Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Springsteen’s “The Promise” diverges from “Darkness” with themes of love, emotions

Bruce Springsteen’s newest release “The Promise”, a collection of 21 songs that did not make it into his 1978 album “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, is the Holy Grail for Springsteen fans, as it provides them with a seemingly impossible revisit to his early days.

“Darkness” marked the beginning of what would become a lifelong work habit of Springsteen’s: recording approximately five songs for every one that would make it into an album. When writing and recording songs for an album, Springsteen handpicked songs that, when woven together, created greater stories. Due to this creative style, the songs present on “Darkness” are of an entirely different nature than those found on “Promise”, despite the fact that they were recorded at the same time.

“Darkness” is the story of life in a small town, the story of the people who work in factories, the story of hard lives, the story of the darkness present within us all. On the other hand, “The Promise” is a generally upbeat, though sometimes melancholy, commentary on love. This new album is reminiscent of Roy Orbison’s emotional ballads, and it’s more focused on relationships rather than the theme of human nature developed in “Darkness.” Springsteen’s tone is more fun, playful and carefree as he describes the ups and downs of   his relationships, the crazy chase of getting the girl and holding onto her.

There are also some songs that relate more to the themes present on the final “Darkness.”   The title song “The Promise” captures the emotions and troubles that accompany small town life, as his haunting voice cries, “and when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dreams.”

Fans will enjoy finding traces of beloved songs within the ones on “The Promise”, such as “Come On (Let’s Go Tonight)”, which contains the melody of “Factory”, trading “It’s the working, the working, just the working life” for “Come on, come on, let’s go tonight.”   The album also has the fan favorite “Fire”,   which has only been released on “Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live 1975-85,” a song Springsteen wrote and was made famous by The Pointer Sisters.

People will also recognize the popular song “Because the Night”, another song Springsteen wrote and then sold, this time to singer Patti Smith. Springsteen was reluctant to use this song because he felt he wasn’t in the right place to record a love song of this nature.   However, I feel completely confident in my assertion that his version is far better, as it is contains the same raw emotion without the grating whining.

I believe fans will love this album because it is simply fascinating to see the deep thought and creative genius that went into “Darkness”, the album I believe is perhaps his greatest collection of songs. “The Promise” and “Darkness” are vastly different, and had Springsteen released the songs present on “The Promise” instead of those on “Darkness” he would be a completely different artist today.

While “The Promise” is not his greatest musical contribution, as a long time fan, I love hearing this different side of Bruce that has started to surface over the decade. As always, his music is heartfelt, easy to relate to and a general work of genius. Fans of any amount of time must buy this album and relish in this once in a lifetime opportunity to revisit his glory days.

As a side note, the release of this album accompanied the release of a documentary by the same name, which chronicles the making of “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” I highly recommend watching this film to anyone who has ever enjoyed or been moved by Springsteen’s work.

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    Michael SingerDec 4, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Enjoyed your reveiw. Makes me want to go and buy this album.