U2 began life producing 3 strong post-punk albums that were socially conscious on a lyrical level, and musically excellent, before veering off the traveled road of style by hooking up with avant-garde producer Brian Eno and his recording partner, Daniel Lanois. They produced the next level for U2 called Unforgettable Fire, which generated an establishing hit for U2 with “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Their next would be the Grammy Award winning, multi-platinum album known the world over as The Joshua Tree.
Released in 1987, the world would embrace The Joshua Tree as it generated hit after hit, (“Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “and “With or Without You”) This would position the band as one for the long haul, borne out after their many successes, although not all of them good (arguable points amongst U2 fans).
On this long overdue reissue 20th Anniversary package of The Joshua Tree, the band adds several B-sides, outtakes, and a radio edit, in a second disc. The remastered original album, presided over by The Edge, is a clarifying experience. Sonically impressive, the album is given a new listening experience. The additional disc of extra bonus cuts make this 20th Anniversary extremely remarkable because the B-sides complement the original album tracks as do the included sessions outtake tracks. All of those non-album songs are as much a part of the history of the album, making them a neat fit.
The bonus disc begins with seven B-sides, all of which have been heard before on other collections. They were not good enough for the album but certainly good enough to not ignore, making their place as B-sides obvious. Those songs are followed by a shorter, single edit of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and an off-album track for Little Steven’s push against Apatheid in South Africa (“Silver and Gold (Sun City)”) that features Ron Wood and Keith Richards. The remaining five songs are sessions outtakes from The Joshua Tree recordings. These sessions songs highlight a different U2. The metaphorical “Wave of Sorrow (Birdland)” had been an unfinished song until recently. It is good although the song still has an unfinished feel to it. I have a particular fondness for the ‘60s sounding “Desert of Our Love.” “Rise Up” presents an Unforgettable Fire period sound. The sessions songs are clearly experimental on the band’s part but are endearing nonetheless. I’m glad to be able to hear these songs that could not make the album for their lack because, as always, they serve to illuminate the recording/writing/choice process of any album.
The book binds 36 pages of lyrics, credits, period photographs, liner notes (Bill Flanagan), and observations/remembrances from The Edge. The discs are slipped into cardboard sleeves at the front and back of the book. The book itself, a gorgeous representation for the album, is slipcased into a solid cardboard slipcase, spine out.
The remastering and reissue of The Joshua Tree, a masterwork by the always evolving U2, is a spectacular package in every way. And while I haven’t heard any official word (as of 11/28/07), it is interesting to note that within the credits, there is one for U2 catalogue re-release coordinator, hinting at the fact that other restorations will soon follow.