Not long after Springsteen broke up the E Street Band in October 1989, pianist Roy Bittan played Springsteen three instrumental songs he had written, "Roll of the Dice", "Real World", and "Trouble in Paradise". Springsteen later added words to the songs, and liked them to the point where he began writing and recording more songs. With the E Street Band gone - except for Bittan, who played the keyboards and co-produced the album - Springsteen assembled a band of studio musicians in Los Angeles, mostly using the services of Randy Jackson on bass guitar and Jeff Porcaro on drums. A wide variety of background vocalists were used, including Sam Moore, Bobby Hatfield, and Bobby King. Overall, at least 25 or so songs were recorded, but the exact number is unknown.
The album was originally set for a spring-summer 1991 release date, that being pushed back from early 1991, but was once again halted when Springsteen began recording Lucky Town later that year. Springsteen ultimately decided to release Human Touch and Lucky Town on the same day, with Human Touch coming into the world on March 31, 1992- more than 2 years after starting the project.
Human Touch's release was met with a generally mixed critical reception. Allmusic described the album as "generic pop" and "his first that didn't at least aspire to greatness."Rolling Stone gave the album 4 stars and noted that the songs "explore the movement from disenchanted isolation to a willingness to risk love and its attendant traumas again." The review also stated that the title track "stands among Springsteen's best work."
The album is generally disliked by Springsteen fans and in 2012 was ranked last among Springsteen's albums by the online magazine Nerve. Regarding the bad reputation of Human Touch and Lucky Town among his fans Springsteen said: "I tried it [writing happy songs] in the early '90s and it didn't work; the public didn't like it."
Springsteen's first album without the E Street Band featured many outtakes, many of which have been released. A cover of "Viva Las Vegas" was released as a b side and on The Essential Bruce Springsteen, "Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips" was released on a children's album, and "30 Days Out" was also a b side however never released anywhere else. "Part Man, Part Monkey", a track originally recorded during the Tunnel of Love session and performed on that tour, was re-recorded and released as a b side and on the Tracks along with other outtakes such as "Trouble In Paradise", "Sad Eyes", "Leavin' Train", "Seven Angels", "My Lover Man", "When the Light Go Out", "Over the Rise", "Goin' Cali" and "Loose Change". "Trouble River" was released on 18 Tracks. Springsteen also recorded "Red Headed Woman", a sexually explicit tribute to his wife Patti Scialfa and a song performed often eventually being released as a live version on the MTV Unplugged album, "Secret Garden", which would later get re-worked with the a reunited E Street Band in 1995 for Greatest Hits, and "All the Way Home", a song Springsteen gave to Southside Johnny and one that Springsteen would not release until 2005's Devils & Dust album.