The Promise review by Bruce Springsteen

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  • Released: Nov 16, 2010
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.7 (27 votes)
Bruce Springsteen: The Promise
3

Sound — 8
There is always that one instance within a rock
icon's life where it seems impossible to live up to past success. Bruce Springsteen was no exception following the release of 1975's Born To Run, the wildly popular album that helped The Boss skyrocket to a whole new playing field. The 1978 follow-up record Darkness on the Edge of Town was never quite met with the same fanfare critically or commercially and perhaps for that reason Springsteen is devoting his latest box set to the oft-forgotten record. The Promise is a 2-CD album comprised of unreleased songs from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions, but it's also being released as a box set that includes the original studio full-length. In 2010 it still doesn't have the instantaneous wow factor that Born To Run had, but the new/old collection is still comprised of a medley of Springsteen's assorted sounds. It's wise to take a listen to the box set's disk featuring the original Darkness on the Edge of Town, which is not a bad starting point when jumping in to the unreleased material. In many ways that one disk does feature most of the box set's standout material, with the dark and bluesy Adam Raised A Cain, the ode to blue collar workers in Factory, and the rhythmic nuances of Candy's Room being the highlights. Prove It All Night is an energetic number that foreshadowed the sound that the vast majority of Springsteen tunes take nowadays, with piano and sax playing prominent roles in the arrangement. When you venture into the unreleased material three decades after the original sessions, there still aren't any grandiose/genius new tracks that got swept under the rug. In the same breath, there is enough material included that you will at the very least find more than a few enjoyable. Tracks on the first disk like Gotta Get That Feelin,' Outside Looking In, Someday (We'll Be Together), and One Way Street are written with a nod to an early Motown style, for balladry and general upbeat arrangements. The piano and sax play prominent roles on the vast majority of disk 1, and in many ways that repeated format only allows Springsteen's sound to go so far. They're impressive, but not necessarily that stylistically varied. Two familiar tunes (thanks to their association with other artists) show up on The Promise. The first is Patti Smith's Because of the Night, and Springsteen's version unfortunately pales in comparison to the raw emotion heard in the original. Fire, a Springsteen-penned track perhaps most widely known because of The Pointer Sisters' cover, is once again surprisingly lackluster. The sound is rich with layered instrumentation on both, but they still lack passion. It's usually Springsteen's slower numbers that are accentuated by the singer/songwriter's incredible knack at vivid storytelling (The Promise, City of Night) that truly work to his strengths. In general, however, Springsteen fans should probably enjoy the box set from start to finish because it keeps with the standard Springsteen fare that you still hear today at one of his live performances.

Lyrics — 9
Even when the musical foundation fails to go anywhere new, Springsteen's lyrics usually swoop in to save the day. When the songwriter delves into the personal heartbreak of the regular Joe or Jane, that's when you feel he's connecting on a fairly grand level. The Promise is easily the most moving out of all the tracks with lines such as, Some nights I go to the drive-in, or some nights I stay home; I followed that dream just like those guys do up on the screen; And I drive a Challenger down Route 9 through the dead ends and all the bad scenes; And when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dream. Sure, Springsteen has more than a few typical lighthearted love songs in the collection, but even those contain little lyrical gems around every corner.

Overall Impression — 8
The Promise perhaps still doesn't live up to the legendary status of Born To Run, but it's still a fantastic peek at the creativity within Springsteen in '78. Notable tracks like Because The Night and Fire fail to satisfy, but between the folk-influenced ballads and upbeat, old school rock tunes you're likely to find at least a few tracks with which you'll connect. The Promise is definitely geared toward the Springsteen fanatics in the end, and it's that fan base that will be able to relish the fact that throwaway tracks have been given another chance to be heard.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    THE BULGE
    The song "Because The Night" isn't Patti Smith's, Springsteen wrote it for her but never released his version himself except as a live track. Also most Springsteen fans and journalists say Darkness is Bruce's most consistent and valued work even his magnun opus. Otherwise good review.
    mari56
    I have nothing bad to say about these songs They're all great, ranging from sweet fluff to really deep songwriting. Always brilliant stuff from the boss. Bruuuuuce!
    foster.getagrip
    I love the boss, I loved this cd, also. A great listen. For people liking Bruce Springsteen and punk, check out Gaslight Anthem. They accredit everything they have done to the boss.
    Johnny Quest
    he was funny on Jimmy Kimmel. Arcade Fire has some great springsteen like songs. "keep the car running" and "no cars go" are like anthems "wake up" as well
    guitarsftw
    THE BULGE wrote: The song "Because The Night" isn't Patti Smith's, Springsteen wrote it for her but never released his version himself except as a live track.
    Actually, Patti Smith helped Springsteen finish it. Sort of. Bruce had issues finishing it, and Patti took a draft of the song, and re-did it and released it. But, hey, that's beside the point.
    Tinkdaddy607
    This reviewer did a terrible job. He probably skimmed through all the extra tracks. Because The Night was a Springsteen song that Patti finished. And Fire is not lack-luster at all. This album wasnt trying to live up to Born To Run at all. Bruce wrote this to be totally different. He didnt want a huge rock balladesc record. He wanted it to be a record that expressed his home life and being back in Jersey. Stop comparing it to Born To Run. Darkness is one of his best records. It's one of my favorite rock records of all time. Bruce forever!
    JesusOfSbrbia
    Darkness On the Edge of Town is Springsteen's best album, and the one that I personally relate to the most, so I've been excited about this release for some time. Will be picking it up as soon as possible.
    The_lizard_king
    I'll have to pick this one up. I love "Darkness", and if anyone hasn't checked it out, I recommend his documentary "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on The Edge if Town".
    GettintheLedout
    guitarsftw wrote: THE BULGE wrote: The song "Because The Night" isn't Patti Smith's, Springsteen wrote it for her but never released his version himself except as a live track. Actually, Patti Smith helped Springsteen finish it. Sort of. Bruce had issues finishing it, and Patti took a draft of the song, and re-did it and released it. But, hey, that's beside the point.
    Only the lyrics, and about half of them at that. The music is all Bruce.
    Swannie
    what's with the lines about his voice being lackluster? Has this reviewer ever heard Bruce sing?
    CaliforniaKid
    Heard from Bruce on "The Jimmy Fallon Show" that "Fire" was originally written by Bruce for Elvis. That would have brought the King back in a bigger way than Princes "Kiss" brought back Tom Jones. Remember kids, if yer gonna take dilaudid, gotta take that sodium docusate.
    bangbangbunny
    While every song is a gem on Darkness (including the title track), listing 'Adam Raised a Cain', 'Candy's Room', and 'Factory' as the 'highlights' without mentioning 'Badlands', 'Promised Land', or 'Racing in the Streets'? Boo this man!!! Just playing, but come on - use your head.