The Joshua Tree

U2

As Bono once said, The Joshua Tree is very Irish in its ache and melancholy, but the record resonates with a more American flavor. Either way, it went on to become a monster, hitting Number One, winning a Grammy for Album of the Year, and landing U2 on the cover of Time Magazine. Twenty years later, The Joshua Tree has been remastered from the original analog master tapes and repackaged in four different formats: a single CD featuring liner notes from Bill Flanagan, lyrics and unseen photographs from long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn; a double 12" gatefold vinyl format with the original album pressed across two 180 gram audiophile discs; a deluxe edition including a second CD of B-sides and demos from the original album sessions; and a limited edition box set containing two CDs and a DVD featuring a full concert and other rare video footage.

On their way to becoming the biggest band on the planet, U2 started exploring life beyond Dublin and discovered the world. Their explosive performance at Live Aid in 1985 gave them international Carte Blanche, separating them from the packs of MTV bands vying for recognition. Yet, through it all, U2 retained the same Irish charm and subservience that had endeared them to punters and pop fans alike. And while they had made notable headway on record with War and The Unforgettable Fire, they had yet to realize their full potential as recording artists. With The Joshua Tree, that was about to change.

With producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois at the helm, The Joshua Tree is a collage of ideas, observations and interpretations, with America at the epicenter. To U2, there was a certain ying and yang about America — the world’s most powerful and secure nation interlocked in a cold war; a place of great prosperity and opportunity, largely void of spiritual fulfilment — simultaneously viewed as a savior and an scourge. “Where The Streets Have No Name” and “In God’s Country” may have addressed the lay of the land, but “Bullet The Blue Sky” exposed the harsh realities with pinpoint accuracy.

Whther or not the album’s dark edges, soaking in strains of blues, folk and gospel, can be attributed to it achieving worldwide acclaim remains a riddle wrapped in mystery. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You” hit pay dirt on MTV and the Billboard singles charts. Even Corbijn, who shot the stirring photos for the album’s cover art, ascended the ladder to success and is now an in-demand music video and film director. It's conceivable every branch of The Joshua Tree spawned growth for each of its participants. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, it's easy to see why this album, over so many others, still has wings and deserves a proper revisit. Of the extras available on the reissues, the B-sides disc features 14 tracks, mostly recorded during The Joshua Tree sessions. The DVD is especially enticing, with a full U2 performance filmed at the Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris, on July 4, 1987, along with Outside It’s America, a 40-minute documentary, and music videos for "With Or Without You" and "Red Hill Mining Town."

~ Shawn Perry

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