Bruce Springsteen – The Promise

written by: November 12, 2010
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise album artwork Release Date: November 16, 2010


The Boss has never been a concise individual. His 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was deemed a commercial failure upon its release, due in large part to following the 1975 breakthrough Born to Run. It was an unfortunate circumstance considering, Darkness on the Edge may be Springsteen’s most well-crafted album from start to finish.

With the release of The Promise, listeners hear Darkness on the Edge finally receiving the appreciation it has always deserved. Several different packages coincide with the release (a vinyl box set, a multi-DVD/CD release, etc.) that appeal to casual listeners and die-hard fans alike. While the remastered album serves as a nice touch-up, the appeal to long-time listeners is the inclusion of 21 previously unreleased takes from the Darkness on the Edge sessions.

The unreleased material opens with a familiar yet slightly different bang. “Racing in the Streets (’78)” is a reworked version of the classic “Racing in the Streets,” and it somehow outdoes the original.

Springsteen’s vocals are more visceral and Boss-like than on the album version, while the E-Street Band’s presence is amplified with dense layers of instrumentation.

While the original version fits with the album’s tone perfectly, it is this version that proves to be the better stand-alone track.

Other familiar, slightly different, faces pop up during the course of The Promise. “Candy’s Boy” is an alternate version of “Candy’s Room” that bares almost no resemblance, save for lyrics in the first verse of each song. Later in the collection there is the utterly eerie “Spanish Eyes,” which didn’t see a proper release until the 1984 commercial success Born in the U.S.A., where it was reworked into the pedophilia infused “I’m on Fire.”

In both tracks, the lines “Hey, little girl is your daddy home?/Did he go and leave you all alone?” are equally as unsettling, but given the increased musical and lyrical duration of “Spanish Eyes,” Springsteen is able to expound upon his deepest, most unnatural fantasies in greater detail. It’s an interesting version of a song that would become one of Springsteen’s best.

The content that wasn’t reused later displays both Springsteen’s songwriting capabilities and the E-Street Band’s versatility. “Save My Love” is a straightforward rocker that hints at what was to come on The River, and stands alongside that album’s strongest offerings. “Ain’t Good Enough For You” is a soul-infused track that is great in the hands of Springsteen, and could have found a home on any Sam Cooke album.

The Promise shows Bruce on top of his game for most of the collection, but there are a few huge mistakes.

“Someday (We’ll Be Together)” boasts an overused choir that is reminiscent of an old Gospel hymn, but is overly redundant and lacks a payoff. Songs such as “Rendezvous” and “Breakaway” never get moving and lazily dredge their course with little reward.

The Promise is an arduous listen, due in large part to its staggering amount of content, but it is well worth the effort. While not every track is essential, it is a great companion piece to one of Springsteen’s best works. There are enough stand-alone gems and truly interesting alternate versions to make it a worthy addition for even the most casual Springsteen fan.

The Promise Tracklisting

[Disc 1]

  1. Racing In The Street (’78)
  2. Gotta Get That Feeling
  3. Outside Looking In
  4. Someday (We’ll Be Together)
  5. One Way Street
  6. Because The Night
  7. Wrong Side Of The Street
  8. The Brokenhearted
  9. Rendezvous
  10. Candy’s Boy

[Disc 2]

  1. Save My Love
  2. Ain’t Good Enough For You
  3. Fire
  4. Spanish Eyes
  5. It’s A Shame
  6. Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)
  7. Talk To Me
  8. The Little Things (My Baby Does)
  9. Breakaway
  10. The Promise
  11. City Of Night