Monday, November 15, 2010

Bruce Springsteen- The Promise (Columbia Records)

In 1978, following a hiatus that was brought on by legal wrangling with his former manager, Bruce Springsteen released Darkness on the Edge of Town, after spending a couple of grueling years in the studio grinding out an over-flowing notebook worth of songs.
Not so much a concept album, Darkness is a collection of songs that played out a storytellers thematic thread. The ten tracks that made the final cut, were selected to fit the emotional ride that Springsteen wanted to take listeners on.

What was left in the vault was a collection of songs that became hits for other artists, tracks on later Bruce discs, staples of E Street Band live sets or coveted pieces of audio candy for bootleg collectors.

Twenty-one of those leftovers have been collected and released as a two CD set entitled The Promise and a collectors version The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story which features the two Promise discs; plus the complete Darkness on the Edge of Town CD and three DVDs including the documentary The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town plus a couple of discs worth of mid-to-late seventies live performances culled from a variety of locales.

Gravitating to the familiar is an easy way to wade into The Promise. Even those who aren’t hardcore Springsteen fans will recognize songs like Because the Night, which was a hit for Patti Smith. Springsteen’s original rendition replaces Smith’s plaintive wail with a haunting guitar buried deep in the mix.
While the band’s live version and the Pointer Sister’s cover of Fire tends towards smoldering, this studio version here features a more up tempo, syncopated rhythm. The band’s take on Talk to Me in a note for note recreation of the Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes version.

Less familiar is the reading of Rendezvous, which was covered by Greg Kihn, one of the multitude of pretenders to the mantle of being the next Springsteen. The version here is pure E Street Band, no mistaking the sonic signature.

Listening through the entire song cycle, I’m struck by the fact that while much of what is collected here is good, if not great, much of it would have been out of place on Darkness.After watching the documentary of what went into the recording process it was clear that Springsteen had evolved as an artist to the point where he had a very clear vision of what he was looking for when building the elements that made up the record as a whole.

While it may have originally been left off for the sake of balance, The Promise would have been the song that made the best fit for the overall theme and feel of Darkness.

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