January 9, 2008

Bullets and Blue Skies

One of my best Christmas gifts this year was a 20-year old U2 album.

True, I'm easily entertained. But this is different: the occasion was the anniversary release of U2's The Joshua Tree, the album that propelled four Irish guys into the stratosphere and landed them in rock's pantheon beside names like Springsteen, The Who, and Zeppelin. It's been twenty years since I first laid eyes on Anton Corbijn's iconic black and white image of the lads near a lone Joshua in the Mojave, framed by a stark landscape that seems to go on forever. Those pictures helped cement a love for the desert that has lasted decades. The first time I played "Where the Streets Have No Name," it was nearly a religious experience. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr., explored America from its sunny-eyed optimism to its darkest corners, and by the time "Mothers of the Disappeared" brought things to a close, my musical world would never be the same.

So now it's back, in a remastered CD that makes everything new again. "Streets" is total immersion, more powerful and moving than ever. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" continues as a hymn for our restless hearts, and "Bullet the Blue Sky" simply rains hell on earth (complete with the line that inspired this blog's title). The new box set includes a second disc of cool B-side material, a newly-completed outcast from the original album, "Wave of Sorrow," and a killer booklet of essays and Corbijn pictures.

The real prize, of course, is The Joshua Tree, restored in all its sonic glory, whisking me back to 1987 when I was 21 and the world was still filled with mystery.

Don't get me wrong: I found plenty to love about music in 2007. Bruce and the E Street Band returned with their incredible Magic CD and tour . . . Interpol and Arcade Fire were exciting new discoveries . . . the Eagles released Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio album since 1979 . . . and Zeppelin's remastered Mothership collection continues to assault the walls of both Lawrence vehicles. And as a fan of movie and television music, I was blown away by Bear McCreary, who proved he's one of the greatest composers in TV with his awesome season three score for Battlestar Galactica.

That said, U2 provided the unexpected jewel of 2007, at least for me. Now if Laura will let me pick up that Corbijn hardcover book -- it's a steal at $75, really. Honey? . . . Hellooo . . .

Also, check out this great essay from a die-hard U2 fan who trekked out to the Mojave to find the real Joshua Tree, and his bittersweet discovery.

1 comment:

El said...

Darn, the Corbijn book has gone up to $80-plus, but good news: it's been reprinted in a smaller size, and can be bought from Amazon for less than $40.