Review: “The Promise,” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen wrote more than 70 songs during a period in his career when a lawsuit with his former manager, Mike Appel, prohibited him from recording. He and the rest of the E Street Band spent the down time at his farm in Holmdel, NJ, rehearsing incessantly and going into debt. When they were able to finally get back in the studio, the 70 tracks were whittled down to ten and those ten made up the classic, Darkness on the Edge of Town. The other 60 were either given to other artists (“Because the Night” to Patti Smith and “Fire” to Robert Gordon and later the Pointer Sisters) or tucked away for another day. Well, more than 30 years later, the other day has finally arrived in the form of The Promise.

Many of the 21 songs (22 if you’re lucky) were unfinished. Some were lacking lyrics, while others needed more instrumentation and vocal work. It’s not hard to tell which songs were recorded back in 1977 and which ones were recorded recently, but who cares? New/old Springsteen, it’s all good.

“The Brokenhearted” and “Breakaway” are both excellent soulful ballads.  “The Promise” is a masterpiece. The rock version of “Racing in the Street ’78” takes that song to a whole new, exciting level. In “City of Night” Bruce sings in a voice I’ve never heard before and I like it. The pop side of Springsteen really comes out on “The Little Things (my baby does),” the playful “Ain’t Good Enough for You,” the Southside Johnny hit “Talk to Me” and “Save My Love,” a tune that is one of the best he’s ever written. If he were getting regular airplay, it would easily be a top ten hit. The few weak moments include “Because the Night,” “Rendezvous” and “Fire.” All three are good, but lack the passion of  previously released live recordings.

Springsteen has never been an artist who has just set out to record hit songs.  Most artists would kill to write songs like “The Promise,” “Because the Night” and “Fire” and wouldn’t hesitate to build an album around all three. But this is what makes Springsteen great. He doesn’t do what you want him to do, he does what he wants to do. After all the years and all the fame, it’s hard to argue with his method. I’m just glad he felt that now was a good time to officially put these songs out. The Promise is a “five star” collection that you will enjoy over and over again. Now onto The River.

Bruce Springsteen official website

Backstreets magazine

“Save My Love” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Springsteen talks about The Promise

“Ain’t Good Enough for You” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

10 Responses to “Review: “The Promise,” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band”

  1. Bruce is amazing! Love those clips!

  2. Glad to see such a great review! I can’t wait for The Promise to come out on Tuesday… I love THE BOSS so much! 😀

  3. This album is gonna ROCK! It’s cool that he is releasing never before heard material on this album! Can’t wait for 11-16!!

  4. Awesome! 1 MORE DAY!!!!

  5. Great review. What an amazing collection! At least for me, Darkness on the Edge of Town has been my favorite album since the first time I dropped the needle and heard Badlands, and to have an opportunity for such an in depth look at the making of the album is a treat of a lifetime. About half of the songs on The Promise had not been heard on any unofficial recordings, so this really is like finding a lost treasure. My poor family had to put up with my blasting of the entire Houston ’78 show throughout the house last night, and they ended up enjoying it. Were you at the Houston show in 1978? There is too much in this collection to soak up at once, and I will enjoy taking it in over time.

  6. Thanks, Cove … Yeah, we were at the Houston 1978 show!

    I have seen Springsteen about five times so my memory of that show has kind of blurred into the others … it’s going to be fun to go back and see how accurate my recollections were!

  7. It’s been 17 shows for me, and they do start to run together after a while. First show was the last stop of the Born to Run tour in 1976 here in New Orleans, and I was hooked. I spent 15 memorable minutes face to face w/ Bruce in backstage in 1996. The Jazz Fest show in 2006 was remarkable. And I have made a couple of Houston shows in the 90’s.

    The 2009 DVD performance of Racing in the Street is one of the really great moments in the new box set. Am still soaking it all in.

  8. Steve Williams Says:

    I have seen him now 101 times and have been lucky enough to see impromptu appearaces here in New Jersey including back in July when he played with Alejandro Escovido. That having been said, my first show was at the Spectrum in August ’78. Watching the Houston show the other night brought be back to that night in ’78. What an amazing show and artist.

  9. I just got the CD and I’m disappointed. I thought it was going to have some more songs that were close to the edgy sound that Darkness had. Most of the songs are just catchy pop frat rock songs.

    I’m glad Bruce had the sense to leave them off of Darkness… it would have ruined it.

    I wish they had released the songs in their original version. He seems to have added too much polish to some of them in the studio before this release. I’m a little sick of Patty being on every song now.

    In the old days he actually recorded with the band. Now all the members come in when they can and lay down tracks alone. I think that’s the problem with his music now.

    That and he’s a wealthy socialist that’s lost touch with the public that put him on is pedestal. its funny how now that Obama has lost his luster to the American public that Bruce keeps his distance.

  10. Yay for Springsteen Week! I’ll be watching his new video for “We Take Care of Our Own” the whole time:)

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