The Joshua Tree (1987)


 
1. Where the Streets Have No Name 2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For 3. With or Without You 4. Bullet the Blue Sky 5. Running to Stand Still 6. Red Hill Mining Town 7. In God's Country 8. Trip Through Your Wires 9. One Tree Hill 10.Exit 11.Mothers of the Disappeared



 

Not only the band's crowning achievement, but definitely one of the best albums of the 20th century. The success of this record really shouldn't have surprised anyone. Their first few albums had a very strong cult following - even though they didn't necessarily burn up the charts, and their last record broke through to the mainstream audiences and shared with the rest of the world just what all the fuss was about.

The mood, music, lyrics and atmosphere of this record all blend brilliantly. This could be conceived as a dark record, but there's plenty of hope abound if you listen close enough. Being an Irish band, the guys had only recently discovered the American landscape, and this record seems to symbolize what was good, and what was obviously not so good about the land of opportunity. Not surprisingly, they use the desert setting of the western U.S. to symbolize the record.

The best word to describe this record would simply be powerful. Bono sings the songs with such utter conviction and passion, that you can't help but get swept up into all the emotion and want to wail right along with him. It's almost as if this record is a 50 minute >prayer of passion. That's not to say this is not a fast nor even a rock record. In fact, they've toned down those characteristics quite significantly. The passionate pleas are everywhere, and its sometimes the slower numbers such as With our Without You or Running to Stand Still tend to stand out the most. Bono was now being recognized as a brilliant lyricist. As all great bands do, U2 define their own style. You cant really accuse them of trying to sound like anyone else on this record. The American influences are more apparent on songs such as the Gospel like Trip Through Your Wires and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, but they manage to craft a sound that is, in and of itself, very unique (they would redefine their image and sound on future records, mostly with incredible success, which again shows just how talented these guys are - but more on that on other reviews).

Its also worth noting that this record was an extreme breath of fresh air for the mid 1980s. This was the time, in many people's minds, that popular music was shifting for the worse - it seemed like MTV et al started to make it more important that bands looked good rather than sounded good, and in many instances, substance was substituted for image. Not with these guys. Yes, the album is political, and yes its very religious (maybe spiritual is a better word), but they never lay it on too thick - at least not on the record itself. Social responsibility would soon dictate that these guys hold a torch a bit brighter and scream a little louder about social injustices - but this record, by itself, doesn't actually push that envelope.

This is a great record to be played loud. And to sing along to. They toured and toured to promote this record. If you missed it, you really missed something special.

NOTE: If there was anything negative to say about this record, it was the amount of material that was left off the album. Singles released with b-sides and many concert staples (Silver and Gold, Spanish Eyes and Luminous Times to name a few) showed that they had a lot more gems that, for whatever reason, never made the final cut. Perhaps they didn't want to fill a CD with too much music (in 1987, it wasn't the norm to have 70 minutes of music), or release a double album, or whatever. Fortunately, the special edition CD released decades later included all of these leftovers. It's worth buying again.

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