The Promise is a double album of previously unreleased material recorded by Springsteen during the period in which his album The Darkness on the Edge of Town was compiled and released. The background information surrounding that album – which was released in the aftermath of legal troubles and at a point when Springsteen was questioning his meteoric rise to fame – are well documented.
What The Promise proves is that The Darkness was no fluke; not that anyone thought it was, mind, but the quality of the 22 tracks (one of which is hidden) on this delayed release are a testament to a prolific period in The Boss’ career. Springsteen had to choose what cuts would make it onto The Darkness, and on the evidence of this double disc collection he chose well; he made the album he wanted to make. The Promise is far more up and down than album that eventually emerged, and while it stands on its own feet, it isn’t as strong on the whole.
Two songs in particular represent the choices Springsteen had to make; namely, ‘Racing in the Street’ – which opens this album in a more rockier format than its namesake on The Darkness – and ‘Candy’s Boy’, and early version of ‘Candy’s Room’. Perhaps due to its length, this album has a few tracks that, compared to the high standards on display elsewhere, feel a little inconsequential (‘Outside Looking in’, ‘Rendevous’). The Darkness was able to avoid this by pruning what wasn’t as good out of the running order.
This is not a throwaway release. It’s a strong album in itself; not up to the standards of The Darkness, but then that is a harsh criticism for a collection of 22 enjoyable new tracks (some of which, like hidden track ‘The Way’ are excellent) that welcome us back to a great point in The Boss’ back-catalogue.