left off the last album high hopes.
these would have been the b sides a few years ago.
only available as a pricey 12" or a download.
think of the collectors bruce.
this should have been a cd ep.
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on 4 June 2014
it took a while to get to me , but thats the post office or courier i forget , just glad to get it (3) weeks , the songs are very good , basic Springsteen fair
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on 27 May 2014
Not only are 4 brand new original songs from Bruce ... but are some quite beautiful tunes from the Boss ... and look at that cover !!! it really shows the mood of the EP ... Great
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