on November 6, 2009
I own all of U2's albums, and all of the remastered editions as well. While I love the beautiful booklets accompanying these re-issues, and they all sound good, I haven't noticed a HUGE amount of sound improvement. Not that I'm complaining, but "WAR" for instance, still sounds a little "shrill" (to my ears at least). "Unforgettable Fire" is the U2 album most noticeably improved with the new mastering. "A Sort Of Homecoming" has a nice "roundness" to the sound and mix which the previous CD release lacked. There are even "incidental noises" which can be heard now that I never noticed before on the previous edition. Things like the odd cable buzz etc. actually add to the CD. U2 were, after all, recording fairly "live" in a castle. These "imperfections" really take you right into the recording session. These noises, I should add, are really only at heard discreetly at the start of certain tracks. The sound is GREAT. I have absolutely no complaints with this disc.
On another note, I've always felt that "Unforgettable Fire" was sandwiched between two rather celebrated U2 efforts "War" and "The Joshua Tree". For this reason I've often felt it's somewhat overlooked in the catalogue. True, "Pride" was a big hit, but listening back to this album now I realize how much artistic "gold" I had overlooked. "Bad" is absolute classic U2, "MLK" is beautiful, and "Unforgettable Fire" is another haunting piece. Basically, I've been most impressed with this particular U2 reissue. I'm really glad such an important artistic milestone for the band has now been given a proper release on CD.
on August 1, 2011
Maybe not as essential as The Joshua Tree box set, The Unforgettable Fire being a less accessible album (and, consequently, less popular than it's 1987 followup), but still an absolute must for fans of U2's work with the Eno-Lanois production duo. This was the first album recorded by U2 with the duo, which would later go on to producing some of the band's most popular albums, including The Joshua Tree and 1991's Achtung Baby.
The remastered edition of the original 1984 album is highly superior soundwise to the original CD edition. Lanois had worked very closely with drummer Larry Mullen in the studio, and all the subtlety and detail in the drum tracks is more evident here than on any other U2 recording. The Unforgettable Fire has always been one of my favourite U2 albums, I've listened to it a lot over the past 25 years, and I must admit that I had never paid as much attention to the drumming as I feel compelled to do when I listen to this version of the album. Larry Mullen fans will not believe how clear and detailed the sound is!
The bonus CD, as with all of U2's remastered box sets, contains all the singles, b-sides and outtakes from the 1984-85 experimental phase that served as transition between the more accessible War and Joshua Tree albums. The scope of the band's musical experimentation becomes even more evident when confronted with these complete recordings. Included here are all the tracks that were released on the Wide Awake in America EP (1985) and on the various versions of the Pride and Unforgettable Fire singles. A special mention goes to an alternate version of A Sort of Homecoming, featuring African rhythms and Peter Gabriel on back vocals!! A completely different song, like nothing U2 has ever recorded either before or since!
The DVD features the complete contents of the Unforgettable Fire Collection videocassette released in 1985 (all 4 videos from Unforgettable Fire plus a Making Of documentary), U2's Live Aid set from '85 (finally available without having to purchase the complete Live Aid box set!) + the band's set from a Conspiracy of Hope concert in '86. The DVD demonstrates how fast the band evolved during those two years, as the U2 that takes the stage in '86 has already shed all remnants of their post-punk look, embracing the neo-hippie style that we normally associate with the Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum era.
Maybe too experimental and eclectic for casual U2 fans, but anyone who's into U2's more experimental work will no doubt find this a very essential and most interesting addition to their collection.
on June 22, 2004
In their offtime between the 'War Tour' and the recording of "The Unforgettable Fire", U2 saw an exhibit in Japan about Hiroshima, which subsequently led to many of the ideas and images throughout this album. For this album, U2 let go of producer Steve Lillywhite, who had been at the helm of the group's first three records, and hired duo Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois(pronounced Len-Wa), a move that would pay off in more ways than U2 ever could have imagined when they made it. Eno and Lanios created a much more polished, atmospheric sound for and with the band, and it was quite apparent right from the opening chords of the record. To quote bassist Adam Clayton, on the transition between the end of the previous tour and this record, "It was either the end of something, or the beginning of something else...and The Unforgettable Fire was that new beginning".
The castle on the record's cover(NOT, contrary to popular belief, Slane Castle) is very indicitive of the relaxed and wintry feel of this record. It's very quiet yet very loud at the same time. Highlights include anthem classic "Pride(In The Name Of Love)", the title track(which also happens to be one of the more orchestral tracks in U2's catalog), "The Unforgettable Fire", live classic "Bad", the opener, "A Sort Of Homecoming", "Indian Summer Sky", and the closer, "MLK", which is a rather comforting yet heartbreaking song about death(MLK's in particular). This is a great and even magical record in its own right, it went perhaps deeper musically, it was perhaps more sophisticated, than anything U2 had done before it, U2's second masterpiece if you ask me, yet it is still only a prelude, by most standards, to what comes next.
on May 27, 2004
*The fourth Cd of U2's musical emporium, Unforgettable fire reveals a transition from War into Joshua Tree.
*It can be said of "War," that the album was and is the apex of U2's political [rawness] in sound and lyrical style. Unforgettable fire has a phoenix like emergence from the ashes sensibility as the majority of its songs are in the key (or chord) of C, a regretful, longing chord . . . and usually melt into the G chord which evokes resolution and completion.
*U2 for most listeners are the bards of political issues that become metaphors for the heart and personal relationships.
*It can be said in a critical eye that as the band has progressed from its humble beginnings, they have lost their edge, (no pun intended) in dynamically representing the political turmoil of their or anyone else's homeland . . .
*Unforgettable fire is the exempt of this criticism, since its creation was in the throngs of U2's involvement with conflicts in their country(s) as well as their own personal lives.
*Brina Eno and Daniel Lanois do an incredible job producing, adding soft 80's synth and great echo and reverb.
#1, Sort of Homecoming, the first song on the CD, is a longing tune about returning to what was once known, and a permanent hiatus that changes home to a place no longer home, and the regret of the movement. The song is a perfect harbinger for the tone and aesthetic set for the rest of the CD.
#2, Pride is an incredible anthem that undoubtedly most have heard on the radio over the years, if not on the conglomerate best album. The song lyrically draws artistic similarities between the Historical and Christian Jesus with Martin Luther King.
#4, Unforgettable fire reminds me of a traveling ballad where old friends meet at an inn at twilight after a crossing the Gaelic lands. Bono serendanes an eeire falsetto, as the bard element here is clear and poignant, giving depth and meaning to the lyrics and melodies.
#6, Bad is a great breakup song, as I listened to it in my adolescence almost religiously during one of my first breakups. All relationships have emotional turmoil which often results in time apart from each other to dwell on what was done. All of the members of U2 have a relationship with Dublin, the city (or town) this was written on. Wonderful allegory in this song.
#7, Indian Summer is an awesome fall-song about reminiscing of the summer and settling down into the tempo of fall. I love how U2 utilizes the seasons in classic romantic style.
*All in all, a wonderful CD with powerful statements and allegory whether you agree with them or not. It is as effectual as it is full of energy and meaning. It is as calming as it is thought provoking and invigorating.
*This album is a must-have with the best of. It certainly is worth buying because of the omissions this CD contains from the Best of.
on May 9, 2004
After a succesion of rather aggressive, bombastic albums opened their career, the sound and textures of 'The Unforgettabe Fire' were most certainly a shock to many critics and fans of U2 during this time. It is a large stylistic leap from the raw emotion of 'War', released, amazingly, only one year earlier. However in terms of style and lyrical focus, the two albums are quite dissimilar.
The production team of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who would guide U2 through some of their most successful albums (Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can't...), take the reins for the first time on this album. Warmer sounds and textures, such as electronic keyboards, muffled, reverb-laden drums, and assorted studio trickery, bring an added depth heretofore unheard on a U2 album.
Musically, many songs on the album find U2 in top form. The gourgeous, layered opener "A Sort of Homecoming", the blissful title track, the triumphant (if overplayed) "Pride", and the energetic "Wire", show U2 at their creative peak to that point int heir career. Unfortunately, those were also the first four songs on a ten track album, and things get a bit bogged down in the second half.
"4th of July" acts as a prelude to "Bad", yet is truly only a meandering filler track. "Elvis Presley And America" is a plodding, 6 minute number which goes nowhere and features undecipherable, improvised lyrics from Bono. Even the epic "Bad", which many U2 fans (rightfully so) cite as one of the band's all-time great numbers, did not hit its true stride until performed live on the subsequent tour. Here, it is a good idea of a song that *tries* to build up yet never reaches a full head of steam. Check the live version released on the absurdly-overpriced "Wide Awake in America" to see what this track was capable of becoming.
Lyrically, Bono tackles much more personal and intimate subject matters than the political rantings evident on "War". For the first time, he deals with personal relationships and the trials and nuances that go with them. A vague spirituality overshadows the album as well, a theme which would be played out much more thoroughly on the ensuing "Joshua Tree". Though some bits are overt and obvious ("MLK"), and others simply bad ("Elvis Presley..."), overall the album shows a maturing Bono and a more thoughtful, intimate side than was evident before.
All in all, "Unforgettable Fire" is a solid effort from the band, and is stylistically a sizeable step forward. As with any such effort, there are bound to be growing pains, and they are certainly evident here. But in this case, the power of the good songs outweigh the deficiencies left from the bad ones, creating an enjoyable, if uneven, album overall. 3.5 stars.
on April 26, 2004
U2 in the 1980's evolved in a way that many bands don't , or won't - they matured in a questing, yearning sort of way and progressed from adolescent ingenues in 1979-80 (Boy era) to highly-skilled artisans and richly-experienced globetrotters before the decade was out. 1984's The Unforgettable Fire album was the midpoint of this process, where the band tried more experimental soundscapes and semi-obscure imagery than before. True, they had often included half-realised ideas on previous LP's, but here they mixed "ambient sounds" in with unusual , passionate rockers that did not conform to the usual hit single style of many of their 80's chart rivals. The obvious high point of this set is Pride. I will never forget seeing the B&W video of this on a TV pop countdown in October 1984 when I was fourteen- my first knowledge of U2 - and being struck by the burning intensity of this song. It remains one of my top 20 all-time favourite songs. The other fantastic song is Bad, which evokes struggle, adversity and pain , but which is a song of rare beauty. A Sort Of Homecoming is a song I also love- it has taken many listens to fully appreciate this passionate tune. I believe MLK , though more a quiet, elegiac chorus than a "song" as such, is a restful companion piece to Pride (they both pay respect to the late Dr. Martin Luther King jr).The title tune is also very fine indeed. The remaining tracks are more experimental pieces. Wire is more uptempo and interesting.
The Unforgettable Fire still sounds excellent today, and I do not believe this music will date. Highly Recommended!!
on January 20, 2004
"The Unforgettable Fire" is somewhat easy to overlook, falling as it does between "The Joshua Tree" and "War," two albums of overwhelming power. "Fire" is a bit of a disappointment for me (though still very much worth listening to), not because of the music, but because of the quality of the lyrics.
The Edge, Larry and Adam play at their very best. "Pride," "Bad" and "Wire" are three of U2's most sensational songs. But for the most part, Bono seems strangely absent in the lyric department. Obviously he wrote the above songs, as well as two other beautiful pieces, "MLK" and "A Sort of Homecoming." But "Elvis Presley and America"? "Indian Summer Sky"? The title song? I have no idea what to make of them, and that sort of puts a crimp in the album's emotional content.
Still, the record contains five tremendous songs, and functions as their vehicle, with the rest of the tunes serving as filler.
on October 30, 2003
The album that I would likely view as their most non-commercial album that they have ever made to date, U2's 1984 magnum opus "The Unforgettable Fire" could very well be my favorite album of their entire catalog. This builds upon the greatness of their previous albums and their 1983 breakthrough album "War". For those whose familiarity with U2 is confined to just to the "Joshua Tree" through their "All That You Can't Leave Behind" eras are likely to be surprised at the vastly different style of this album but still, this is worth checking out. I think that this album is more keyboard oriented than any of their other albums from before or since then. It's probably that my tastes lean more towards keyboard-oriented music that makes me love this album so much. I find it very hard to believe that this album came out way back in 1984! A lot of music that came out around that time period dated pretty quickly and sounds extremely dated today and sounded so even by the time "Joshua Tree" came around. "The Unforgettable Fire" on the other hand, was many years ahead of it's time when released and as it approaches it's 20th year of existence, it is every bit as fresh and vibrant and doesn't even sound dated at all. I could play this against "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and still hardly notice it's age. Quite a large number of reviews have labeled this album as uneven. Uneven? Yeah right! This album is strong the whole way through. All of the songs are absolutely delightful, ALL OF THEM!
We've all already heard "Pride In The Name of Love" as well as the haunting and passionate "Bad". I definitely believe that these two songs deserved all the popularity that they got then and still get today as they are among their best singles to date. There are two famous hit songs that are entitled "Bad". One is by Michael Jackson and the other is the other hit single of "The Unforgettable Fire". No offense to MJ but While I enjoy the MJ song quite a lot, U2's "Bad" to me is far superior and has such a haunting mix of passionate dynamic vocals, haunting keyboards, and a dark moody undertone to it and the result is one of my all time favorite U2 songs. The song grows more and more passionate and builds up towards the last two minutes and climaxes with such incredible power that "Bad" is just phenomenal. I love the haunting moody ambience that fades into the night after the beats and guitars end. While Bono has written passionate and mature music in the years since then, his abilities have never matched what he had done on this incredible song. What's even more amazing is that this song uses mostly just two chords and still comes out being a masterpiece track! With Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois as producers, this song has some keyboards that sound similar to those on Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain" although no where near as strong as those on the latter.
The non-singles on this album in my opinion are among my favorites though. "A Sort of Homecoming" is in my opinion, the best opening track on any of U2's albums beginning this album on a passionate and haunting note with passionate lyrics and dark yet intense moody atmospherics to create a truly marvelous and unforgettable. "Wire" is just energetic mayhem with a high-pace rhythm and edgy guitar playing by Adams. Many seem to really dislike the fifth and sixth tracks "Promenade" and "Fourth Of July". It's a deep shame as these really do such a fantastic job of blending moodiness with dark ambience, electrifying guitar bubbling guitars and breezy atmospheres. To me, this is my favorite 'lonely cloudy evening' theme song. The title to "Fourth Of July" may be a bit deceiving as it has no explosive styles that would make one think of actual fireworks but on the other hand, it would evoke images of seeing the fireworks but from a great distance as to not hear the popping sounds of them at all and thus I have to say that I absolutely adore this song. "Indian Summer Sky" is very much like "Wire" but as multi-rhythm like that track is and is slightly more acoustic than the former but still is a good song. "Elvis Presly and America" is a great and odd track with pounding pulsating drum beats and a mix of ambient blues and alternative rock. This is an excellent song and I totally defend it on here. The final track on here "MLK" is an odd and haunting closer to this haunting and elegant masterpiece with a hazy and ghostly ambient breeze for the melody and the sound of a breeze that fades into the night.
U2 may have struck multi-platinum with their next two albums "Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" but from my perspective, U2 reached their early artistic pinnacle on this record and while U2 have been the masters of reinvention throughout their career, I cannot deny that U2 have never toyed with passion, poetic lyric writing, atmospherics, darkness and moodiness the way they did on "The Unforgettable Fire" and this album is an album that must be included by ALL U2 fans' collection, both casual and die-hard fans. And so U2 closes out their early period on a phenomenal note and ushered in the era of superstardom and selling millions and millions of albums while retaining their artistic ability and punch to this very day. Please buy this album. I cannot recommend it enough. When I was done listening to this album, I felt like I had floated off the surface of the sidewalk during the album playing and finally softly touched back down when "MLK" faded into the night. It's that good! Just sheer and utter imaginative brilliance this record has! Even if you have the singles on the 1980-1990 hits CD, the non-single tracks on here warrant buying this album anyway. If only I was old enough to experience this when it was in it's heyday (I was barely two when this album came out), it would've been unbelievable! To Henry Rollins, no pun intended but take a chill pill man! ::-)
on September 7, 2003
U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" is one of the most versatile albums I have listened to, either in the car cruising down the highway or even while cleaning the home. From the very beginning of the stage-amicable "Bad," which automatically offers an incredibly paenean sound to UF, and the retrospectively captivating ballad of "Wire," to the eighth track, "Indian Summer Sky," this album keeps you alive and desirous for more. It is impossible for these songs to become of hackneyed status as so many of the songs of the current music scene have accomplished, a majour justification in the apparent regression of such musical careers.
"Elvis Presley in America," in a way, casts out the immortal presence of this album to a point with its pseudo-hydraulic vocals and musical accompaniment. However, "MLK" revives the spirit of UF with a comforting vocal enhancement to the additional instrumentation, providing a sound that puts the listener in a mystic aura of quietude.
Initially produced by the respected Eno/Lanois duo, this is a chef d'oeuvre in the eyes of many (including mine) and is most definitely the chocolate cake that is to be found in my collection. This is candy to the ears, mind, and soul. 1984 was a good year (or so, I've heard). All this album did was make it even betta. :)
on August 26, 2003
While "Joshua Tree" is probably U2's most universally acknowledged album, this is their best, both in musicianship and originality. The Edge has sometimes sounded better, but has never before or since been able to get the beautiful sounds from his guitar that he did here. Bono has also never sung so nicely. Mullen's drumming is more than adequate. Clayton...well...Clayton has never added much to the band in my opinion, but he does only what he needs to, which is good. Eno's production is fantastic.
"Pride", which is one of U2's most famous tunes, is the tamest of all the songs. "A Sort Of Homecoming", the title track, and a host of other songs make you feel like you could float away. "Wire" is just an insane hodgepodge of guitar harmonics and rhythms that completely boggle one's mind. The song is the opposite of the aforementioned but has the same cathartic effect by the time its over. "Bad" is an indisputable classic. This is a must-own for all rock fans and fans to true alternative music.