"Got To Be a Better Way Home" (Steven Van Zandt) - 3:23
"This Time Baby's Gone for Good" (Steven Van Zandt) - 3:28
"I Played the Fool" (Steven Van Zandt) - 3:29
"Hearts of Stone" (Bruce Springsteen) - 4:31
"Take It Inside" (Steven Van Zandt) - 3:22
"Talk To Me" (Bruce Springsteen) - 4:02
"Next To You" (Steven Van Zandt) - 3:39
"Trapped Again" (Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt) - 4:21
"Light Don't Shine" (Steven Van Zandt) - 4:33
Hearts of Stone is the third album by New Jersey rock–R&B band Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, released in 1978.
Hearts of Stone has been called "the best album Bruce Springsteen never recorded", which is not quite accurate. Springsteen did pen the title track and the radio-friendly "Talk To Me", and is credited along with Southside Johnny Lyon and Steve Van Zandt on "Trapped Again", but Van Zandt takes solo credit for the remaining six tracks. More to the point, this record pointed the way to the kind of music the reincarnated "Little Steven" would begin making in the early 1980s. Van Zandt tapped photographer Frank Stefanko to shoot the album cover art, after meeting Stefanko when they worked together with Springsteen on Darkness on the Edge of Town.
Although hailed by critics, when Johnny severely injured his hand and was unable to tour and promote it, the album did not sell well enough for Epic to renew the Jukes' contract. The group parted ways with its more famous Jersey Shore brethren for the next album, The Jukes, relying on songs written by members of the band.
The first two tracks on Hearts of Stone, the guitar-driven, syncopated raveup "Got To Be a Better Way Home" and the horn-powered "This Time Baby's Gone for Good", are classic Van Zandt compositions, heavily anchored in 60s soul. The bouncy third track belies its lyric; "I Played the Fool" makes very good use of bass and horns to carve a distinctive sound. The title track, Springsteen's main contribution, would perhaps have been a smash hit had it been released by its author, Springsteen. It is soulful, almost wan, as it details the ache of lovers who cannot be together. "Talk To Me", released as a single, provided a bridge to the Jukes' familiar sound from their first two records. It did not make the charts. Pointing the way to the sound they would embrace on their next record, the record's final track, "Light Don't Shine", is light on horns and relies more on detailed guitar, alongside a soft-voiced, reflective Johnny. This song would, ironically, prove to be something of an epitaph.
The Jukes created well-received records after this. However, they were simply not able to crack the national consciousness and sell enough records to justify true star-level backing. They have bounced from label to label in the decades since, and scratch out their existence in little known bars not much higher in stature than the clubs they played on the way up. Their peak was not very high nor very long, but the Jukes, with a little help from their friends, left this one brilliant document to make sure that their contribution to the music of the Jersey Shore would not be forgotten. This would be the Jukes' last album with Van Zandt, who departed shortly after its release to join The E Street Band full-time, until 1991's Better Days where he and Springsteen would rejoin Southside Johnny on many of the tracks.
In 1987 Rolling Stone voted Hearts of Stone among the top 100 albums from 1967—1987 (#92). In 2000, the New York Times numbered it among the best albums the band had released, along with debut I Don't Want To Go Home, Reach Up and Touch the Sky and At Least We Got Shoes. Jon Bon Jovi claims that the title track, "Hearts of Stone", was the inspiration for his song "Never Say Goodbye".