Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: Darkness on the Edge of Town Remastered (1978)

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This world of digital sound can be quite tricky. The original line about CDs was that they would provide “perfect sound forever.” Yeah, sure. In their haste to get product to market, the early mastering jobs produced less than stellar results. In the intervening years, we’ve learned a lot about this process, although the “loudness wars” have stepped in to muddy the waters. That’s why I often cringe when seeing the word “remaster” next to an album that I love. Very often, far too much compression is applied, squeezing the “air” out of the mix. Oh sure, it sounds louder, but that doesn’t mean “better.”

All of which means that yes, I did in fact cringe when I read that Darkness On The Edge Of Town was to be remastered as part of the release of The Promise. Yes, the original CD master had some issues — washed-out highs and a muddy bottom end. But was that any reason to risk exposing this classic album to the loudness monster?

I needn’t have been concerned. The Darkness remastering is full of subtle improvement without the addition of unnecessary sonic bombast. Corrections were made exactly where they were needed. On the high end, the sizzle of Max’s high hat and that wet sound of the stick on the ride cymbal have greatly improved clarity. We want to hear the crisp attack of those cymbal sounds, with the natural decay that follows. Those elements have been fully restored. On the bottom end, Garry W. Tallent’s bass lines stand out more in the mix. Distinct phrases can now be heard in places where we used to hear “thud, thud, thud.”

The remastering job on Darkness On The Edge Of Town succeeds in adding that air between the instruments. This makes for a more aggressive sound without excessive compression coming in to spoil the fun. Go ahead, turn this one up loud. It can take it.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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