on June 22, 2004
"The Joshua Tree was the album U2 HAD to make, the only one they COULD make"
Those are the words of Eamon Dunphy, author of "Unforgettable Fire - The Definitive Biography of U2", on U2's process of making a new record in 1986 and early 1987. That might sound like an over-dramatization for a rock record, but once you've heard the record, that thought goes out the window. This record, U2's exploration of America, is one of the quintessential rock records ever recorded. It is, varying with opinion, U2's masterpiece of masterpieces. Since this album was recorded back when it was still 'ok' to talk about records in the context of 'sides', I will say that every song on the first 'side' of this record is a classic. 'Where The Streets Have No Name' with an intro that ranks with the best of all time, 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' with a theme of longing that anyone can relate to, 'With Or Without You'(my favorite U2 track), one of the most popular breakup songs ever, 'Bullet The Blue Sky' with its hypnotic talk/chant at the end at Edge's furious and passionate solos, and 'Running To Stand Still' with its atmosphere of deep pain being held in. The second 'side' was comprised of lesser-known but no less mesmerizing songs: 'Red Hill Mining Town', 'In God's Country', 'Trip Through Your Wires', 'One Tree Hill', which was written for roadie Greg Carroll, who died in a motercycle wreck running an errand for U2, the dark and moody 'Exit', and the mournful and haunting ballad closer, 'Mothers Of The Disappeared'.
This record catapaulted U2 in a realm of superstardom seldom seen by any band. They were not expecting it and they were taken by surprise a bit. I own this record on vinyl, cassette, and CD, and I even have the 'Classic Albums' DVD for it. This album has that quality about it, that sets it apart from from all other albums that don't pocess it. What quality is that? This was the first U2 record I ever heard, and I remember listening to it for the first time at age 13, and thinking to myself, before the album was even half over, 'hey, whoa, this band is one of the best ever'. That's the quality. Just like when you listen to 'Revolver' or 'Abbey Road' or any record of that quality, before it is even finished, you know the band is one of the best ever. I was completely blown away. It is a draining experience, one that will leave you exhausted when the album reaches its conclusion.
Spiritually, emotionally, lyrically, musically, commercially, U2 reached their peak with this record, and it was a peak they would remain on for a while to come, starting with the "Joshua Tree Tour", their biggest tour to date at the time. And not only did U2 reach their peak, but it is also important to note that on this record, Bono reached his peak as a singer. For U2's whole career up to this point, he had progressively improved as a singer with each outing. On this record he made the leap from being a very good rock singer to being one of the great rock singers of all time. I submit he is still the best, most emotional, most evocative rock singer of his time.
And though that tour would eventually lead to U2 being sick and tired of their current form, and to the brink of a breakdown, that was still a good two and a half years away. At this point U2 were excited to be as popular and relevant as they would ever be, which, incidentally gave them the leverage to pull stunts like the now legendary liquor-shop-roof-quasi-show during which the 'Where The Streets Have No Name' video was shot. U2 had arrived.
This is specifically the 2007 double LP reissue on vinyl that I am reviewing here. And my focus is on sound quality as the musical content has been thoroughly covered!
I love this double vinyl reissue and my expectations were surpassed for it. Not sure who did the pressing but my copy is beautifully pressed with excellent sound. From what I can tell reading online, this is the digitally mastered source used in the cd issue. As a vinyl fan, I find the sound very pleasing, very clear and still very `organic' sounding. Even if the source is digital, to my ears, vinyl provides a better soundstage than cd in this case.
As a double lp presentation at the normal 33 1/3 rpm. speed, the tracks are set up as follows:
Side 1 - Original tracks 1-3
Side 2 - Original tracks 4 and 5
Side 1 - Original tracks 6-8
Side 2 - Original tracks 9-11
This leaves lots of vinyl groove space for maximum sound reproduction. I wasn't sure from the cover if it would be 33 1/3 or 45 rpm. but it is the former. Yes, this means getting up more often to change sides but I was surprised to find this advantageous, not only in sound quality but it made me pay more attention to what I have previously considered the `lesser' tracks on this record - #6 - 11. They are the ones that perhaps benefit most from this presentation as there are some terrific production touches that I have missed before and now standout on this crystalline vinyl sound. Until know, I have not appreciated the left turn taken in mood with the final 2 songs `Exit' and `Mothers of the Disappeared'. There is a ghostly atmosphere provided by the Eno/Lanois production that is revealed better than ever here.
Also worthy of mention, `Bullet the Blue Sky' has never this good to me. The drums are rock solid while the Edge's guitar slithers menacingly between the speakers to capture the harrowing feel of this song like never before.
I got tired of the Joshua Tree after listening to it so much when it first came out, much like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (which has also been reissued on great sounding new vinyl in 2011). However, with the new and improved vinyl sound of this reissue, I am reconnecting with it on a new level of appreciation.
Anyone wanting to know if this reissue is worth it, I would emphatically say `Yes'. I don't have an original UK pressing to compare it to so searching the audio forums may help if you want that comparison. However, this is definitely a sonic gem for me and you will be especially in for a treat if you have only owned it on cd before.
on May 5, 2011
1. The remastered version of The Joshua Tree sounds way better (and louder) than previous editions on CD.
2. The Bonus CD: it's great to have ALL the remastered b-sides from the Joshua Tree singles on one CD (The Best of U2 1980-1990 only featured a selection of these tracks) + some of the outtakes, although obviously unfinished, give an idea of various directions the band could have taken with this album. A special mention goes to "Rise Up", which sounds almost exactly like Edge's and Sinéad O'Connor's "Heroïne" from '86. Also included are both versions of "Silver and Gold", one by U2 and the other by Bono with Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones.
3. The DVD contains a full concert from the beginning of the Joshua Tree tour. Where the Rattle and Hum film used footage from later in the tour, when the band was not only getting better at playing the new songs, but had also already cut some of them out of the set list, here they were still road testing most of the songs from the album. Even the hit songs were not classics yet, so U2 doesn't even bother to play "Where the Streets Have no Name", which is something they probably couldn't get away with today. They also weren't performing as many covers as they would later in the tour, which leaves more room in the setlist for songs from the first four albums.Also included is a documentary featuring footage from the first leg of the American tour, including photo shoots with Anton Corbijn, the band performing country songs in small clubs and even shopping for cowboy boots. Interesting to watch because U2 were so much less self conscious than when filming Rattle and Hum. This footage shows U2's less serious side, which makes this DVD an essential complement to Rattle and Hum.
on May 12, 2010
After its release, Bono was quoted as saying "The Joshua Tree is the best record we've made to date, but it will not be our best record by a long shot." People may argue about whether or not it is their best record, or even was at the time, but I think it would be difficult to support the second half of the statement. "The Joshua Tree" was released on the 9th of March, 1987 and was a critical success, and a sales success as well as it reached number 1 on the charts in over 20 countries. It was U2's fifth studio album, and with it the group explored different genres, and in particular blues, than they had in their previous albums. At the same time, the album also builds on their previous release, "The Unforgettable Fire", both in sound and with their decision to stick with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as producers.
The album opens with the brilliant "Where the Streets Have No Name", the third single from the album, and a piece which sets the tone and the style for the entire album. The second track is "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" which was also the second single from the album which brings forward the religious aspect of the album, both in lyric and in gospel influence. "With or Without You" is next, and it was the first single from the album. A song dealing with internal conflicting feelings and desires. "Bullet the Blue Sky" brings in a different sound, and yet works well with the rest of the album, this is the first political song from the album.
"Running To Stand Still" brings some blues into the album, with its acoustic interaction between guitar and piano. The lyric refers to the heroin epidemic in Dublin during the 80's. "Red Hill Mining Town" is next, a song which had been planned to be a single, but when they had difficulty with the video they released "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" instead. That problem aside, this track would have been a good single. "In God's Country" is the shortest piece on the album, and probably the highest energy one as well. It was released as the fourth single for the album in the U.S. and Canada.
"Trip Through Your Wires" is next, a piece with a different feel than most of the rest of the album, with Bono playing Harmonica, and a lyric which plays with good vs. evil and the path which our desires lead us down. "One Tree Hill" was released as a single in New Zealand and became number one there. The song was written about Greg Carroll, to whom the entire album is dedicated. Greg was Bono's assistant, and died in a motorcycle accident during the period when the album was being recorded. "Exit" is another interesting piece, which appears to be dealing with suicide or perhaps murder, as it starts soft and builds to a heart-racing crescendo, and then jumps between the two contrasts. The album closes with "Mothers of the Disappeared", a final political statement about the civil war in El Salvador and the people who "disappeared".
"The Joshua Tree" took U2 from an internationally known and respected group, to the status of one of the greatest groups in existence. They broadened their sound by exploring different genres, yet maintained their own identity. It may or may not be your favorite U2 album, but it is one of those albums which is known by even the most casual fan, and it is one of the defining albums of the period.
on May 18, 2004
U2's 1987 Masterpiece is simply that. Great songs written and performed with real passion and talent. U2 are one-of-a-kind! If you don't have this or haven't heard it before, do yourself a huge favor before it's too late because any music fan won't want to miss this great band and incredible album. One of the few bands that can make an entire album of good songs rather than a few hit singles. A must own for every U2/music fan!
on April 26, 2004
For me, The Joshua Tree is the best album of the 1980's. It had a notably long recording process, and saw the group travel to the Heartland of America for inspiration and for the memorable B&W cover art. The inspiration they found was in the direction of spirited, uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking sentiments delivered with fervour. Every song on the 11-track album is memorable. I'll start with my all-time favourite U2 song: Where The Streets Have No Name. I love this song dearly - it is about casting off one's shackles to find a true freedom of the spirit. I believe this theme is extended to the second single I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, which is about the search for spiritual meaning and an affirmation of faith despite a questioning soul. Songwriting does not get any better than these two tunes. With Or Without You is a brooding song that starts slowly , then winds into a majestic chorus before fading to a wonderful instrumental coda. Again, it evokes a strong passion clearly stated with no filters. U2 never made music this direct again, spinning off into irony and camp during their glittery 1990's Lemon sojourn, but these 3 all-time classics will never be forgotten. One Tree Hill is a passionate song for a NZ friend of the band's who was lost in an auto accident. Running To Stand Still is sort of exploring similar territory to 1984's Bad , but has a different feel, while the bleak Exit is an undiluted cry from someone at the end of a very dark tunnel of despair. The gentle refrain of Mothers Of The Disappeared is also about the painful emotions of the bereaved, but offers solace in the face of tyranny. In God's Country is a more straightforward tune that may have referred to the USA itself, where many patriots believe themselves divinely blessed. And why not?!!! U2 found the wellsprings of the rock and soul traditions in God's Country on their 1987 concert tour, and their American experiences are documented of course in the Rattle And Hum movie . This title comes from the incendiary track Bullet The Blue Sky, which is about the fear of the military and economic might of the USA in certain Central American regions. This became a dramatic concert favourite thereafter. Red Hill Mining Town is another track with a memorable, soaring vocal performance by Bono. The lightest touch on the album is in the tune Trip Through Your Wires. All in all, a richly emotional album with great music and inspiring lyrics. I have seen it written that the sound quality isn't the best. Not being an audiophile, I wouldn't know, but I really don't believe that matters much. All that matters is the music and the message. This is a 5-star masterpiece. Highly Recommended!
on April 7, 2004
There is within music an ability to tap into the raw, revelatory power of beauty; music can give itself to the unknown whisper of the eternal in ways that other forms of art only hint at. The collage of sounds communicates something deep to the heart and, when combined with the presence of the voice, can be downright liberating. Few individuals, let alone bands, ever really reach a point where they are that open to the Unknown that it can give itself so freely through their music. U2 has done so time and again, but never with the level of directness and sincerity as they accomplished on the Joshua Tree.
A joshua tree is a real tree that thrives despite the dry environment it lives in. The image - the icon - of life amidst its seeming absence, embodied in the joshua tree, is one that is fully appropriate to U2 - particularly at the end of their first decade. U2, like the joshua tree, stood in stark contrast to its environment: ascetic, prophetic and disarmingly (some would say "naively", but let the tension stand) sincere. (Their foray into the realm of post-modern sampling, irony and sarcasm was an identity crisis fully in line with where they stood in the 80s: cynicism is frustrated optimism.)
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", the second song, really expresses the kernel of The Joshua Tree; every other song fleshes it out in some way or another. The album is, in the end, about distance: "I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls only to be with you: But I still haven't found what I'm looking for." While one may take this to be an admission of defeat - and distance whispers of despair as much as consummation - doing so is incorrect: "I'm still running," Bono sings. The song is an expression of hope more than anything.
Faith is a raw and disarmingly rough beauty; it looks within and it looks without. "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Mothers of the Disappeared" give full expression to U2's long-time political engagement, while "With or Without You" gives a glimpse into U2's more tender side. "With or Without You" may very well be the best love song of the 80s. "One Tree Hill", a deeply personal song about the death of a friend, moves with passion and rugged grace - and, again, with hope: "I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky and the moon has turned red over one tree hill."
I look forward to the day when my children ask me, "Dad, did you ever listen to U2?" Not only will I have stories to tell about live concerts, but I will be able to relive with them the goosebumps that certain songs will inevitably bring. If rock is dead, U2 was its apex. And U2 has yet to be eclipsed.
on April 3, 2004
Track by track, this is U2's strongest album, with no obvious filler material like in The Unforgettable Fire.
"Where the Streets Have No Name"- My favorite song on the album. Incredible gutiars, and Bono's voice has never been better. 10/10
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"- Some of Bono's best lyrics. 10/10
"With or Without You"- A chilling, often misinterpretated love song. 10/10
"Bullet the Blue Sky"- This one is a let-down. Good guitars, but the lyrics fall flat. 7/10
"Running to Stand Still"- A slow, hypnotic elegy along the lines of "Bad". 9.5/10
"Red Hill Mining Town"- Most underrated song on the album. Envigorating guitars work well with Bono's soaring voice. 10/10
"In God's Country"- Great, but a little too short. 9/10
"Trip Through Your Wires"- Nice country vibe to it, but the keyboards can get irritating. 8/10
"One Tree Hill"- A surging, sad number dedicated to a dead friend. 10/10
"Exit"- Closest thing to filler on the album. Slow start, but it picks up at the end. 6/10
"Mothers of the Disappeared"- Beautiful elegy and a fitting end to the album. 9/10
on January 19, 2004
Plenty of others have reviewed the music on the album, so I will not contribute another love it/hate it review. However, I believe that this album represents the band's shift from political activists that rock to rockers that give a damn (most of the time).
Certainly the band has gotten more polished over the years, but I prefer the more raw, poignant sound of their previous albums to the experimental works Zooropa and Pop. I know these albums were made as a commentary about our culture, but the band became wrapped up in the pop culture that they sought to deride. All That You Can't Leave Behind was a nice recovery, however, and Achtung Baby is an excellent CD, even if doesn't match the standard set by its immediate predecessor, Joshua Tree.
The Joshua Tree stands as the one CD where U2 attained their highest level of perfection. The only misstep, in my opinion, is Bullet the Blue Sky. Despite my appreciation for their activist streak, I have to say that I have a difficult time enjyoying Bullet the Blue Sky musically. I know that good music is rarely easy to digest at first listen, but after many exposures to the song, I still cannnot bring myself to enjoy the disjointed sounds and rhythms of this song. I never tire of listening to the rest of the album, so it is small sacrifice to listen to this song, too.
on January 9, 2004
Before I picked up this album I knew the standard U2 radio hits, including the first three on this one, so I was a "fan" of what I had heard, but nothing prepared me for "The Joshua Tree". Every single song on it is great. Even some of my other all-time favs like "Exile on Main Street" and "The White Album" have a couple songs that are not as good as the others, but with this one you're given pure beauty. It's got the perfect opening track, "Where the Streets Have No Name". I think the great part about this song is how each member of the group comes in to it separately. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is probably Bono's most well-written, best-sung song. "With or Without You" is obviously one of the best love songs ever written. Edge's guitar really hit me hard on this one. "Bullet the Blue Sky" really showcased the rhythmic qualities of Larry and Adam. This is one of their real rockers. The fifth track is my favorite on the album, "Running to Stand Still". Bono's vocals are very calm and beautiful and Edge plays some nice slide guitar; the lyrics are terrific. "Red Hill Mining Town" and "In God's Country" are terrific "in between songs". The eighth track, "Trip Through Your Wires" is U2's most fun and joyous song; Bono does some great harmonica work on this one. "One Tree Hill" really does a great job preparing you for the end of the album; the backing vocals are incredible. "Exit" struck me as more of a darker song, but it nevertheless got its point across. Finally, you get "Mothers of the Disappeared", which just proves that U2 has created a masterpiece.
Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno do a bang up job with the production. They seemed to really know how to get the best out of the band. Even though I didn't own this album before my senior camping trip, before I graduated from high school, I listen to "The Joshua Tree" now and I can easily remember how much fun I had with my friends before we all left each other. Bottom Line: Do yourself a favor and get this album.