11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Promising Grab Bag Filled With Gems,
This review is from: The Promise (Audio CD)
The average hardcore Springsteen fan has been waiting for the Darkness on the Edge of town anniversary box ever since the spectacular Born to Run release five years back. Speculations of what should or should not be included had many of them frothing at the mouth. Imagine the mess some made when the box included (almost) everything that was on their collective wish list (they're a hard to please lot). In all honesty, that box is how these things should be done. Take note Mick Jagger because this one really has the works, a re-master, outtakes, full documentaries and live shows from back in the day. In short no overpriced teasers like on the Exile on Mainstreet boxed set. In comparison the box comes for a very reasonable price to boot. Five stars and then some for the full package.
The problem with the Promise as a single release however is that it doesn't really work as a stand alone album as Springsteen promised it would. In the media blitz Springsteen has referred to the Promise as the album Darkness could have become, implying that the Promise is every bit as good as the classic album he released in '78. Unfortunately that promise fails to some extent. Mind you, the album has some great outtakes and a few very nice alternative versions to songs that made the album, but it doesn't make for a classic like Darkness undeniably is.
Two things prohibit it from being exactly what the promotional push promises. Firstly, while many of these songs are excellent, they are missing the angst and the desperate hope that made Darkness on the Edge off Town so compelling. Second, a lot of the tracks, that could have made this a worthy stand alone album, were released on later albums such as the River and Tracks. Many of whom were of high quality. Not everything on the Promise reaches that same high quality level. Most notably the alternate versions of Factory and Candy's Room, represented here as Come On (let's go tonight) and Candy's Boy. But a few other ballads just kind of drag along as well without ever really sticking. Mostly because they still feel somewhat unfinished. As a result the 21 tracks on the Promise make a somewhat uneven whole. It is a great collection of outtakes, simply not a unified album.
As a collection of outtakes however, there is much to enjoy. The stronger material on the Promise makes this a release that the casual fan could also very much enjoy. In that sense I think it is a commendable and smart move that the material is available outside of the pricier deluxe box. We finally have finished versions of Because the Night and Fire. While both enjoyed better versions by respectively Patti Smith or Robert Gordon you can't help but wonder how big of a hit they could have been for the Boss himself. Similarly with the excellent Talk to Me that went up on South Side Johnny's classic album. For years fans have yearned for Springsteen originals and they do not disappoint.
Among the unknown tracks there are more than a few that would have warranted an official by any other artist. If the album would have been condensed to one disc this would, with some of the earlier released songs such as Point Blank or Sherry Darling thrown in, this would have been a great album by any standard. Springsteen proves with this set of outtakes just how well he could write genre pieces. The British invasion passes briefly on the excellent Outside Looking In, but even more than that this record pays homage to the great American song writers such as Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller and of course Phil Spector. They are represented in gorgeous ballads such as Someday (we'll be together), newly finished pieces like Save My Love or a rave up like Ain't Good Enough for you. Even though the promise never really becomes an actually album with a beginning and end (let alone A side or B side bookends) it certainly is a very enjoyable grab bag of outtakes that most fans will enjoy.The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story (3 CD/3 DVD)