It seemed hopelessly far off in the future when the Darkness box was announced back at the end of August. With only two weeks left before the big day, it looks like we may actually make it. We may actually get to hold this perhaps most eagerly awaited Springsteen release ever, in our trembling, sweaty hands.
With every new glimpse of what the box contains, expectations have gone up notch after notch. So far the only complaint has concerned how the outtakes album may not be actual outtakes, but more like reworkings of songs that were left over from the Darkness sessions. Bruce's modern voice is often heard, and lyrics and instruments that were probably missing from the original outtakes have been added. However, listening to the result, you have to be a pretty big purist to not appreciate the rich sound and fully realized production of these songs, and how this is so much more than an outtakes album. The Promise will rank as a full-fledged album alongside Springsteen's most important work, and several new classics will be added to the song canon. Would you really have preferred recordings with missing verses, technical flaws, and sloppy performances over that? Because the fact probably is that very few of the Darkness outtakes were finished, and those that were finished were probably, to a big extent, already included on Tracks.
While several of the songs on The Promise double album have been heard through various sources (including a leak this last weekend that some called deliberate and others a major blunder that will cost someone their job), and lots of fans have also had the chance to watch the documentary on TV or in the movie theater, very little is still known about the 2009 live performance of the Darkness album and the full Houston show. Time will tell if we will get a few appetizers from those items, but if not, maybe that's OK. There is still nothing like pulling the plastic wrapping off a brand new Springsteen release and not knowing exactly what you're getting, but knowing it will have the potential to rock your world, literally and metaphorically.
May the next two weeks feel like a day and a half. Bring it on.