Released in 2010, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story box set is, hands down, one of the best gifts a Springsteen fan can receive. It is a behemoth collection packed with three CDs and 3 DVDs, containing hours of music and concert footage. Without exaggeration, there's absolutely nothing to complain about here: you are paying for the best of late 70s Springsteen, and you get the best of late 70s Springsteen.
Check out these beauties. First, you've got yourself Darkness on the Edge of Town, an all-time classic album that ranks in the top five on most Springsteen fans' lists. While, being a Springsteen fan, you are probably deeply intimate with Darkness's material, it's still nice to see it in the package. Next up, you have The Promise, a two-disc set of outtakes from the time period between Darkness and The River. While some purists may balk at the fact that the songs have been rerecorded and touched up in places, I absolutely love these tracks. As with any two-disc set, there is bound to be some extraneous material, but the second disc truly stands out with great songs like "Save My Love", "Ain't Good Enough For You", and "Talk To Me". The Promise is easily the strongest material Springsteen has released since Magic, and is worth the price of this box set alone.
But, somehow, there's more! Yes, you get three DVDs: a documentary about the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce performing Darkness in an empty theater in Asbury park, demos and concert footage from the "Thrill Hill Vault", and, if that wasn't enough, an entire concert from Houston in 1978. I must admit that I haven't gone back to rewatch the documentary since originally getting it - perhaps one day I'll go back and write a review. But, the footage from the 70s is always great. (And, as pointed out previously, you get a rare shot of Steven Van Zandt sans bandana!) The performance of Darkness in Asbury Park is haunting, as the setting deepens the somber themes of the music.
All these goodies come wrapped in a spiral notebook with pages of what can only be described as "Bruce scribblings". If you have the patience and obsession of extreme Springsteen fan (say, a fan that has written for a Springsteen blog for nearly three years), you may find it fun to read the notes to get a glimpse into Mr. Springsteen's editing process. However, for sane people, it is just simply a way to do something different and creative with the packaging.
Unlike the album collection, which can work for new Springsteen fans, I'd say this box set is best suited for Springsteen maniacs. The catch here is that this is already four years old - the Springsteen crazies probably got their grubby mits all over this (heck, they may have bought two sets). However, if you know one die-hard fan who DOESN'T have this, make sure to get it for him or her, and be prepared to be repaid with sexual favors.