The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story
3 CD, Box Set
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"Darkness was my 'samurai' record," Springsteen writes, "stripped to the frame and ready to rumble.” But the music that got left behind was substantial.
This extraordinary deluxe package comprises nearly six hours of film and more than two hours of audio across 3 CDs and 3 DVDs. It comes with an 80-page notebook containing facsimiles from Springsteen's original notebooks from the recording sessions, which include alternate lyrics, song ideas, recording details, and personal notes in addition to a new essay by Springsteen on the album and never-before-seen photographs.
The Deluxe Package also features The Promise: The Making of "Darkness" on the Edge of Town, a documentary directed by Grammy- and Emmy-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny. The ninety-minute film combines never-before-seen footage of Springsteen and the E Street Band shot between 1976 and 1978, including home rehearsals and studio sessions with new interviews with Springsteen, E Street Band members, manager Jon Landau, former-manager Mike Appel, and others closely involved in the making of the record.
In addition, the set features more than four hours of live concert film from the Thrill Hill Vault, including the bootleg house cut (the footage that appeared on-screen at the concert) from a 1978 Houston show, and a 2009 performance of Darkness on the Edge of Town in its entirety from Asbury Park. The special performance in Asbury Park was shot in HD without an audience and successfully recreates the stark atmosphere of the original album.
The Deluxe Package also includes Darkness on the Edge of Town, digitally remastered for the first time, as well as the 2 CD set The Promise: The Lost Sessions from Darkness On The Edge Of Town. The two discs contain a total of 21 previously-unreleased songs from the 'Darkness' recording sessions, songs that, as Springsteen writes, "perhaps could have/should have been released after Born To Run and before the collection of songs that Darkness on the Edge of Town became." Highlights include the extraordinary rock version of "Racing in the Street," the never-before-released original recordings of "Because the Night," "Fire," and "Rendezvous," the supreme pop opus "Someday (We'll Be Together)," the hilarious "Ain't Good Enough for You," the superb soul-based vocal performance on "The Broken Hearted," the utterly haunting "Breakaway," and the now finally released, fully orchestrated masterpiece and title song, "The Promise." All 21 songs have been mixed by Springsteen's long-time collaborator, Bob Clearmountain. According to long-time manager/producer Jon Landau, "There isn't a weak card in this deck. The Promise is simply a great listening experience."
This package gives fans an unprecedented look into Springsteen's creative process during a defining moment in his career.
DVD 1: The Promise: The Making of "Darkness on the Edge of Town"
DVD 2: Darkness on the Edge of Town (Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, NJ, 2009)
2. Adam Raised A Cain
3. Something In The Night
4. Candy's Room
5. Racing In The Street
6. The Promised Land
8. Streets Of Fire
9. Prove It All Night
10. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Thrill Hill Vault (1976-1978)
1. Save My Love (Holmdel, NJ 76)
2. Candy's Boy (Holmdel, NJ 76)
3. Something In The Night (Red Bank, NJ 76)
4. Don’t Look Back (NYC 78)
5. Ain't Good Enough For You (NYC 78)
6. The Promise (NYC 78)
7. Candy's Room Demo (NYC 78)
8. Badlands (Phoenix 78)
9. The Promised Land (Phoenix 78)
10. Prove It All Night (Phoenix 78)
11. Born To Run (Phoenix 78)
12. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) (Phoenix 78)
DVD 3: Houston '78 Bootleg: House Cut
2. Streets Of Fire
3. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
4. Darkness On The Edge Of Town
5. Spirit In The Night
6. Independence Day
7. The Promised Land
8. Prove It All Night
9. Racing In The Street
10. Thunder Road
12. The Ties That Bind
13. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
14. The Fever
16. Candy's Room
17. Because The Night
18. Point Blank
19. She's The One
21. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
22. Born To Run
23. Detroit Medley
24. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
25. You Can't Sit Down
26. Quarter To Three
Top customer reviews
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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.