Monday, November 29, 2010

Damn The Torpedoes (Deluxe Edition) - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

It's easy to dismiss this new set as another money grab, especially for those who already own the first remastered version (released in the early 00's). Well despite owning the original master, I still got this deluxe edition anyway. I'll talk bout the second disc first. Two previously unreleased tracks from those '79 sessions: Nowhere and Surrender. Two good 'ol rock & roll songs, in the true classic Heartbreakers fashion. The other two tracks, Casa Dega and It's Rainin' Again appeared on the retrospective box set, Playback. Still it's my first time hearing these songs, and they sound great to my ears, especially Casa Dega. The latter is a muddy blues-influenced ditty.

Then, we get three live songs taken from one of their UK shows in '80. A country where the band hit it big first, and then their popularity in the States picked up after that. Also sadly, a country that has never had a major Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers tour in a friggin' long time. The final track of this disc is another take on Refugee, a more stripped-down version, less of Benmont Tench's keys, and without the background vox and Mike Campbell's recognizable guitar riff.

There are new liner notes written by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, in which there's a nice mention of Bruce. Back then, he had just finished Darkness On The Edge Of Town and had given Tom some advice about sticking to your guns. After all, both of them were in similar situations (legal issues and all) before recording their masterpieces. Actually a good companion piece to this album is the documentary film (available on DVD), detailing every aspect of the recording process. Everything needed to know about the album is in there.

This new remaster is a definite improvement from the one years ago. It's obviously louder in volume this time. And all the little nooks and crannies can be heard clearly; for example, I can now hear the little acoustic guitar picking during the intro to Louisiana Rain. But the real treat is finally hearing how pissed off Tom is in songs like Refugee, You Tell Me and What Are You Doin' In My Life?. Somehow I didn't get that feeling previously.

Damn The Torpedoes
isn't an influential piece of work, but it did rejuvenate those core ideals of rock & roll and what it originally meant to people. It's possibly the best sounding rock record of the 70's; and of course the drums here are the best sounding set of drums ever put to tape. Period. It's pretty fair to say its sound blows away the majority of today's rock albums. It just gets better with age. The music is as straightforward as it can get, stripped of any technical bullshit. If you want rock & roll at it's purest and finest, this is it. Just two guitars like it always should be, simple set of keyboards and drums and lots of bad-ass attitude.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nov 25 & 26 -- Mt. Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand

And so the U2 360 tour resumes down under. One Tree Hill (released as a single only in NZ) is dedicated to the country's miners who recently lost their lives. And Scarlet is played for the first time since 1981! Other than that, there isn't much change to the setlist. Let's hope One Tree Hill gets played for the Australian shows. T-minus 3 weeks to our turn in Perth :)

Night 1:
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day, I Will Follow, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until The End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, One Tree Hill, Pride (In The Name Of Love), In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday (feat. Jay-Z), Scarlet (feat. Jay-Z), Walk On

One, Amazing Grace/Where the Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet (Light My Way), With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender

Night 2:
Return Of The Stingray Guitar, Beautiful Day, New Year's Day, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Elevation, Until the End Of The World, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, One Tree Hill, Angel Of Harlem, In A Little While, Miss Sarajevo, City Of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, Scarlet, Walk On

One, Unchained Melody/Where the Streets Have No Name, Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, With Or Without You, Moment Of Surrender

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My final review for this spectacular box set. It's my favorite item. Redoing the entire record live in front of no audience is a unique concept. No one cheering you on. No distractions. Which is good because the dead silent environment retains the isolation and starkness of the album. Now the band is only playing to themselves. They've celebrated these songs with countless people over thirty years, now they've reconvened to celebrate the songs with one another. As you may know, playing albums from start to bottom isn't something new. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band have gotten very good at it during the last leg of the '09 tour. They've covered the essential six, from Greetings to Born In The U.S.A., with Born To Run being played the most. But surprisingly, Darkness was only played twice.

This particular show features only the original E Street line-up, which means no Nils Lofgren, Soozie Tyrell and Patti Scialfa. No disrespect to any of them; they certainly bring a lot to the E Street live sound. But the songs of
Darkness were always meant to be played with just two guitars, or else they'd sound too bloated. When Bruce performs, he always feeds off the energy from the crowd, and this lifts him up tremendously. But with no audience here, he still brings a fiery passion to the songs. At 61 years of age, the man has still got the chops of his younger self. Sure he can't prance around like he used to in '78, but he's just as passionate as I've ever seen him onstage. He still means every word he sings, and band still plays like their lives depends on it. The music never falters for one moment.

As the band launches into
Badlands, you just know this is gonna be an out-of-the-body experience. A fucking religious experience. We've seen and heard Badlands hundreds of times. It may just seem routine for the band. But I watch this performance of the song and I feel like I'm watching this for the first time in my life. There are some slight variations now that there's no crowd participation; gone is the singalong in the middle. If you can't feel any adrenaline rushing through your veins, you're probably not human. There's barely enough time for you to catch your breath as they move into Adam Raised A Cain. This is the point where one starts to get a case of extreme goosebumps. Bruce plays it safe with the vocals, he can't hit the high notes like before, but man, his expressions on his face say it all.

This performance of
Something In The Night might just be the definitive version of the song. Bruce's howling is incredible on this one. Candy's Room starts off with some fine camera work, tracking around Max's drumset as he plays the hi-hats. It's visually exciting. The rapid cutting and swift camera movements complement the tempo of the song. And it ends off with some amazing guitar feedback; the immediate silence following that is as loud as the song. Racing In The Street, I think matches the version at Hyde Park. The long coda at the end is always something to behold. The instruments can all be heard crystal clear; electric guitar, sax, 12-string acoustic, organ, piano, it's essentially an ensemble piece, but here the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The sound in the film is top-notch, best I've ever heard on any concert DVD, all the more reason to blast the volume. Once again, kudos to Bob Clearmountain for mixing this whole thing. It's exactly like studio quality, which may very well replace the original album.

When the band goes into
The Promised Land, notice how the lighting changes to bright. It all depends on the mood of the song. This one's another definitive version. I love the little interactions between Bruce and Stevie; priceless. The harp coming in immediately after that great sax solo is one hair-raising moment. Meanwhile Factory, the shortest song on the album, adopts a very blue, somber lighting. The song won't be what it is without Roy's piano. Streets Of Fire is the highlight of this entire set. This particular performance hit me hard emotionally the first time. My eyes actually welled up. Perhaps the most devastating vocals I've ever heard from Bruce: "I heard somebody call my name. When you realize, how they treat you this time. And it's all lies, cause I'm stranded on the wire..." If there's one song that needs to be played live more often, it's Streets.

Prove It All Night; another definitive version. Blistering guitar solo, although it's easy to dismiss Bruce as sloppily shredding the strings. One might think that Clarence isn't really needed on those songs without his sax solos -- well that's not true. He plays tambourine most of the time, but it's a very important instrument to the album. Just imagine what it'd sound like without it. The tambourine is the unsung hero of the album. And without stopping, the band launches straight into Darkness On The Edge Of Town, another strong version. By this time, it's like approaching the end of a long conversation with Bruce. The last part of the song has the camera pulling back slowly to reveal a wide-shot bird eye's view of the stage, just as the final notes ring. An appropriate way to end the show.

Thom Zimmy really knows how to direct the camera. At times you really feel like you're on the stage with the band, witnessing something magical. Recreating
Darkness in an empty theater is certainly one of the best things Bruce has done this past decade. It's also the perfect tool for winning over new fans. I don't see how anyone won't be moved by this. Watching this has been a life-changing experience. A truly awe-inspiring event, a testament to the band's 35 year plus musical bond and friendship.

Video: 5/5
Sound: 5/5
Performance: 5/5


Before the announcement of the Darkness box set, many fans were anticipating a release of the Passaic or New York City shows from the '78 tour. So the Houston show was a relative unknown. From what I know, it has never circulated before. But it seemed like the logical choice to release this because it might have been the only '78 show filmed in its entirety.

Here's some important technical tidbits to note about this bootleg house cut: the video footage was the actually taken from the in-house video screen at that particular venue. In fact, the Summit at Houston was one of the first arenas in the States to have this system at that time. So don't expect something professional in terms of visuals. There's a good amount of total black time on numerous occasions throughout the video. But aside from that, it's really not that bad. Unlike the concert videos of today, this one's not marred by fast cutting and haphazard editing. The cameras are focused on Bruce most of the time (and on the band when appropriate), and we see his prowess as a frontman. The sound is not available in 5.1 surround for this DVD, only PCM stereo, considering that it was taken off the mono soundboard. It's not perfect, and it's occasionally unbalanced during some parts of the show. But overall, Bob Clearmountain did a fantastic job with the mixing. What's important is the sound is listenable and it's not a big hindrance to the enjoyment of the show.

This is the second best E Street Band show captured on DVD, the first being Hyde Park (which obviously holds a special place in my heart). Jimmy Fallon told Bruce on his show that he 'created' the live concert. This Houston show is proof of why the Darkness tour was regarded as one of the greatest Rock & Roll tours ever. The band just seemed to be in another stratosphere from everyone else. The setlist was impeccable, sequencing wise. All the songs were in their right place in the set. As for the performance itself, there was an intense ferocity that I've never seen before in any other live act. Even watching on sub-par video quality, it still gets to you. This is rawest music you'll ever hear; there's a very unrehearsed, 'rough round the edges' quality to it, but at the same time extremely tight. That undeniable E Street signature live sound that has been with them for the past 35 years.

Right from the opening riff of
Badlands, I've never been hit harder by the power of Rock & Roll, not like this. From the get-go, Bruce makes an effort to connect with the audience. He sings with great conviction, so much so you'll really want go out and "spit in the face of these badlands". And then, they plow into Streets Of Fire, a song full of rage and angst, and yet Bruce manages to make it so poetically beautiful. Its best versions come from this tour, no doubt. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City features a scorching guitar duel between Bruce and Stevie, which blows the '75 Hammersmith version out of the water. Independence Day, originally written during the Darkness sessions, has always been one of Bruce's underrated songs. It's heartbreaking. The line "At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone" always gives me the chills. Prove It All Night, as usual, is always the highlight of the first set -- face-melting guitar solo, driven by Roy Bittan's exquisite piano playing at the start. If you haven't already known this, the band puts more effort into just one song than most bands put into their whole show. Usually Racing In The Street segues into Thunder Road during the '78 shows, but for this one, that instrumental part seemed to be missing. Still great nevertheless. Jungleland ends the first set, before intermission. Notice that the E Street Band dressed very stylishly during that tour; they all wore suits. But Clarence Clemons looked the most cool out of the lot. He's still a great sax player now, but back then he was in his most top form.

This early live version of
The Ties That Bind was still a quite a way from The River, but still great to have here. And let me tell you about The Fever, which makes a rare appearance. It's just fucking sublime. That exchange between Danny and Clarence is out of this world. Because The Night has an extended intro with Bruce doing a solo. Like I said before, not technical, but incredibly soulful. Just when you thought you seen it all, comes a spectacular four-song run to end the second set. Mona flows into a long She's The One, courtesy of Bo Diddley. And then one of the best Backstreets from the 70's era. There's no Sad Eyes interlude, but I've always preferred the song without it, as I think it kinda spoils its emotional core. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) closes out the set, and I've never seen the band having more fun onstage. Clarence was particularly on fire. And then Born To Run is played with lighting speed. By then, you might think Bruce and the band has given their all. But then Detroit Medley again displays their inhuman musical capabilities.

Almost three hours later, the show ends with the classic
Quarter To Three where Bruce just goes apeshit, like he's possessed or something. Prisoner of Rock & Roll indeed.

Video: 3/5
Sound: 3.5/5
Performance: 5/5


A huge additional bonus to the second DVD is an hour's worth of studio/home and live footage from the Darkness era, just a little taste of what's inside the Springsteen vault. Save My Love and Candy's Boy were rehearsed at Bruce's Holmdel home in '76, during the time when they weren't allowed to record in the studio yet. Back then, he donned a hilarious Afro hairstyle. We also get to see Stevie without his bandanna, one of the very rare occasions.

The studio stuff consists of
Don't Look Back (which could've been on Darkness) and a short clip of Ain't Good Enough For You. The Promise was filmed in one uninterrupted take, with the camera moving and focusing on individual band members. Again, there's a slight variation in lyrics from the final version, but still a superb take, especially when Bruce belts out the Thunder Road parts. And then we see Bruce doing a bare-bones Candy's Room on the piano; it sounds really good. How the hell did he come up with such a cool chord progression?

Now the live stuff -- Let's start with the only video from '76 (Chicken Scratch tour). A stripped down
Something In The Night was performed in Red Bank with just piano and organ, which is REALLY something to watch. In its own way it holds up as well as the full version. And then there's the famous Phoenix footage from the '78 tour, which has previously circulated before and widely regarded the holy grail of Darkness live videos (together with Passaic and Largo). It's a pity that whole show wasn't filmed, or else it would've seen the light of day on this box set. But here, we see constant flashes of brilliance by Bruce and the E Street Band. The energy and dedication to the songs were unparalleled. Even a non-fan will be blown away by the performances; Badlands, The Promised Land, Born To Run.

The long intro to
Prove It All Night reveals how great a guitarist Bruce is. Very very underrated. He's not so much of a technical player, but he's able to weave a sort of emotional and soulful thread with his solos. 5/5


Directed and edited by Thom Zimmy, this new documentary film mimics 2005's Wings For Wheels (the making of Born To Run) in terms of visuals and narrative structure. The story begins after the '75 tour, where Bruce and co. were setting out to make a follow-up record. But at that time, there were disagreements between Bruce and his then manager Mike Appel. A bitter lawsuit ensued. While everything was eventually settled, the downside was that they weren't allowed to go into the studio to record. So for three years, no new album, but lots of writing and playing new songs in Bruce's home. All this is talked about in the film, but too bad little to nothing was mentioned about the 'Chicken Scratch' tour of '76 and '77.

There's plenty of black & white studio footage from the
Darkness sessions here (courtesy of Barry Rebo), inter-cutting the interviews with the band. It looks like the guys were filmed during the shoot for Wings For Wheels. But unlike the previous film, Bruce doesn't really delve much into the individual songs, but rather talks about the album as a whole, and the hows and whys of making the record. We also get to see/hear snippets of stuff that would end up on new The Promise double-LP, and also some alternate versions of the Darkness songs, like Factory and Candy's Room and Something In The Night.

The real eye opener is the actual recording process of
Darkness, from conceptualization to the final artwork (there's a short interview with photographer Frank Stefanko). I mean, weeks just spent on drum sounds and trying to make the bloody drums sound like bloody drums is mind boggling (stick, stick, stick...). And not to forget the huge number of songs Bruce had written for the band. There's one scene where Jon Landau jokingly tells Bruce to close his thick notebook, or it'd just lead to more work. Also it was cool to approach Patti Smith for this, as she gave us some insight into how Because The Night was passed from Bruce to her (Jimmy Iovine was producing Patti's Easter during the time).

Bruce was a perfectionist on this record, like he was on
BTR. The band was also in a similar situation in that the stakes were very high; three years not making a record was a long time back then. Jon talks about Bruce's incredible work ethic; he didn't want to go out and make hit records. Steve said it takes a lot of discipline for one to do that. The dedication to his craft was unrelenting. And when it finally came time to mix Darkness, Chuck Plotkin came onboard and saved everyone's asses. It's unique how Bruce described to him the way he wanted his music to sound like i.e. Adam Raised A Cain as equivalent to a camera cutting to a dead body in a film.

Towards the end of the film, we see all the close-ups of the band members, in their youth and then thirty years later, while the coda of
Racing In The Street is playing. That is one spine-chilling moment. And as the credits roll, the band performs the title song (from Paramount '09), while superimposed with images of their younger selves. Right at the end, there's a nice shout-out to the late Danny Federici. We still miss the guy.

So while the interviews were insightful, I wish Zimmy could've put their talking over more black & white stuff, like what was done in the
Stones In Exile documentary (where the interviews are more like voice overs). But I still enjoyed it overall. It's not one where I'll find myself watching a lot, probably every half a year or so, and I wouldn't expect a casual fan to enjoy it. But The Promise is a good look into Bruce's creative transformation at that time of his life, and it nicely complements the music from the box set. Think of this film as the detailed liner notes. 4/5


Many a time, we get repackaged classic albums that come with extra outtakes from those particular sessions, and the artists just put 'em there for the sake of putting 'em there, whether they're good or not. More often than not, they end up becoming 'odds & ends' reissues. So having said that, I'd like to point out that this double-LP of previously unreleased songs (The Promise) IS NOT just another compilation of outtakes, simply because the twenty odd songs here are strong enough to form an album of its own. In fact, these songs were supposed to be make up the 'lost' album after Born To Run. In total, about 70 songs (some of which ended up on Tracks) were written/recorded for what eventually shaped up to become the masterpiece Darkness On The Edge Of Town. How's that for prolific? The songs we have here are just some of the many that didn't fit the theme and mood of that record.

I've heard several of them from the heavily bootlegged
Lost Masters compilations, but still it's nothing like this -- for the first time, we're presented with the full fleshed out productions of these gems. The Promise is a great example of Bruce's versatility as a pop songwriter and especially singer, being able to move effortlessly between different musical styles. He reached his most creative peak during the second half of the 70's, just churning out song after song. Half of the songs here could've easily become hits of that time. But more than anything else, this amazing collection reveals to us just how powerful the effect of Rock & Roll (and soul and r&b for that matter) had on Bruce and the E Street Band. They were influenced by the classics of the 50's and 60's. And boy did he put that to good use. Below is a detailed run through of each of the songs:

1. Racing In The Street ('78)
Notice that the same chord progression is used throughout the entire song, with the piano being played differently. It's obviously more dense than that what we're used to hearing, and this version sounds like it was a work in progress. Of course Bruce would eventually settle for something more sparse and quiet. The biggest surprise here? David Lindley on violins!!

2. Gotta Get That Feeling
Bruce re-recorded the vocals for this. But don't worry, his singing works wonders. Also there's newly added background vocals and a nice horn section, Mariachi style. The instrumentation is very 'Phil Spectorish'.

3. Outside Looking In
Just think of this as Buddy Holly (think
Peggy Sue) infused with the Jersey Shore sound and a bit of punk sensibility and you get a great fuckin' song.

4. Someday (We'll Be Together)
I could imagine Roy Orbison doing this, given the angelic choirs and all. There's a 'wall of sound' influence here. Lovely instrumental bridge too. Take note -- this is how you write a non-sappy love ballad.

5. One Way Street
An older Bruce attempts to recreate his '78 vocals (listen carefully and you'll notice all those little nuances in the singing) in the later verses. Spectacular stuff here.

6. Because The Night
This version follows quite closely to Patti Smith's. Badass as always.

7. Wrong Side Of The Street
Again, new vocals. I know many fans have a problem with this, but I love it. The intro reminds me of
Loose Ends. I think the chord changes are what makes this song ultra catchy, and there's a great guitar and sax solo in there. This is just begging to be played live.

8. The Brokenhearted
A homage to 60's Elvis. There's a nice addition of trumpets in the background. The best part comes during the last forty seconds, where (2010) Bruce screams out his lines as the song fades out.

9. Rendezvous
Previously on the
Tracks set as a live version. One of the best pop songs Bruce has ever done, and it wouldn't have seemed out of place in The River.

10. Candy's Boy
Now this is an interesting one. It would evolve into
Candy's Room we've all come to love. The lyrics are mostly the same (notice some lines that would later appear on Drive All Night), but the music drastically different. The better version is obviously on Darkness. But here, we see how Bruce could rework something and totally change it musically. The organ solo is proof of Danny Federici's instinctive prowess.

11. Save My Love
This can be considered a new song, written and rehearsed in the 70's (the footage is in the Thrill Hill Vaults DVD), but finally realized and completed this year. It's short, but it's fucking sweet. Again, Bruce's singing brings the listening experience to a new high. Even if you take away the vocals, you can still tell it has that distinctive E Street sound. One of my current favorites.

12. Ain't Good Enough For You
I love it when the band does a doo-wop style tune. This is a real fun number, reminiscent of
So Young And In Love. There's also a cool reference to Jimmy Iovine.

13. Fire
Recently on E Street Radio, Bruce said he had written this song for Elvis to sing. Pity it didn't happen, but the Pointer Sisters helped make it a hit. I'll admit it -- I've always disliked this song, and it might be because of the bass line (no offense to Garry Tallent). So no matter how many times I listen to this, it still won't do it for me.

14. Spanish Eyes
So the first lines of
I'm On Fire came from here. This is another tender love song, and Bruce sings it with great conviction. The way he drags the title word in the chorus is just plain awesome.

15. It's A Shame
This one is incredibly stunning. Similar rhythm to
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out and Living In The Future. Motown soul is always a good thing. And who knew Jon Landau could play the drums?

16. Come On (Let's Go Tonight)
Factory with a different set of words, but still sung in a somber tone. In fact, this was the origins of Factory. It's even more depressing to hear the line "The man on the radio said Elvis Presley died." Professor Roy Bittan's piano playing drives this song. And let's hear it for the great David Lindley on violins.

17. Talk To Me
Initially Bruce wrote this and gave it to his buddy Southside Johnny. Definitely one of the highlights of this set. There are some awesome-sounding horns in there. Sheer fucking brilliance.

18. The Little Things (My Baby Does)
21st Century Springsteen trying to sing like Roy Orbison. There's a cool operatic vibe to it, and Bruce does a good job with the falsettos.

19. Breakaway
Magnificently epic is how I'd describe this song. It sounds like a love song, but it's not; it's more on the line of
The Price You Pay. The chorus, the instruments, the singing just blows me away.

20. The Promise
This is the only song that fit perfectly with the
Darkness theme, and it came so close to being on the final album, but was misinterpreted as being a song about the infamous lawsuit with Mike Appel. It's a follow-up to Thunder Road; the sad outcome of the protagonist who has lost everything. There's this line that I always thought summed up most of Bruce's characters: "I won big once and I hit the coast, but somehow I paid the big cost. Inside I felt like I was carrying the broken spirits of all the other ones who'd lost." I can't fathom the decision to cut out the second chorus. But still without a doubt , The Promise is one of the best songs he has ever written.

21. City Of Night
Great song to chill out to, with a Manhattan night vibe. Bruce plays it cool on the singing.

22. The Way
The hardcore fans are probably relieved this managed to slip into the set, but as a hidden track. Why? Cause Bruce hated this song! He said (on E Street Radio) he could imagine it being the soundtrack to a sick, perverse sexual scene in a David Lynch film. Yeah, no kidding. But come to think about it, it wouldn't sound so far-fetched. I've grown to like
The Way over the years.

This is one of the best sounding Springsteen releases ever. I know being a major fan and all, I want very much to like everything I hear. But I swear to God with true and unbiased honesty,
The Promise is an instant classic. 5/5


Darkness is only the second album in Bruce's catalog to receive a remaster treatment (the first being Born To Run in '05). The original version, despite all its sparseness and dynamic range, still sounded thin and 'weak' at times; you always felt there was that 'thing' missing. I'm glad to say that Bob Ludwig did a fantastic job with this new remaster. Not only is it louder, the music is much more defined. One minor problem is the few number of dropouts (Prove It All Night and Adam Raised A Cain), which can be quite glaring if listened on the headphones.

There is a better separation of instruments, they got more room to 'breathe'. To my ears, the most notable improvement is the bass and drums; they sound richer and fuller, there's a lot of meat to them. And now you can actually hear a clearer difference between the low and high ends. When Max plays those fills at the start of
Badlands, the music just hits you like a ton of bricks, right in your face. Just stunning.

There's still a bit of hiss on the softer songs like
Something In The Night and Racing In The Street, but it's not a bugging issue. Guitars wise, you can now hear Stevie's rhythm parts clearly. And Bruce's lead solos during Adam Raised A Cain and Streets Of Fire will make your hair stand. In this age of highly compressed and piercing rock music, it's refreshing to hear something like this.

Sound: 4/5


Christmas has come early this year. The mother of all box sets has finally arrived. The Promise delivered. It's mindblowing just looking at it; so much attention and effort creating something of this magnitude, all revolving around an album with just ten songs; ten songs which have changed countless of lives. Amazingly it still holds up extremely well with the rock records of today. It still sounds fresh. The Springsteen camp definitely wanted to make this release as memorable as possible for the long-time fans. Born To Run is still Bruce's greatest album, but its reissue pales in comparison to this.

First off, the packaging has to be seen to be believed. The main box is roughly A4 size, with Bruce's famous 'don't push me' look on the front. Interesting thing to note -- the color looks very desaturated from the original. In it houses a spiral bound notebook, which replicates Bruce's notebook, in which he wrote and conceptualized his songs during the
Darkness sessions. What you get is about fifty pages chalked full of Bruce's handwriting. There's so much stuff here; song lyrics in different incarnations, random verses/phrases, different song sequences (of Darkness) and other weird interesting doodles. (Everytime I go back I see something different. I think I saw David Lindley's name scribbled on one of the pages.) It's every fan's dream; we have a chance to see what was on Bruce's mind literally at work. The writings are reproduced as authentically as possible, right down to the creases and coffee stains on the pages. Seriously, there's an overload of words that I could spend the whole day looking through every single thing, considering it's not that easy reading Bruce's handwriting.

The CDs and DVDs are housed in five cardboard pages spread equally within the book. There are lotta never-before-seen pictures from the stage, studio and photoshoots. Over two hours of music and over six hours of video; it's just so overwhelming. So what if this set won't move numbers? It's still a big deal, because it has set the benchmark for future single album re-packages. A big thank you to the Bruce camp for this wonderful labor of love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #9

The Springsteen camp has been on a roll during the past few weeks, heavily promoting The Promise box set through various media in Europe and the States. And why shouldn't they? After all, this IS the box sets of all box sets. It rightly deserves all the attention it can get. This Monday, Bruce sat in for two hours with Dave Marsh on Sirius' E Street Radio, answering questions about Darkness from twenty lucky fans (who submitted the most insightful questions out of 3000 for the contest). One of the best things that came out of this conversation was that E Street Radio was the reason why Bruce was compelled to put together the compilation of outtakes and unreleased songs for the The Promise double-CD. (Bruce previously gave the green light to allow fans to send in bootlegged recordings of his songs).

Then, there was Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the only TV appearance by Bruce to promote the release, in which he was the only guest. During the opening skit, Jimmy posed as Neil Young circa early 70's (total dead ringer!) and did a parody of Willow Smith's Whip My Hair on acoustic. Halfway through, Bruce appeared with his telecaster -- dressed in Born To Run era clothing! That's right, complete with the shades and the (fake) beard and the leather jacket and the coonskin cap, and the hair (yes, it's a wig). Totally fucking hilarious. Hopefully this will be a stepping stone for him in hosting a future SNL episode!

But of course, the highlight of the show was the performances. Bruce brought in Stevie and Roy, and they jammed with the house band, The Roots. Call it the Roots Street Band. They fucking killed (the huge tuba was a nice addition too). They did a badass version of Because The Night, followed by the new Save My Love, which turned out to be a great song live. Rush down to Jimmy Fallon's site to watch all the clips, including the interview segments.

As I'm typing this, my box set is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, thanks to UPS. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this. I've been losing sleep the past few nights just thinking about it. I'll be breaking up my review into different parts, so watch out for it in the coming week. This is, without a doubt, the most important music release in my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keith Richard's Life

Reading Keith's 500-page plus autobiography is like reading a Rock & Roll fairytale. So many wild stories made me stop and think: did that really happen to him? I'd like to think that they did. Inside the front sleeve of the hardcover book, the man says that he remembers everything, or almost everything. For some parts, he relies on his close friends and family to tell the story, so we get different perspectives.

I thought the first part of the book was a tad boring, but then I usually don't like to read about people's childhoods. But from page 100 onwards, it starts to get real interesting, almost addictive at times. Speaking of 'addictive', Keith's experiences about drugs is told in excruciating detail, some of which are not for the fainthearted. And how bout those countless run-ins with the cops during the 60's and 70's? He could've almost gone to jail for many years on several occasions, but didn't. If he'd gone to jail, future generations would not be exposed to the Rolling Stones, and thus, not hear the greatest Rock & Roll music ever made. So there is a God after all.

Then there's the relationships between him and his band-mates, in particular Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. It's some no-holds barred stuff here. I don't wanna spoil anything. Go read it for yourself. Also his friendship with the late great Gram Parsons was beautiful and a tragic one.

But I read Life mainly not for the sex and drugs, but for the music. I love the way he talks about his influences -- the Blues, and also his feelings after hearing Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel for the first time. Really passionate stuff. The Stones aimed to be the anti-Beatles, and also the first English Chicago Blues band. The latter I didn't know previously. Also you learn lots of things about how he and Mick write songs and their creative process together. But of course, the best part is Keith talking about the guitar, and the famous open tunings he used on the Stones' best songs. It's almost as exhilarating as listening to Jumpin' Jack Flash and Satisfaction.

Keith writes in a language that's uniquely his own. After spending a good amount of time reading, you'll feel as if he's talking directly to you, like a really good friend. Life is certainly one of the most insightful music autobiographies ever written. So don't consider yourself a Stones fan unless you've ate this book up. Which means don't wear that fucking t-shirt with the red tongue. Check out the new interviews with Keef at Little Steven's Underground Garage.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #8

Be prepared to get an extreme case of goosebumps. T-minus 4 days!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #7

Everyday, more and more stuff from The Promise have been finding their way online.

This is the latest trailer promoting the box set. Dave Marsh interviews Thom Zimmy about creating some of the contents i.e. Houston, Asbury Park '09, the vaults etc.

Having said that, this is probably the most anticipated release in the Springsteen camp yet.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #6

This is an earlier version of The Promise, again from the upcoming box set.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pearl Jam - Live On Ten Legs

Some new news from the Ten Club:




Pearl Jam announce the release of "Live on Ten Legs," a new live compilation album that will be available through Pearl Jam's Ten Club and select digital and independent music retailers on January 18, 2011 (January 17, 2011 internationally).

Kicking off the band’s twentieth anniversary year, "Live on Ten Legs" features 18 Pearl Jam tracks recorded over the course of the band's 2003-2010 world tours by recording engineer, John Burton (full track listing below). All tracks have been newly remixed by longtime Pearl Jam engineer Brett Eliason and remastered.

"Live on Ten Legs" Tracklisting:

1. Arms Aloft
2. World Wide Suicide
3. Animal
4. Got Some
5. State of Love And Trust
6. I Am Mine
7. Unthought Known
8. Rearview Mirror
9. The Fixer
10. Nothing As It Seems
11. In Hiding
12. Just Breathe
13. Jeremy
14. Public Image
15. Spin the Black Circle
16. Porch
17. Alive
18. Yellow Ledbetter

Not a surprising setlist here, with the exception of the covers of Arms Aloft and Public Image. Anyway it'll be interesting to hear the new remixes of the songs. This one is definitely geared towards a more casual fanbase, because the hardcores have probably owned most of the bootlegs. I have a feeling we're gonna see more releases in 2011, it being their 20th anniversary.

One thing's already confirmed though: a new documentary film by the great Cameron Crowe!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #5

This is another publicity video for The Promise box set, featuring the 'brand new' song Save My Love. Nice to see the old familiar faces again.

Only two weeks left!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Darkness On The Edge Of Town #4

The Promise (most of it) is up for streaming at NPR.

Bootleg Series Vol. 9 - Bob Dylan

This is songwriting 101. This is the Witmark Demos, recorded by Dylan with just his voice, guitar and harmonica, between '62 and '64. Basically you get to hear a young genius at work, who probably didn't know he would soon change the world a few years later. Listening to these set of mostly familiar songs, I can't help but wonder: how could someone possibly write stuff like this at 21, 22 years of age? It's just incredible. Remember this, every songwriter that came after Dylan owes a musical debt to him, no matter what genre they're from.

I've been a fan of Dylan's bootleg series for quite a few years now. In fact, it was Vol. 4 that got me into his music. That was the infamous 'Royal Albert Hall' show (actually it was in Manchester). First half was the acoustic set. It fucking blew my mind. I've never heard anyone sing like that before, let alone write words like that. I really was shocked. The music felt alien to me at that time. But it was magical. Then came the electric set, backed by The Hawks (who'd later become The Band). Again it fucking blew my mind. Ballad Of A Thin Man.....what the fuck was that? I actually remember feeling uncomfortable listening to it. But of course, the big one was Like A Rolling Stone. For the benefit of those who don't already know:

Man from audience: "Judas!" (followed by laughter and applause)

Dylan: "I don't believe you. You're a liar!"

Dylan (turning to band): "Play fucking loud!!" (before launching into the greatest song ever written)

P.S. For more of this, check out Martin Scorsese's excellent documentary, No Direction Home.