Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition of American Babylon (the Houserockers album produced by Bruce Springsteen in 1995) is a two-disc 2021 reissue adding bonus demos and live tracks.
From the Cleveland Int'l label, a special archival release for any fan of Springsteen and/or Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers: an expanded 2CD Anniversary edition of their first studio collaboration, 1995's American Babylon.
Long a fixture on the Pittsburgh music scene, originally fronting the Iron City Houserockers, Grushecky is the son of a coal miner whose "day job" is in special education. He has become a legend among heartland rockers. His loyal following is testimony to his down-to-earth approach and honesty as a songwriter, bandleader, and performer since the 1970s.
American Babylon, first issued in 1995, was produced by Bruce Springsteen whose friendship with Grushecky predates the album's sessions and has endured in the intervening decades. The new 2CD set offers 27 tracks, including the album's original 12 selections among which are "Chain Smokin'," "Only Lovers Left Alive," "What Did You Do In the War" and two songs co-written with Springsteen: "Homestead" and "Dark and Bloody Ground."
Original demo recordings of "Chain Smokin'," Never Be Enough Time," and "Only Lovers Left Alive," never previously released, round out the first disc.
A 13-track second disc documents live performances recorded at Nick's Fat City in Pittsburgh during the Houserockers' legendary "October Assault" tour with Springsteen, which launched the album that month in 1995. Joe and the band, with Bruce as an "honorary Houserocker" on guitar, performed not only in Grushecky's hometown but also in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Asbury Park as well.
Captured here, Springsteen is on eight of the album's tracks performed live, and sings on "Light of Day," his own song, as well as on the Chuck Berry version of "Down the Road Apiece," the album's closer. One track featured on the live disc that is not part of the American Babylon tune stack is "Pumping Iron," a fan favorite from the Iron City Houserockers' 1980 Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive album.
On the topic of collaborative songwriting, Grushecky commented to Rolling Stone, "It's a great thing for me to write with a talent like Bruce who is obviously one of the greats. I think that in a quiet way it sort of says something about my writing ability."
"As the leader of the Pittsburgh-based Iron City Houserockers," Rolling Stone's Andy Greene wrote recently, "Joe Grushecky hammered out four heartland rock albums in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These won over more critics than fans, so he became a special education teacher to support his family. Still, he maintained a close friendship with Bruce Springsteen, and in 1995, they teamed up for American Babylon. The two remain tight and play together at least once a year, but this album remains their greatest joint accomplishment."
The collaboration was not pre-planned and came about quite organically. Joe recalls, "I was thinking about making a new record and had a couple songs written. My wife suggested, 'Why don't you ask Bruce to play?' I hemmed and hawed for a while and finally we got in touch. It sort of just took on a life of its own. It was fun working with Bruce; he added little twists and turns that I wouldn't have come up with on my own, which made the record a lot of fun to do musically. Once we got together, it just seemed like we were real sure of what we were doing. There wasn't a lot of second-guessing and pulling your hair, thinking, 'Is this good?" We just sort of went in and did it in a very relaxed atmosphere, so it was fun."
Two-CD set in tri-fold digipak. A vinyl LP set is planned for March 2022.
Disc 1: The American Babylon Album
1. Dark and Bloody Ground
2. Chain Smokin'
3. Never Be Enough Time
4. American Babylon
5. Labor of Love
6. What Did You Do in the War
8. Comin' Down Maria
9. Talk Show
10. No Strings Attached
11. Billy's Waltz
12. Only Lovers Left Alive
Disc 1: Bonus Tracks
13. Chain Smokin' (demo)
14. Never Be Enough Time (demo)
15. Only Lovers Left Alive (demo)
Disc 2: Recorded Live at Nick's Fat City, Pittsburgh, PA October 1995
1. No Strings Attached
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
3. Bruce Springsteen Intro
4. What Did You Do in the War (with Springsteen)
5. Chain Smokin' (with Springsteen)
6. Labor of Love (with Springsteen)
7. Never Be Enough Time (with Springsteen)
8. Dark and Bloody Ground (with Springsteen)
9. Pumping Iron (with Springsteen)
10. Homestead (with Springsteen)
11. American Babylon (with Springsteen)
12. Light of Day (featuring Springsteen)
13. Down the Road Apiece (featuring Springsteen)