Music: The Promise by Bruce Springsteen *****
Long considered one of Bruce Springsteen's greatest albums, Darkness on the Edge of Town was, in fact, a commercial failure at the time of release in 1978. A dark record, likely influenced by a gruelling legal wrangle the singer had faced in the mid-70s, it alienated a good chunk of those turned onto the New Jersey singer of the Born to Run album three years earlier.
Springsteen was in a prolific mood during the sessions, but 21 songs failed to make the album's final cut because he felt they didn't fit in with the general 'feel' he was aiming for. Some of them were rejigged for future recordings and many were handed to others. Of the latter, Because the Night was a substantial hit for, first, Patti Smith, and, then, 10,000 Maniacs.
It's taken 32 years for all the unreleased tracks from those sessions to finally see the light of day in one collection, and it's extraordinary that Springsteen didn't see fit to release material of this quality before now.
The title track is especially great and offers something of a sequel to the characters he introduced on Thunder Road. Many of the songs are in the classic Springsteen vein -- epic, doomed and impossible to forget once you've first heard them. Someday (We'll Be Together) and The Brokenhearted would grace any Springsteen best-of -- no mean feat when you consider his run of essential albums between 1973 and 1984 and 2001 to last year.
Lovers of Darkness ... may have been moved by Candy's Room, which told of a young man's love for a prostitute. Here, Candy's Boy offers another, earlier look at the same subject. It's further proof of Springsteen's mastery for creating characters in song to live long in the memory.
Those with deep pockets may want to shell out for a version which includes this two-disc album, the original remastered Darkness... plus three DVDs, including a 90-minute documentary charting this remarkably fruitful period of Springsteen's creative life.
Burn it: The Brokenhearted; Candy's Boy