The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story is a three-CD/three-DVD deluxe collection that includes a completely remastered version of the Darkness album and two more discs entitled The Promise, containing 21 unreleased songs recorded during the period. The remastered version of the album by Bob Ludwig is sonically righteous; it resists ...Read MoreThe Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story is a three-CD/three-DVD deluxe collection that includes a completely remastered version of the Darkness album and two more discs entitled The Promise, containing 21 unreleased songs recorded during the period. The remastered version of the album by Bob Ludwig is sonically righteous; it resists the temptation of the era's technology to make everything sound flat. Its dynamics and warmth mirror those on the original vinyl edition. The two discs of unreleased material (available separately as well) offer an aural view as to what might have happened had Springsteen been able to record immediately after Born to Run. (He was barred from doing so for two years due to a lawsuit with his former manager.) While many lyric themes here reflect the brokenness and hard choices found on Darkness, others sound more triumphant. All of these songs contain a more maximal attitude in production. They also lack the knife-edge, searing, angry guitar work that saturates Darkness. Included are his versions of singles farmed out to other artists -- "Because the Night" (and while this version is terrific, it means something else in the end; Patti Smith's remains definitive) and the soulful, gritty "Fire" given to the Pointer Sisters. "Gotta Get That Feeling" summons Jack Nitzsche's production ears with its big mariachi brass. Many others openly recall Phil Spector's "sha-na-na-na" backing choruses. Clarence Clemons' saxophone is much more prevalent here than on Darkness. His meaty tone adds heft and groove to these songs. "Ain't Good Enough for You" is pure handclap, call-and-response, verse-and-chorus joy, approaching a doo wop celebration. The poignant love poetry in "The Brokenhearted" and "Spanish Eyes" could have been written by Doc Pomus, and reveals the influence of Jerry Lieber's "Spanish Harlem." "Candy's Boy" begins lyrically in the same place as "Candy's Room," but becomes a very different song. "Racing in the Street" contains some different words and David Lindley's violin makes the track a bit less personal, more anthemic; it's absent the shadow of doubt that makes the Darkness version so emotionally devastating. "The Promise" is the only cut that may have added something to Darkness that isn't already there. Its sense of bewilderment, betrayal, uncertainty, and regret is total. That said, the addition of strings draws it outside Darkness' more skeletal purview, underscoring that Darkness is perfect as it is.The first of the three DVDs features a full-length documentary directed by Thom Zimny on the making of the album, with fantastic, amazing archival studio and performance video footage by Barry Rebo. The narration by Springsteen and interviews with producer Jon Landau, bandmembers, Patti Smith, engineer Jimmy Iovine, and even Mike Appel provide an intimate look at an intense and often frustrating period in the career of Springsteen & the E Street Band. The viewer can feel the places where confusion reigned given the sheer amount of material -- over 70 songs were written and demoed; piles of notebooks from which song lyrics and ideas were cobbled are perched everywhere. The fact that a single album came from this mountain is amazing in itself; that Darkness on the Edge of Town emerged is a miracle. The second DVD here contains a complete 2009 performance of the album at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ on the first half. While the performance is flawless and stirring, the lack of interaction with an audience feels a bit strange. That said, hearing Springsteen play the hell out of his guitar again, making it scream and snarl as it did during the tour for Darkness, is not only welcome, but akin to the sound of an old friend's voice after a prolonged absence. Bob Clearmountain's mix is stellar. The band's instinctive playing is tight and intuitive. The rest of the disc features footage from the Thrill Hill Vault, including rehearsal footage, recording snippets, and some...Read Less
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