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The Promise
Bruce Springsteen The Promise
Released 12 November 2010

Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau, Steven Van Zandt
Label Columbia
Length 88:05
Genre Rock
Website brucespringsteen.net

The run up to Christmas brings with it the usual raft of releases to come to the aid of last minute shoppers with greatest hits albums (Robbie Williams- The Greatest Hits 1990-2010), live albums (Beyonce- I Am... World Tour) and remastered classic albums (Nine Inch Nails- Pretty Hate Machine) hitting the shelves just in time for the festive season. Though not quite as common, it can also be the time of year where artists raid their vaults to dig out long buried treasures, an approach taken by two of America’s biggest international exports this year with the posthumous release of material by Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise; a collection of unused songs from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions.

To address the cynics, for a man worth $100 million (at a conservative estimate) Springsteen could have retired and lived comfortably years ago, so this can’t be viewed as a way for Springsteen to make a quick buck. With two albums released in the past three years both reaching the number one spot in the States, the UK and Ireland and still being able to sell out world tours he’s not exactly trying to revive his career or flogging a dead horse either.

So having assuaged some negative preconceptions, just how good is this album? Well you don’t earn a nickname like ‘The Boss’ for no reason and The Promise is exactly what you’d expect from Springsteen; twenty two tracks of the highest quality. The vibe is quite laid back with the usual themes of cars and girls running through the album, most noticeably in the very first track 'Racing in The Street (78)' a piano driven homage to drag racing that switches to a love story at the midpoint making street racing seem almost chivalrous. There are many other love songs dotted throughout; 'Someday (We’ll Be Together)', 'The Brokenhearted' or 'The Little Things (My Baby Does)' all vintage Springsteen, all on a par with the best of his work to date.

Two songs on The Promise will be recognizable, 'Because The Night' and 'Fire' were covered and released in 1978, the former by Patti Smith and the latter by The Pointer Sisters, both achieving success in the American Billboard charts. It’s nice to finally hear Springsteen’s original studio versions but a lot of the impact of these two songs has been sapped due to familiarity.

The Promise is an album to get lost in for a few weeks, each song has a little something about it that makes it memorable. There’s none of the fist pumping anthems he became synonymous with at the time of these recording sessions (obviously these weren’t going to be left in the vaults) but that allows the album to flow naturally with no big doses of patriotism to slow it down. At thirty two years old the songs have aged well and Springsteen does well not to overproduce the album, so you still feel you’re getting a good chunk of the original recordings. The quality of these “rejected” songs just shows the standard of songwriter Springsteen is, this is definitely not just for the hardcore fans.

- Brian Kinsella