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on 1 December 2012
I wrote this review for Amazon US on 11/18/10. Often I see a comprehensive box set released and it looks so good but I wish I was just a little more interested in the subject album or artist. I didn't have that problem with this one. At 16 years old back in 1978 Darkness On The Edge Of Town was the first serious album I ever bought. Up to then I was buying Aerosmith, Kansas, Rush and the like, didn't own a thing (yet) by Bob, Bruce, Van, Neil etc. Back in those days we all listened to the radio because it was fresh and exciting. WPLJ in New York City was my station. They started playing 4 songs from Darkness constantly (as well as broadcasting the Cleveland '78 show which I taped on my radio shack 8-track stereo - still have the tapes). Carol Miller, an amazing DJ at WPLJ, seemed to have a major crush on Bruce. Soon I was hooked on an artist that would remain in my top 3 to this day.

Darkness is a landmark Bruce album, certainly worthy of the box set treatment. But who would have thought we would get anything like this? Let's break things down:

1. THE PACKAGING
Very different than anything you have seen before. It comes in a large slipcase that is made to look like a worn copy of the album. Inside the slipcase is an actual spiral notebook that is very thick, a reproduction of one of the worn notebooks that Bruce used when creating the album. The 6 discs are spread out inside the contents of the notebook in little envelopes built into the extra thick pages. The notebook will be fascinating to the Bruce fanatic. It has tracklists for different darkness running orders, handwritten lyrics often different than the released songs, pictures and other ephemera. An unusual item that will take a couple enjoyable hours to go through.

2. THE REMASTER
I'm not an audiophile so others can explain this better, but Darkness on cd has always sounded a little dull and lifeless. This release remedies that. Everything sounds fuller and richer, jumps out of the speakers in a way it never did before - without sounding shrill and brittle like some remasters can sound. The actual album was to me one of the lesser reasons for buying this set, but I am very pleased to have this.

3. THE PROMISE - 2 CD'S OF OUTTAKES FROM THE DARKNESS SESSIONS
The Bruce camp has been touting this as sort of the lost album between Born To Run and Darkness. That is marketing and nothing more. This is not in any way a cohesive album of songs anywhere close to those 2 masterpieces. These are outtakes, similar to the Tracks collection and even the many bootleg cd's released over the years. Many of the songs are derivative of other Bruce songs with snippets of melodies and lyrics you will immediately recognize. In my opinion there are only a few that could have been in serious consideration for the album, and almost none that would not have marred the feel and continuity of the finished work. Also the hard truth about this collection is that some of these songs are not that good. Don't get me wrong - they are not bad. But SOME of these songs are merely generic mid tempo rockers and ballads, pretty bland compared to Bruce's best work in this era. It's always exciting to get new Bruce and mediocre Bruce is better than most of what's out there. That being said I can't see myself being drawn to listen to about half the songs on this collection much as the years go by. Of course your mileage may vary. On the flip side there are a good amount of songs that any other artist would have as the centerpiece of their album and never consider holding back. Because The Night, Fire, The Promise and a few others are genuine Springsteen classics and are long overdue for legitimate release. Despite that this set is a bit overhyped it is a welcome addition to Bruce's released work.

On a side note a couple people have commented on these songs being doctored recently with overdubs, etc. I will say that these songs do seem pretty polished and I am curious exactly what was done to them and when. Maybe someone will do an analysis and post it online. I don't think the average fan cares much about this issue but it does seem a little like cheating to me. :-)

4. THE MAKING OF DARKNESS DOCUMENTARY DVD
This is a fascinating documentary, over an hour and a half long, that really gives us a feel of what Bruce and the band went through to create this great work. There is lots of great footage of Bruce and the boys in the studio as well as current commentary. Watching this I begin to understand the commitment that Bruce had to making the finished album conform to his vision. To wade through the 50+ songs (many of them great in their own right but not adhering to the overall theme of Darkness) is an amazing achievement.

5. HOUSTON '78 CONCERT DVD
They call this a Bootleg House Cut. You will enjoy it more if you think of it that way. It was filmed in 1978 for in-house broadcast (probably a little bit down from TV broadcast quality, but really not bad at all). It is not crystal clear, the sound is not pristine but it is nevertheless fantastic and the average Bruce fan will get lost in this. A full 3 hour show of Bruce and The E Street Band at the top of their game. Some of these songs are spine-tingling. I will tell you one thing that I personally like about old footage. It is a pet peeve of mine that modern concerts (Bruce included) are usually filmed with the quick style editing that sees a camera shot change every one and a half seconds. I much prefer the way they used to film things back in 1978. Also, with quite a few bootleg videos from this tour already circulating it is an accomplishment to find something that no one has seen before.

6. THRILL HILL VAULT VIDEO
A few simply filmed in-the-studio songs. Goes well with the documentary. Also 5 live tracks from Phoenix 1978. Like Houston the quality is not perfect, but the performances are stunning.

7. DARKNESS PERFORMED BY CURRENT BAND
Bruce and the band perform the album in the original running order without an audience. I was surprised at how great this is, that this is a vital document and not just a bonus. Of course, after watching the archival footage, the video and audio quality is impressive. This is a focused, passionate, serious performance. No smiles, no distractions. These are 60 year old men whose youth is gone but are still at the top of their game musically. These performances are amazing. I get the sense from Bruce and the band that they know how blessed they are to still play these songs so well with so much weight and so many years behind them, that they know that everything comes to an end eventually. That these days are precious. This set is a perfect bookend in this collection.

I can't think of a more comprehensive, exhaustive look at a single album. And every element works. One can tell that in putting together something of this magnitude that Bruce was very much committed to making this special. Obviously if you are only a marginal Bruce fan this will be overkill. But if you are a longtime fan with affection for this album you will enjoy this for a long time.

Added 7/3/11: As tonight I again watched the 12/13/09 performance of Darkness in its entirety I am reminded what an important document this set is. There is a gravity and mortality that hangs over this incredible performance. Danny is already gone and this is the 2nd to last time Clarence will perform with Bruce and the E Street Band. Every song here is just about perfect, but they played a 10 minute Racing In The Streets that is one for the ages. When Bruce's vocals are done these men - Bruce and Clarence and Roy and Stevie and Max and Garry - continue playing for another 5 minutes. It is as beautiful a piece of music as I will ever hear - men in their twilight mourning and celebrating the passage of all those lost summers.
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on 16 November 2010
One for the committed Springsteen fan, this is like opening Bruce's own notebook for the very first time. I was enthralled by the quality and detail of this release.

Dealing with the packaging first, the costs involved must have been huge. Colour reproductions of Bruce's own notes, lyrics, tapes, notes, album votes and much much more. Aside from listening to the music and watching the DVD's I must have spent the best part of 12 hours so far just reading this material.

Now the CD's. Brilliant. To find 'The Way' as a hidden track was magical - my Daughter had a bootlegged version as she walked away from the altar at her wedding earlier this year. The two CD's containing Darkness out-takes makes the listener understand how hard the job was of selecting tracks for the original vinyl release - what with this material and the other Darkness out-takes already on 'Tracks' there was enough original material for a 4 or 5 vinyl release in 1978.

Then there are other classic bootlegged tracks such as 'One Way Street', Candy's Boy' 'The Fast Song' - these make redundant your vinyl or CD bootlegs.

Finally the DVD's. What can you say about the DVD which contains the original version of 'Something In The Night' from Redbank in 1976? - original slow version only previously available on some poor quality CDR's. Then there is the full concert from 1978; the live recording of Darkness in Asbury Park 2010; the bonus promo material; the DVD that shows Steven was losing his hair in 1976; the DVD showing the making of Darkness.

All in all a fantastic historical document for the Bruce Springsteen 'uber' fan, cheap at twice the price!
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on 15 November 2010
Priceless stuff.....
All of those songs that have only been glimpsed at through bootlegs and word of mouth from live performances through the years. It illustrates how and why springsteen came up with such a radically different 'sound' for Darkness and explains the long agonising process of song selection looking for the set of tracks that told the story he wanted to tell.Some songs are simply outstanding pieces of music while others - as catchy as they are - tell you straight away why they never made the album that springsteen wanted to make..

This set of cd's and dvd's are not an album and dont pretend to be. They're not an 'add on' to Darkness either nor do they replace it. They tell the story of how Darkness was made and why it sounds like it does. At the end of the day springsteen got it right - there are some GREAT songs here but nothing that could be deemed as the great missing song from Darkness. All the songs on Darkness work perfectly with each other and that's why its such a great album - as I said...the man got it right first time but that doesn't make this set anything less than awesome.......
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on 10 January 2011
Others have already commented on the CD's and the live Houston DVD but for me the standard out part of this box set is the live version of Darkness on the Edge of Town. While the arrangements are not radically different from the recorded versions, it's amazing how different it sounds. The older Springsteen brings whole new meanings to the lyrics. A good example is the line "Hey Mister, I ain't a boy, I'm a man", which is transformed from a plea for acceptance on the original to a statement of fact on the DVD. Likewise you can hear the voice of the father in the sons tale of factory life on "Factory". Musically the band remind you just how good they are. Roy Bittan produces one of the great piano solo's on "Racing in the Street", matching the majestic introduction to "Backstreets", and Springsteen himself produces probably his best guitar work, especially on "Adam raised a Cain" and "Streets of Fire". It may seem strange to produce a live version of an album with no audience, but this does allow the band to concentrate on the music and it really pays off. Because people get caught up in the show it is often forgotten just how good this band is live. This is the perfact reminder. If CBS every get round to releasing this on CD, rush out and buy it because this is the perfect testament of both the man and the band.
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on 1 February 2012
When this collection first came out, I wondered if it really was worth the rather high price it was being sold at. After being lucky enough to receive this for my birthday, I can honestly say that it is, and am glad I have it in my collection. The presentation of the CDs and DVDs is excellent, and I love the way the designers have used Bruce's original notebook and presented it in a sturdy slip case. There are also some superb black and white photographs and plenty of reading into the background of the album.
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on 21 October 2011
As a huge Bruce fan, I loved this work, a real treat for the fan. The documentaries are fascinating and very emotional, the 78 concert is a gift for all those fans who were too young at the time, the music is incredible, the quality of the remastering is exceptional. The packaging is innovative and creative, a must have for any Bruce fan, for any intelligent music lover and for any Justin Bieber fan who needs redemption.
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on 18 December 2010
I always was a big Bruce Springsteen fan, and until now i've seen him 41 times at live. Last year (2009) i've seen him 4 times (Rome, Torino, Sevilla and Compostela) during "Working on a Dream Tour" and i really liked the shows (specially Torino and Compostela). When i was told that Bruce was goin to have a new regist in 2010,my first thought was "Oh my god, second Boss work in one year? The man is goin crazy...". Everybody know that Bruce never made too much works in just one year, specially video works, and after the fabulous blu ray "London Calling- Live in Hyde Park", that i got it through Amazon, i was thinking - "Carlos, this year you got a new led tv, a new blu ray, a new theatre sound system, a new Bruce blu ray, so it's enough, you can't waste more money getting more Boss stuff...".
"Darkness on the Edge of Town" always was one of my favourite Bruce albuns, With 11 y.o i already was singing songs like "The Promised Land" or "Streets of Fire". I always was a really bad singer, so my mother closed me in my room to hear Bruce's albuns without making noise around the house (lol").
OK, it's expensive, but the new songs from the cd, the terrific concert of Houston 1978(even considering the poor image quality), the great studio sessions to make "Darkness", and the amazing video and sound quality of the concert in 2009 (where the band plays the entire album of "Darkness" in less than one hour with great style, really impressed me!!
In some songs (like "Something in the Night") i really cried!
Bruce makes part of my life, Bruce makes part of my education, and this work is one of his best jobs ever!! I don't have any doubt to say that it deserves all the money that you waste!
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on 29 December 2011
I cannot describe how wonderfully well this package has been put together, It really is the complete story of how this classic album was conceived.From the writing process to Rehearsals to recording and finally (and only when Bruce was totally happy)the release,Along with this c.d. you also get the promise 2 c.d.set,Which is a classic all by itself,along with a c.d. of out-takes. There are also 3 dvd's which show you how much love and dedication go into making a classic album(I keep refering to this album as a classic because it really is....),The making of Darkness on the Edge of Town is fantastic,The Thrill Hill Vault 1976-1978 live tracks are great and the 2 live concerts ( The 78' Bootleg and the wonderful 2009 intimate concert in which the album is played in it's entirety)show how great these songs sound live and make this package a must for any die hard springsteen fan,Not to mention the binder(which is actually a reproduction of a A4 note book which bruce wrote all the darkness songs in)that house all the disc's which is also fasinating to read-JUST BRILLIANT !!!
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on 15 November 2010
During the 'Making of...' DVD Steve Van Zandt tells how Springsteen could have been one of the great 'pop' songwriters of all time; conversely, Springsteen tells of how he wanted 'Darkness...' to tell a very specific story which meant the 'pop' songs had to go. 'The Promise' proves that Van Zandt was absolutely right. Spector, Orbison, Four Seasons, Crystals, Ronettes - they're all in the mix, and all these 22 songs ('The Way' is hidden at the end of CD2)hit the spot. Best tracks? - good to hear the studio version of 'Because the night', but the standouts for me have to be the superlative 'Someday (we'll be together)', 'One Way Street' and 'Brokenhearted'. Although tomorrow my standouts will be an alternative three songs...it's that good! Lost albums often disappoint...but not this one. I wonder if there are any other lost albums from the ensuing 32 years of his career....?
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on 31 October 2013
As a die hard fan and having seen Bruce and the E Street Band many times I really did enjoy the Promise. I had previously failed to appreciate that this was one of Bruce's favourite albums and the importance of the album at the time for Bruce as he/the band had been away from the recording study for 3 years post Mike Apel split. The making of Darkness on the Edge of Town DVD is superb and gives a real insight into Bruce's song writing approach. It was a real eye opener to see Bruce and the band struggle with his volume of different ideas, versions of song and his search for raw perfection. All the material in the Promise is excellent, the extra songs give you an insight into how different an album Darkness could have been. It was also interesting to see that he had the ideas in 1978 for many of the songs that would later appear on The River and Born in the USA. An amazing singer song writer. The final DVD of the band performing the complete Darkness on the Edge of Town album live at Asbury Park in 2009 is brilliant and one of the best live performance I've seen by the band. This is a must for die-hard fans.
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