For the Record: Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Promise’

Four months later, my reserve copy of Bruce Springsteen’s latest shows up at the library. Since it’s not a Christmas album, I went ahead and checked it out.

“The Promise” is a 2-CD collection of previously unreleased songs recorded during the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sessions way back in 1977-78. Like every right-thinking Bruce fan, I consider “Darkness” to be the greatest of the Springsteen albums. So naturally, I was looking forward to this.

But a little wary. After all, these songs were two-time losers. Not only were they not considered good enough to be released when they were recorded, but they didn’t even make the cut for Bruce’s 1998 release “Tracks,” a four-disc, 66-song box set of unreleased material.  At this point, you wouldn’t think there’d be anything left in the archives but the dregs. You’d be wrong.

To be honest, the first time I listened to this I wasn’t that impressed and was thinking this was one trip to the vault too many. But by the second and third listens I warmed up to it. The second disc is much better than the first. It might have been a more solid effort if he hadn’t gone the two-disc route and just put the best on one — but then I’d probably disagree with what Bruce thought was the best.

There are two types of tunes on “The Promise” — “new” songs (at least new to me) and early versions of songs that were eventually reworked into better versions or changed into other songs altogether.

In the latter case, Springsteen showed he knew what he was doing, as the final versions are always better than the earlier ones, such as “Racing in the Street,” “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)” [an early version of “Factory”] and “Candy’s Boy.” It’s always interesting to hear early/alternate versions of songs, but they’re usually novelties rather than things you want to listen to over and over.

As for the new material, my favorite is “Ain’t Good Enough For You,” a jaunty, fun and funny song that would’ve been a hit if it had been released back in Bruce’s prime. Other standouts include “The Little Things (My Baby Does),” “Breakaway,” “It’s a Shame” and the title track.

If you yearn for the glory days of Springsteen, “The Promise” fills the bill. I’m glad I didn’t get this album when it was released in November. This is classic spring/summer music. It makes me want to put the top down, but I’m not sure how to do that on the Saturn. Oh, and it will have to stop snowing. It’s March, already!


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