U2 – 18 Singles (Special Edition)
U2 were one of my favourite bands when growing up in the 80s though, like
many others of my generation, their appeal waned considerably as I reached my mid 20s in the early 90s. I very rarely find myself playing any of their old albums now and haven’t bought any new product
since 1993’s Zooropa. Until now that is, with 18 Singles which has enabled
me to own some of their best recordings in recent years as well as reminding me of why they were so good in the first place.
is of course not the first U2 retrospective but, unlike 1998’s 1980-1990 and 2002’s 1990-2000 compilations, 18
Singles crucially covers the band’s whole career and includes excellent recent tracks such as the thrilling Vertigo. Cramming the band’s complete works onto one CD arguably also has its downside
as many prominent singles are missing through overall I am happy with the choices made.
It’s interesting that number one hits such as The Fly and Discotheque are omitted in favour of lesser hits, but
possibly more fondly remembered songs, such as Mysterious Ways, Sweetest Thing and Walk On.
As with all selective singles compilations, each fan will of course have his or her own views as to what should have
Other highlights which are included on 18 for me are the exciting Desire, stately Stuck In
A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of and New Years Day, the song that first got me into U2 all those years ago. The compilation also includes two new songs, a U2 / Green Day joint recorded for charity cover of The Skids’
The Saints Are Coming and a new original song Window In the Skies. The Special
Edition of 18 Singles also contains so much more including an excellent 10 song live DVD recorded at the San Siro Stadium,
Milan in 2005. The highlight of this is a stunning piano-led version of Miss
Sarajevo. Dedicated to the victims of the 7/7 London bombs which happened just
a few days before the gig, Bono also sings Luciano Pavrotti’s Italian opera part form the original recording –
with a deluxe booklet featuring lyrics and photos from throughout the band’s career and bound to look like a luxury
Ladybird book, 18 Singles is an excellent compilation with superb extras. A brilliant
and very worthy package for welcoming U2 back into my listening and CD purchasing radar.
Acquired by me: 30.12.05 (Bought)
In a recent BBC4 documentary celebrating the 50th
Anniversary of Island Records, U2 made a point of thanking the label for not dropping them after their second album October. Probably the band’s most overtly religious LP, October was not, as the band
now acknowledge, the follow-up that many at the record company were looking for. Despite
some calls from within to drop them, label chief Chris Blackwell kept faith in the young Irish four-piece and I guess it’s
fair to say that the rest is history…
So how does October sound now after so many years? Remarkably good as it happens with fine, uncluttered arrangements and an excellent clear production by
the highly regarded Steve Lillywhite. The playing by Larry Mullen Jr (drums),
Adam Clayton (bass) and especially The Edge with an already distinctive guitar style is inventive and excellent. Coupled with strong vocals by Bono and melodic yet highly individual songs, it’s amazing to consider
that this album was put together by an act still in their very early 20s.
October opens with the anthemic Gloria, which
is probably its best-known track. As well as a brilliant riff, Gloria also displays
the band’s Irishness with Bono’s Gaelic tones as does another highpoint, the understated ballad Tomorrow with
its oillean pipes and lyrics partly influenced by the tragic young death of the singer’s mother.
In many was an unusual
act for Island Records, U2 display a perhaps surprising affinity to the label’s Jamaican roots with some distinctly
dub reggae influenced passages in the impressive I Threw A Brick Through A Window. Rejoice
and the piano based title tracks are also highlights and even the minor hit Fire, much derided in later days by the band themselves,
still sounds excellent.
Lyrically, religion and spirituality have a strong hold over October which is not surprising bearing
in mind that the strong Christian views of three members of the band were such that they were seriously considering whether
they should be playing rock music at the time. Fortunately, Bono, Edge and Larry
concluded that they should carry on though, even if they hadn’t, they would still have made two excellent albums. Thankfully
Chris Blackwell agreed and U2 went on to become one of the biggest bands in the world.
Though often overlooked by their millions of later fans, October displays in spades the band’s innovation and
passion and stand up as an equal to any of their more famous LPs. It is
Acquired by me: 6.09
- Borrowed (Library)