(WECK 1230) — Nine times out of 10, any effort to replicate the emote of pivotal moments in life are in vain. Wedding videos are nice, but they can’t carry the smell of your partner’s hair, the brilliance of your loved ones’ well wishes or the joy and optimism of a future together.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town” married me to rock and roll music forever the first time I listened to it, and my love affair with pounding drums and guitars carried just like switchblades has only become more important over time.
I’d be foolish, however, to say I’ve been able to recapture the wonder of the enkindling of that relationship. There are other bands and other songs, but there isn’t another “Darkness.” If your favorite movie is “The Godfather”, do you truly believe a collection of deleted scenes is going to make you relive the feeling in the pit of your stomach when Michael Corleone is taking a bit too long to find the gun hidden in the bathroom at Louis’ resaurant?
That’s what so positively incredible about “The Promise”, a collection of 21 songs that didn’t make the cut for “Darkness”: they are trimmed from the same cloth as the original and were skipped over mostly for thematic reasons. Springsteen didn’t lose these songs because they didn’t live up to the standards of “Badlands” or “Prove It All Night.” They just didn’t form an album.
Thirty-two years later comes an album of rock and roll songs culled from a pure run of songwriting that is almost unfathomable in the duration of its creativity. Yes, some of these songs were retooled with different lyrics or parts to make their way onto other albums, or even “Darkness”, but there’s no way to replicate a bygone era the way “The Promise” does. Ask one-off style hacks whose recent albums bring nothing to rock and roll other than a wistful longing for better music.
Heck, ask Springsteen. The single “Save My Love” sounds like a song the Boss has tried to rewrite two or three thousand times and jam unsuccessfully onto lesser albums since 1978. “Ain’t Good Enough For You” is a nod to everything that was wonderful about Chuck Berry, while “Outside Looking In” is a long distance high-five to The Kinks.
As Springsteen says in the liner notes, he was a man trying to channel every one of his influences while defying those who thought “Born To Run” was already his legacy. These aren’t b-sides or a strict money grab. Instead, what “The Promise” delivers is a bonafide album that isn’t a wedding video: it’s your wife lying next to you in bed on your best nights, carrying with her all the meaning of every year in-between.
I love you, rock and roll.