This is not a reissue. Unless you were there for every note, at the long and exhausting sessions for Bruce Springsteen‘s 1978 masterpiece, Darkness on the Edge of Town, this set is all new music and right up there with the best of 2010. The central attraction in this lavish and thorough examination of Springsteen’s journey to Darkness – which includes a documentary film and two live DVDs – is two CDs of previously unreleased tracks that he wrote, recorded with the E Street Band, then discarded along the way.
These 21 recordings prove two things: He was right, at the time, to make them outtakes, and he was just as right to finally let them loose. Compared to the narrative grit and redemptive thunder of Darkness triumphs like “Badlands” and “The Promised Land,” the euphoric charge of “Rendezvous” and the super-Stax sauce of “One Way Street” sound like automatic genius, the kind of bar-band bravado and boardwalk-love stories Springsteen had already perfected on Born to Run. But heard now, they are songs that brighten any year. In fact, Springsteen’s original readings here of “Because the Night” and “Talk to Me,” given away to Patti Smith and Southside Johnny, respectively, sound a lot like the five-star pop’n’soul on his most recent albums. The Promise is a rare, frank look at the road to greatness. It is also full of songs that should have been and still sound like greatest hits.
This story is from the December 23, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.