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The U2 catalog boasts two avowed rock and roll masterpieces in 1987’s The Joshua Tree and the surprising reinvention of 1990’s Achtung Baby. For many fans aboard during the Irish quartet’s development, however, the real breakthrough was the first entry in the string of LPs helmed by producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois – 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire. After War fare like “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Singer Bono’s heart-on-sleeve lyrics coalesced with “Pride (In the Name of Love),” fusing protest and idealism in memory of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
The sprawling and emotive “Bad” and its lamentation over a friend’s heroin addiction was deployed as one of the most riveting performances at Live Aid in 1985. Other key tracks include “A Sort of Homecoming” with Larry Mullen, Jr.’s urgent tom-tom pattern and sheets of the Edge’s shimmering guitar.
The twinkling and hypnotic title track embraces the ambient textures promoted by Eno and Lanois, while spinning a haunting confessional from a disconnected and numbed spirit. The song draws further inspiration from an art exhibition at Chicago’s former Peace Museum by victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Edge plays slashing and fervent guitar against a taut groove by Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton during the thrilling but lesser-heard album cut “Wire.”
Attractions added in celebration of the album’s 35th anniversary include a heavyweight, wine-colored vinyl platter to match the cover artwork. A 16-page booklet includes lyrics, striking photos by Anton Corbijn, and liner notes from Eno and Lanois.
The remastered vinyl is sourced from the 25th anniversary release and the reissue campaign surrounding the U2360 tour. Compared to original 1984 vinyl, the fresh take exhibits enhanced clarity across the spectrum. Particularly improved are the sound of inner groove tracks. During “The Unforgettable Fire”, top-end frequencies have more sparkle and Clayton’s bass is more present and resonant among the wafting clouds of synthesized cellos. Bono’s voice is more intimate and present during the hymnal “MLK,” without the saturation and distortion creeping into the original mass-market pressing.
Also offered is a similarly refreshed take on the hard-hitting, Grammy-hoarding How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb pressed onto striking red vinyl. This updated master sounds great, too. Clayton’s bass rumbles while the Edge’s guitar rages through the cathartic “Vertigo.” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” remains among Bono’s most vulnerable, unflinching and confessional lyrics (and performances), reflecting upon the turbulent but elemental relationship with his father in the wake of his father’s passing.
“City of Blinding Lights” find U2 at its most starry-eyed, shimmering, and optimistic, even while Bono tempers his romantic proclamations by singing about lost innocence. “Love and Peace or Else” emerged as a bracing performance piece for drummer Mullen during the … Atomic Bomb tour that also allowed the Edge to play raucous, paint-peeling riffs. The package includes a 16-page booklet with lyrics and photos.