"There is within music an ability to tap into the raw, revelatory power of beauty; music can give itself to the unknown whisper of the eternal in ways that other forms of art only hint at. The collage of sounds communicates something deep to the heart and, when combined with the presence of the voice, can be downright liberating. Few individuals, let alone bands, ever really reach a point where they are that open to the Unknown that it can give itself so freely through their music. U2 has done so time and again, but never with the level of directness and sincerity as they accomplished on the Joshua Tree.A joshua tree is a real tree that thrives despite the dry environment it lives in. The image - the icon - of life amidst its seeming absence, embodied in the joshua tree, is one that is fully appropriate to U2 - particularly at the end of their first decade. U2, like the joshua tree, stood in stark contrast to its environment: ascetic, prophetic and disarmingly (some would say "naively", but let the tension stand) sincere. (Their foray into the realm of post-modern sampling, irony and sarcasm was an identity crisis fully in line with where they stood in the 80s: cynicism is frustrated optimism.)"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", the second song, really expresses the kernel of The Joshua Tree; every other song fleshes it out in some way or another. The album is, in the end, about distance: "I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls only to be with you: But I still haven't found what I'm looking for." While one may take this to be an admission of defeat - and distance whispers of despair as much as consummation - doing so is incorrect: "I'm still running," Bono sings. The song is an expression of hope more than anything.Faith is a raw and disarmingly rough beauty; it looks within and it looks without. "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Mothers of the Disappeared" give full expression to U2's long-time political engagement, while "With or Without You" gives a glimpse into U2's more tender side. "With or Without You" may very well be the best love song of the 80s. "One Tree Hill", a deeply personal song about the death of a friend, moves with passion and rugged grace - and, again, with hope: "I'll see you again when the stars fall from the sky and the moon has turned red over one tree hill."I look forward to the day when my children ask me, "Dad, did you ever listen to U2?" Not only will I have stories to tell about live concerts, but I will be able to relive with them the goosebumps that certain songs will inevitably bring. If rock is dead, U2 was its apex. And U2 has yet to be eclipsed."
The Classic Album of a Generation
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the only album I ever owned in which I wore out the vinyl copy AND the cassette and so had to get it on CD. I was always a U2 fan going back to "War" and "The Unforgettable Fire", but I know that a lot of people see this as their watershed album which, of course, it was. However, I also think the more recent U2 albums have been unfairly compared to this one, which if you think about it is silly since we should appreciate bands that don't stick with a successful formula just because it works and this album is as much of a departure from U2's early work as "Pop" is from this one. All that aside, this is why you should own this CD:1) The production of Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno - listen to "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with headphones and you'll hear what sonic layering can be in the hands of masters. 2) An uncanny match of lyrics and music - in the liner notes it says that "One Tree Hill" was written upon a friend's death. I would like to think that if I were ever in a similar situation I could come up with something that would evoke half the emotion that song does. 3) No bad spots - when was the last time you bought an album that was completely listenable all the way through?I do think it's a shame that U2 has not been able to recapture the overall karma of this album in their subsequent years (not that they haven't tried) but I think the biggest testament to this album is that I have bought it for friends and relatives ranging in age from 45 to 17 and they all love it. That's one awesome album."
The Best of The Best
Brandon J. Smith | Philadelphia, PA | 11/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Joshua Tree is one of those rare albums that came at the perfect time in a band's career, when everything that made them an excellent band converged to make them rank among the best of all time. They had certainly had fine albums before: The excellent debut, Boy; the underappreciated October; the brilliant War; and the more experimental album, The Unforgettable Fire (plus a couple decent live albums along the way). But this is the one that launched them to the stratosphere, both artistically and commercially.
The opening suite is about as good as it gets in music: Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and With or Without You. All of these are more than just great rock hits: they're part of the fabric of our time. Outside of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band, I can't think of a more amazing beginning to an album. The instant those echoed notes of Where the Streets Have No Name start to fade in, you know - whether it's the first time you've heard it or the thousandth - that you're in for a transcendent musical experience. There aren't many songs or albums that deserve this kind of excessive praise (Sgt. Pepper, Blood on the Tracks, Automatic for the People, Exile on Main St., Songs in the Key of Life, to name a few) and this is one of them.
Not only are the opening tracks incredible, and well-known to all, but the album continues with series of songs both hard-hitting, stunningly beautiful, totally heart-felt, and wonderfully pure, sometimes all at once. The production by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno is textured, nuanced, and completely appropriate for every song. This new, remastered version only enhances the production.
The second disc gives an even fuller picture of the band's sound from this peak era, expanding what was hinted at on the b-sides disc of their 1980-1990 greatest hits collection.
This edition exists for those who are unable or unwilling to shell out the money they're asking for the super-deluxe edition, which includes a concert dvd. For some of the more visually-oriented fans, that's definitely the edition to get. Others, who tend to watch a concert dvd only once or twice, but listen to cds (or ripped music on their computer or mp3 player) may find this the better deal. I, for one, think it's fantastic that the option exists. Rather than force people who want the second disc of Joshua Tree-era songs to pay a rather high price for the full cd/dvd package, fans can opt to buy only the remastered album and second disc.
The bottom line for me is that this is one of the greatest albums of all time, and this new edition has found a way to improve its presentation. With any luck, this deluxe edition will become the new standard for how artists release anniversary editions of their classic albums."
An Enduring Classic
benjamin | 11/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"U2 is a band for the ages and "The Joshua Tree" stands as their most brilliant accomplishment. I don't think I've ever heard an album that combines uniqueness of sound, lyrical mastery, overall quality, and pure soul as "The Joshua Tree" does. The first four songs make the album commercially viable, but what I was surprised to find was just how good the songs were that followed. Every song that on the album is distinct and memorable. The subject of the songs range from the struggles of a heroin addict, the loss of a close friend, and even the promise of America to those who yearn for freedom. The highlights of the album are obviously "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and the absolutely beautiful "With or Without You," two songs that I still hear very frequently on the radio today. But with songs like "Red Hill Mining Town," "In God's Country," and "One Tree Hill," among others you'll find that it's very hard to keep this album out of your CD player.U2 is undeniably an incredible band. They are lead musically by one of the most innovative and unique guitarists of all time, The Edge. His sound is backed by an equally unique rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. And, in front of all that is Bono, a frontman who combines passion, lyrics, intelligence, and beauty of his voice more so than anyone I've ever heard. What more can I say, U2 is my favorite band and "The Joshua Tree" is their finest album. And, unless you're one of the people who dismiss the album because it was successful commercially, you'll probably find yourself admiring this album and this band as I do."
Superb remastering of a U2's masterpiece
Adam M. Koss | Somerset, NJ USA | 11/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That this album is brilliance of the highest level goes without saying, and if you want to know about the album itself, go read about the 400+ reviews for the original CD printing. I'm not here to talk about that today - I'm here to review the remastering job, and for that this album gets five stars. The whole album is cleaner and with less noise. Specifically, compared to the original printing: 1. Adam's bass is deeper and absolutely huge, 2. Bono's vocals are more pure and realistic sounding and sit better in the mix, and vocal harmonies are cleaner and better balanced 3. Larry's drums are more natural sounding and also bigger and cleaner-sounding with less "fuzz" around the hits, 4. The Edge's guitar textures sound even better, cleaner, more layered and complexities are more easily heard, and 5. the overall mix is much better balanced, with every instrument heard better.
The best examples of this are in the first 2:15 or so of "With or Without You." I listened to this track most closely for specifics at first, because I feel it is one of the best technically recorded tracks on the album (and of all time...). I formed these conclusions based on that track's listening, then I listened to each track alternating the "original" and "2007" CD's, which confirmed all of the statements above. On "With or Without You," listen to these specific elements for their depth, clarity, balance, and natural timbre:
0:00 noise floor, toms 0:05 hat/tambourine hits 0:10 bass (this continues big and beautiful throughout) 0:17 lead guitar 0:29 vocals 0:42 lead guitar with echo 0:53 Bono inhales 1:09 tom eighth-note hits 1:26 guitar layers 1:35 "I can't live..." 1:45 drums 1:52 lead guitar 2:06 vocal harmonies And the song's climax at 3:03 is also very distinct, each instrument sounding better and more easily distinguished, the overall mix better balanced.
One of the best remastering jobs I've ever heard (Miles Davis's Kind of Blue is another of my favorites). Bravo to the engineers for presenting this classic, brilliant album in an even more euphonically beautiful package than ever before. Even if you own the original album, buy the new remaster.
Note: Listening done on a Kenwood SE7 mini-component HiFi system with stock 10" bookshelf two-way near-field stereo speakers (came as complete system). Amp is in "pure A" mode, preset EQ called "NB 1," which has slightly enhanced bass and treble ('smile pattern')."