Released in 1980, The River arrived at the halfway point between Springsteen's initial burst of critical acclaim and his rise to stadium-filling superstardom. No surprise, then, that the sweeping double album finds Jersey's favorite son striking a near-perfect balance among his various personas: rambunctious rocker, clear-eyed folkie, and catchy pop singer. "Hungry Heart," his first Top 10 hit, has an appealing '60s-style pop sound that was among the lightest fare the Boss had delivered to date (although the lyrics show more resignation than hope). Yet The River also includes some of Springsteen's most touching and vivid ballads: "Independence Day," "Stolen Car," "Drive All Night," and "Wreck on the Highway" among them. Best of all is the title track, a quintessential Springsteen reflection that traces a relationship from its youthful carefree days to the grind of sobering familial responsibilities. Though peppered with irresistibly lighthearted ditties, the album shines brightest when the Boss sticks with his proven subject - real people with real problems.