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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 November 2010
This is not a rival to Darkness On The Edge Of Town. There's not a track on here that would have improved Springsteen's best ever record. If The Promise had been released in 1978, it would almost certainly have been hailed as a masterpiece, but it would have been a lesser one than what we actually got. But as you listen - if you listen carefully - you really come to appreciate The Boss's creative process, and not least the meticulous attention to detail and the apparent willingness to go all the way back to the drawing board if necessary. The Promise is full of painstakingly produced songs that on close examination don't quite come up to the Springsteen standard, in the main, but still stand as a tribute to his art.

Darkness On The Edge Of Town is, as I've said, Springsteen's best record, and Racing On The Street is the best of the best. The alternative version presented on The Promise is fine in its own right, with added harmonica and a breathtakingly soulful violin break toward the end. But the opening line, with a '32 Ford instead of a '69 Chevy, sounds awkward, and Springsteen seems to stumble a little over the rest of the words in the line, and some of the others later on. It feels raw and unrefined. Not in themselves bad things, but we've been better served by the additional work that went in to the released version, not least the melody from Then He Kissed Me and the more explicit reference to Dancing In The Street. That eventually racing in the street became an alternative to "dying piece by piece" also gave it a much more existential edge than the choice between money and having nothing else to do.

In Candy's Boy, the model for Candy's Room, once more the lyrics stumble somewhat, with each verse opening inexplicably with a redundant "Well", and the music lacks the sexual thrust of Room, with its driving beat and testosterone-charged guitar. That was Rock `n' Roll indeed. Candy's Boy is Rock `n' Roll in the making.

And Come On (Let's Go Out Tonight), an alternate version of The Working Life, is diluted by the opening lines about going out on a date. The originally released version had a much harder edge in being focused on the exigencies of factory employment instead of factory employment being the background story. And again the lyrics sound a little awkward. Nevertheless, musically this track is one of the best on the collection. Where the violin on Racing adds a vaguely country feel, Come On wouldn't be out of place on CMT.

Some of the tracks have the feel of demos, which may explain why the passion is a little half-done on songs later covered by others: Because The Night, infused with feeling by Patti Smith, Fire, made into a pop classic by the Pointer Sisters, and Rendezvous, bequeathed to Gary US Bonds on the excellent On The Line album, produced by The Boss and Miami Steve. The same can't be said for others, though, especially songs like Someday, which is what may have happened had Roy Orbison ever teamed up with Phil Spector, and The Brokenhearted, the possible result had Phil and Big O recorded with a mariachi band. City Of Night is a soul number which could have been done by Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, with Danny Federici channelling Booker T.

The title track itself could also have been called Thunder Road Revisited, although the lights are now all out and there's no sign of Mary. Having talked about escaping the "town full of losers" it seems that reality has caught up, and our hero now drives through "the dead ends and all the bad scenes", and "[cashes] in some dreams". This song is the single best reason to listen to the collection, in line with the mood on Darkness, and the one which would most readily have fitted in with Darkness's other songs, even though the backward reference makes it seem a little retro.

So whilst it's true that The Promise is a lesser work overall than Darkness, it has plenty to recommend it, to the Springsteen aficionado, casual listeners, and students of the zeitgeist.

Finally, it has to be said that the album art is stunning. Dark brooding monochrome desert shots with a black stormy sky in the background together with similarly monochrome shots of The Boss in a rundown house with flaking paintwork. When Eric Meola took those shots he had his eyes on posterity, just as did the creators of the music itself.
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Oh, the agonies of being Bruce Springsteen. You have recorded what many consider one of the best ever rock albums in 1975's high adrenaline anthem laden "Born to Run", you have been proclaimed the "future of rock n roll" and expectations are running at a fever pitch that after a three year lay off compounded by legal disputes you are about to release "Born to Run - part 2". So what do you do? Answer - like all great artists you confound expectations and by doing so release the brooding and primal masterpiece 1978's "Darkness on the edge of town". On it Springsteen combined songs like "Adam raised a Cain" that contained so much raw fury it could have started a war with the sheer unadulterated beauty of other songs like the towering "Racing in the street". In addition with his well-known prolificness, he recorded enough material to literally swamp the 16 track equipment of New York's legendary Record Plant.

The Darkness sessions are now captured in all their glory on a huge box set release and hopefully, Santa's elves have already packed it in a parcel marked "Cardiff". But in the meantime we have the music that got left behind from those sessions captured on this essentially "new" double album "The Promise" and frankly your humble reviewer has died and gone to heaven. This album represents a completely essential addition to the Springsteen canon and must be viewed as one of his great seventies albums albeit over thirty years late. "The Promise" very much prefigures "The River" and is packed full of so many styles from joyous jukebox rock n roll such as the Buddy Holly-like thumping "Outside looking in" and the wonderful soulful Graham Parker sounding "Talk to me". Then we have huge slow Roy Orbison infused poignant ballads such as "The Brokenhearted", the songs which must have been on the reserve list for "Darkness" such "Come on (let's go tonight)" marking Elvis's death and the brilliant title track previously included on "18 tracks".

What other artists other than Dylan have given away brilliant songs as cavalierly as Springsteen? Thus, finally we get to hear his studio versions of the two uber hits "Because the Night" (Patti Smith) and "Fire" (Pointer Sisters). Smith's version of "Because" probably has the edge but then it is one of the most viscerally powerful cover versions ever and Springsteen's does come close (and anyway he wrote the bloody song). "Fire" is a sheer delight stripped of the "pop" of the Pointer Sisters it becomes a sexy rock song full of dirty Clemons sax solos and a brilliant vocal by the Boss. Throughout the E Street Band are tighter than a British bank seeking a deposit from a first time buyer and when it all clicks together on songs like the Roy Bittan piano-driven​ "Spanish eyes" or the redemptive roar of "Gotta get a feeling" it is the musical equivalent of Category 5 hurricane and destroys everything in its wake. It is guaranteed that the sing-along "Ain't good enough for you" will have your smile fixed like the Joker and believing in the redemptive power of rock n roll.

And then there is "Racing in the Street (`78)" and "Someday (we will be together)". The first is a version of the moody ballad filled with latent regret on Darkness which is transformed into a huge piano and a high lonesome harmonica driven "River" style anthem which absolutely laid to me waste when I first played it and it has been on repeat since. It contains one of Springsteen's greatest vocals and shows that the man is touched by the angels. Similarly "Someday" shows that when it comes to doomed romanticism Springsteen has an all encompassing monopoly and hearing this superb song it was like being transported back to those heady days in the seventies when I played his music so much that every member of my family would hum his songs around the house and ask "who is that"?

Unlike the patchy mopping up exercise "Tracks" which had variable quality spread over its 4 disc compilation (although "Thundercrack" is one of the seven wonders of the world) "The Promise" feels like a unified whole. In Springsteen's own words it is a "fully realised piece of work" which shows that he knew precisely what he wanted from "Darkness", an album that would stand as a polar opposite to its predecessor. In doing so however he had to jettison songs of such verve and quality that you can only gasp at his audacity since many artists would lose a limb to pen songs of this depth and strength.

So there you have it, a "promise" delivered. The Boss and the E Street Band at their absolute peak, 21 peerless songs, a great lost work recovered and easily one of the best albums released in 2010. What more do you really want from life?
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2011
I was excited when I heard about this album as 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' is one of my favourite records of all time. When the 'Tracks' box set came out I took the songs from it that were from around the same time and stuck them together on a CD which was almost like creating a lost album (I know, it's a bit sad how obsessive I am about this period in Springsteen's career). So when I heard there were more from the same sessions I was overjoyed.

I saw somewhere, however, that they'd tinkered with the tracks recorded at the time and it certainly sounds that way. Springsteen's voice on some of the songs sounds like it did back in '78, and on others sounds like it does now. There are violins here and there, blended with the sax, which I'm pretty sure weren't in his sound back then, and in parts you can tell where they've tried to merge new production into the old. Which was a little bit disappointing for me.

Having said that, the alternative take on 'Racing in the Street' is interesting and it's great to finally hear a recorded version of 'Because the Night' from the man who wrote it. Other tracks are ok. I had the CD on in the car recently and as background music, without paying a lot of attention to it, I enjoyed it a lot. Lots of tinkling e-street piano over the wall of sound they used to produce back in the day. So it's ok, it's not bad. It just isn't the lost masterpiece I was kind of hoping it would be.
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on 16 November 2010
Its many years since I've bought an album on the day of release but when I saw where this album originated from It was a must and I've not been disappointed Unfortunatelly many of Bruce's recent releases have been at best average but this is Bruce at the pinacle of his creative power

Darkness must be in most peoples top 20 rock albums It stands repeat playing even now. It is incredible to think that something as good as this has been gathering dust I won't go into a detailed analysis of the album as this has alredy been done brilliantlly here

All I can say if you are new to Bruce's earlly work buy Darkness and the Promise together and follow that up with the first three albums and you will capture the essence of 70's rock music
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on 17 October 2016
Really fascinating insight into the songwriting and production process. Springsteen was obviously working up to 'Darkness on the edge of town' but never quite getting what he wanted. This shows how dedicated he was to making the right album - and one that could stand alongside 'Born to run'. I love his original version of 'Because the night' and I actually prefer the version of 'Racing in the street' on here. I'd say that this album is an essential addition to his formidable work in the 70s, when Springsteen still had hunger and fire in his guts. Bruce still has those qualities but if I were him, I think I would be in awe of my recorded output in the 70s!
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on 13 January 2011
Some really good reviews here and I don't want to repeat the fine words said by others. For me, The Promise is work in progress and lacks the finish that takes Darkness on the Edge of town so close to perfection. I guess the best illustration I can find is the second verse of Racing in the Street

The Promise version:
"Well now some guys they do it for the money
Other guys do it 'cause they don't know what else to do
There just ain't nothing left at home
Waking up in a world that somebody else owns"

Darkness version:
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little piece by piece
Some guys get home from work and wash up
And go racing in the street my opinion the best 4 lines anyone's ever written. The tranformation of Candy's Boy which is OK but a bit of a plodder into Candy's Room which is a breathless panic attack of a song is another example. For song writers this is a real treat as you get to see the great man's quality control in action but as a purely musical experience it falls a little short
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on 16 January 2016
Golly if three solid thick slabs of vinyl for sixteen pounds felt like a gift, then the music inside felt even more so.....This is the boss wearing his influences in his own unique way and it's pretty uniformly great.....I think I'll return to it more than the original 'Darkness.....' as it's more soulful but hey I'm getting on in years!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2011
As a Springsteen fan since the Born to Run days, and someone who will regret forever having missed his 1975 Hammersmith Odeon UK debut, this album is, for me, the best thing he has released since Darkness - from whose recording sessions, of course, this material was taken. This just raises the question as to why Darkness was just a single, and not a double, album.

Whilst Bruce has made something of a revival in recent years with great albums in The Rising and Magic, my view is that he has never recaptured the sound (or indeed songwriting quality) of the E Street Band pre-1980. The Promise contains a number of 'famous' Springsteen songs, with great versions of Because The Night, Fire and Talk To Me (on a par with Southside Johnny's superb 1978 version). There are very few weak songs here, and other standouts are Gotta Get That Feeling, Rendezvous, Save My Love, Spanish Eyes and The Little Things (My Baby Does).

Sadly, with the death of Danny Federici and Clarence, I think it unlikely Bruce will hit such peaks again (but here's hoping).
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on 28 January 2016
Couple this with the Tracks 4 cd boxset,and you're doing pretty well on the Bruce unreleased material front.Do I love every single thing?No,I prefer the officially released versions in some instances,but a worthy addition to the fan,and a good close insight into the machinery of music making.
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on 26 January 2016
This vinyl edition really brings the music to life. I previously had the cd and it left me completely indifferent. On vinyl it is a different, much more powerful experience. Much better than I was expecting. Also lovely quiet vinyl surfaces. Highly recommended.
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