The Promise

Back in 1975, Bruce Springsteen, the man described by critic (and later manager) Jon Landau as “rock and roll’s future”, was almost down and out. His debut album, _Greetings from Ashbury Park, N.J._, had become a critical success but a commercial flop, selling only 25,000 copies in its first year. Springsteen had one last shot at the stars, and he took it. He released the epic _Born to Run_ and catapulted himself straight into rock and roll legend.

However, following the release and success of _Born to Run_, he was kept out of the studio for three years due to a bitter legal battle with his former manager Mike Appel. When he returned, gone was the drama and optimism that characterised Born to Run, replaced by the feelings of uncertainty and the need to press on through doubt that made his next album, D_arkness on the Edge of Town_, feel so different from its predecessor.

Three decades later, Springsteen releases _The Promise_, a compilation of music he wrote and recorded during the _Darkness_ sessions. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a record made of music that didn’t make the cut, though. They just simply didn’t fit in with the feel that Springsteen wanted for _Darkness_.

The album opens with an early cut of ‘Racing in the Street’, the epic street racing ballad from _Darkness_. While maybe not as brilliant as the finished product, its bittersweet piano building into a truly magnificent rock elegy and the lyrics lamenting the very same Americana he celebrated in _Born to Run_, reminds you just what the man was capable of at his best, and how he could turn ordinary American life into something so glorious.

Other songs on the album stand out. ‘Because the Night’ and ‘Fire’, tracks that became hits for Patti Smith and the Pointer Sisters respectively, show Springsteen at his pop writing best. Whilst ’Outside Looking In’ showcases the unique mixture of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly Whom Springsteen channelled in his musical career, while the title ballad “The Promise”, mixing sombre piano and a driving drumbeat, reveals The Boss’s troubles after his legal disputes, and the increasing doubt in the American Dream he had loved so much.

This collection of music from a rock legend at the top of his game, while maybe not one of the classics like _Born to Run_ or _Darkness_, definitely should not be simply written off as the off cuts from his early days, but instead it is a compilation revealing the wealth of music we never got to hear from what was probably his best song writing period, _The Promise_ is great album in its own right from a rock legend at his peak.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.