Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: U2, The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition)

In 1987 U2 reached for the moon – and snared it.  “The Joshua Tree” has been described as the album every band wants to make and while that may not be strictly true, it’s close enough.  joshua treeThe album opens with the cathedral organ of “Where the Streets Have No Name”.  Out of those haunting, instantly arresting chords The Edge’s signature chiming, ringing guitar builds to the entry of Adam Clayton’s (bass) and Larry Mullen’s (drums) propulsive driving rhythm and Bono’s impassioned vocal.  Most bands would be leary of opening an album with such a powerful song for fear that the rest of the CD would pale in comparison but U2 use it to introduce what may be the most extraordinary sequence of songs ever to open a record:  “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, ‘With or Without You”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Running to Stand Still”.  It’s magnificent.

Why was it that a band from Ireland was able to so eloquently capture the dichotomy of the American yearning (“With or Without You”) desire to improve, to achieve more, give more, be more, (“Where the Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”) coupled with the reality of a political regime devoted to cold blooded opportunism at the expense of anyone who got in the way (“Bullet the Blue Sky”, “Exit”)?  I don’t know, but they did.  When you consider Iraq, Katrina, secret prisons in countries that do not subscribe to the Geneva Conventions, torture, and the unrelenting greed that infuses the current Bush presidency coupled with the large numbers of people who have turned out to vote in the Democratic primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire (I’m writing this on the night after the New Hampshire primary) in response to the leading candidates ringing proclamation that we want, can, and must do better it seems that “The Joshua Tree” is as relevant to the America of today as it was when first released twenty years ago.

The deluxe edition of “The Joshua Tree” comes in three versions:  The original album remastered, the remastered album coupled with an additional CD of music from the same period, and the two CDs packaged with a DVD, a packet of photos and a small hardcover book.  The second CD has a number of tracks that were finished after “The Joshua Tree” was completed and were released as B-sides to the singles from the album, a version of “Silver and Gold” originally released on the “Sun City – Artists United Against Apartheid” album that features Bono, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Steve Jordan, and a number of tracks that were recorded during “The Joshua Tree” sessions that didn’t make the final cut.  From the evidence supplied here, U2 picked the right songs for the album.  However, at least at the time “The Joshua Tree” was recorded, U2’s rejects are as good or bettter than 90% of what other bands were doing and listeners who are enamored of “The Joshua Tree” will want the second CD. 

The DVD has a concert taped in Paris on the 4th of July, 1987, a 45 minute film about U2 on tour in the American Southwest in support of “The Joshua Tree” and videos for “With or Without You” and “Red Hill Mining Town”.  The concert film opens with Bono flouncing around and preening in front of the cameras and audience as the gig gets underway which was the last thing we wanted to see after listening to “The Joshua Tree”.  We turned it off and did something else.  We returned another day, skipped the first two songs, and discovered that Bono quickly lost the self-obsessed bullshit as he and the band sunk into the music.  It’s a good, but not great, concert with a few moments of real magic.  The overwhelming impression one is left with is just how good of a band these four guys are.  They support and complement each other beautifully and each makes all the others better.  I was captivated well before the end of the gig.  The film about the tour is a combination of videos and band-on-the-road footage.  I didn’t find it interesting enough to be worth 45 minutes but committed fans of the band may think otherwise.  Not only is it not all about Bono, but the “it’s all about me, the oh so pretty rock star” behavior that began the concert is nowhere to  be seen which was a relief.  The pictures are pictures of the band standing around in the desert.  Ho-hum.  The book has brief essays about “The Joshua Tree” by each of the band members along with people involved in the making of the album like producers Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno and others along with more pictures.  I found Edge’s discussion of the recording environments they worked in and the songs on the second CD especially interesting.

Which of these versions of “The Joshua Tree” you might want will depend on your love of this music and the band at this period in its development.  If you’re infatuated with U2, you will probably want the full package.  In retrospect, I would have been happy with the middle package that combines the original album with the second CD of additional music.  I think anyone who really likes this period of U2 in general or “The Joshua Tree” in particular will want that second disc.  If you aren’t familiar with “The Joshua Tree”, the single disc with the original album is something you really should listen to.  It is filled with extraordinarily powerful, compelling and ultimately uplifting music that has influenced countless bands that have come after and which unerringly brings home the message that we should never, ever stop striving to achieve what we dream and yearn for even though

Outside it’s America.


01/09/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews


  1. […] Name” that satisfied them and how they ended up cobblng together the final version on “The Joshua Tree“ from bits and pieces.  Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. says “On the record, musically, […]

    Pingback by Review: U2, U23D « Tuned In To Music | 02/22/2008 | Reply

  2. […] world like them.  I thoroughly enjoyed returning to the recently released deluxe edition of “The Joshua Tree” and was absolutely thrilled by “U23D“.  With that recent history I really […]

    Pingback by Review: U2 By U2 « Tuned In To Music | 03/31/2008 | Reply

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