Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Boy, October and War by U2 - Remastered Deluxe Editions



I have been waiting twenty years to hear the former awaken from the murky, late 70s-style production techniques which swamped the chiming guitars in a welter of bias noise, particularly noticeable when it was originally issued on CD. While this is an improvement, it's not a revelation. New figures don't suddenly leap out of the mix, though it remains perfectly adequate.

More interesting is the bonus disc. An unreleased Steve Lillywhite mix of "I Will Follow" with acoustic guitars to the fore and other ambient sounds coming in all at the wrong times. Fascinating to hear, after nearly thirty years with the original mix it just sounds wrong, though amusing. There are few surprises with the remastered singles, though the single version of "Stories For Boys" sounds more like the version on the Dublin compilation "Just For Kicks" than that which appeared on "U2 Three". Sadly, the sleeve notes point out the 1/4" master of the "Twilight" demo is missing, so this is mastered from vinyl. Not much better than the version I made myself.

The demo of "Speed Of Life" sadly lacks a vocal, while previously unheard "Saturday Night" proves to be the source of the instrumental guitar solo included on the original vinyl and cassette copies of the album.

Lastly, a tantalising glimpse into the live archives. The b-side to "I Will Follow", "Boy-Girl" is complimented by a version of "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" from the same Marquee show, while the set concludes with "Cartoon World", a live recording from the 1980 Dublin National Stadium show broadcast on RTE and widely bootlegged. Like a typical obsessive, what I get is never enough and I'm still dreaming of hearing these shows in their entirety in full 16-bit glory.


The liner notes repeat the story about the loss of the lyric ideas due to a "stolen" briefcase, though this isn't quite the whole story.

The sound is better than the Boy remaster, but this seems to be due to the source. Nothing jumps out, but the drums seems sharper, the guitars chime and the bass thrums. This needs more comparison, but presumably it's as much of an improvement as The Joshua Tree remaster, if not more.

The second disc is again tantalising. The first five songs are live versions of October tracks taken from a War Tour show at Hammersmith Palais in December 1982, but reordered. "Gloria" was played in the encore, while "I Threw A Brick..." ends slightly early prior to the segue into "A Day Without Me", which sounds very odd to a U2 fan well-versed in bootlegs from that era.

The show was rebroadcast on BBC 6Music recently in similar form to their original broadcast. At the show, Bono had dedicated "I Fall Down" to a fan named Duncan who sadly died on the Monday night during the concert he was supposed to be at after a road accident. I had an e-mail from his sister some time ago saying she had obtained a tape of the show from the BBC, including the dedication. Public service broadcasting.

Three BBC session tracks recorded for Richard Skinner are included, giving hope that perhaps the Boy-era sessions will emerge one day. The remaining tracks include the "A Celebration" single and b-sides and live tracks from the 1981 Boston Paradise Theatre show. There's no "Out Of Control" from the US "I Will Follow" b-side - though this was released on the "Sweetest Thing" single. And, most puzzlingly, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" which originally segued into "The Ocean" on the "Fire" double single, has been split and reordered.

The disc closes with the live "I Will Follow" from Veronica's Music Mobile released as a single in the Netherlands and the 1996 reworking of "Tomorrow".


War was the first U2 album I bought. I knew New Year's Day from the radio and television and I made a trip to Oxford Street the weekend after it was released, only to find window displays featuring the album artwork dominating Virgin and Our Price.

The previous reissue by Mobile Fidelity Sound Laboratories was excellent and included different versions of "Seconds" and "Like A Song". I'd need to sit down and compare side-by-side, but the bass drum resonates nicely under the acoustic guitars at the start of "Sunday Bloody Sunday", so I'm not going to complain.

The second disc starts with b-side "Endless Deep", followed by previously unreleased "Angels Too Tied To The Ground".

The plethora of remixes follows, but there is one missing. We have the single version of "New Year's Day" and the US Remix by Francois Kevorkian, as well as two 1999 remixes by Ferry Corsten. Then there are three remixes of "Two Hearts Beat As One": the Long Mix and USA Mix again by Francois Kevorkian and the Club Version by Steve Lillywhite.

Missing is the Francois Kevorkian version (3:42) from the b-side of the French release of "Two Hearts Beat As One" and the US release of "I Will Follow (live)". This is an edit of the Long Mix. Still, at least this resolves the confusion over the naming of the mixes over at u2wanderer.org!

The disc closes with the tracks from the 12" release of New Year's Day, the b-side and the live tracks - and this time "A Day Without Me" does follow "I Threw A Brick Through A Window"!

Zavvi are offering a free, four-disc slipcase when you purchase any two, so I went for that.

HMV has an exclusive T-shirt edition of each. Must resist...

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