This coming Tuesday 16 November Columbia Records will release the outtakes of Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town sessions, recorded back in 1977 and 1978. The Boss & The E Street Band had famously been away from the recording studio for almost three years due to a managerial dispute. But then Springsteen came to The Record Plant in New York City with a wealth of material, and this 21 (22?) track archive stands as a great double LP addition to his wonderful catalog.
The majority of the record could be peeled off and titled Born To Run 2.0. "Gotta Get That Feeling" is a full-on Phil Spector era tribute which could have been sung by one of his stable of great girl groups. (Hint to Darlene Love - make this your next single.) The British Invasion is revisited in "Outside Looking In" and The Righteous Brothers are bowed to with reverence via "Someday." And Bruce's deep affection for Memphis soul is reflected in two of the best tracks on the record: the call and response anthem "Ain't Good Enough" and the Miami Horns powered "It's A Shame," punctuated by a fine harmony vocal from Little Steven Van Zandt.
But The Promise also provides a glimpse of what an extended Darkness might have been. And while it's certainly hard to quibble with the tight structure of a four-star album, there are definitely some tunes that must have come close to making the cut. The title song and "One Way Street" are in the same vein. And a serious argument can be made for "Because The Night": alas, Springsteen couldn't find the right lyrical fit until he handed it off to Patti Smith, who then took her version to the Top 10 a year later.
What is also revelatory about this compilation are the compositions that ended up in the hands of or influenced other artists, showing the versatility of Bruce the songwriter: "Fire" (The Pointer Sisters), "Talk To Me" (Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes) and "City of Night" (certainly meant for Willy DeVille).
The Promise is no throwaway of odds and ends. It is a worthy addition to the Bruce Springsteen canon.