CORPUS CHRISTI — Irish band U2 released “The Unforgettable Fire” in late 1984. At the time, Bono was developing into not only the band’s charismatic leader. The time also marked the beginning of his more outspoken diatribes against injustices. And while some of the songs on the album weren’t as fully developed as the band’s future work, that chapter in the group’s history gets an upgraded overview that’s worth revisiting on the reissue of the updated, two-disc reissue of “The Unforgettable Fire” (Island).
On earlier albums, such as “Boy” and “War,” U2 made it clear that they had no problem wearing their hearts on their sleeves and their fists in the air as they proudly exhibited youthful rebellion.
But their world view became even wider thanks to their burgeoning notoriety. Despite having success and adulation, they were more acutely aware of the wrongs they saw in their expanded world view. Bono became enthralled with Martin Luther King Jr. during this period. King’s spirit is audibly alive on the defiant “Pride (In the Name of Love),” the album’s big single, and “MLK,” one of the set’s standout tracks.
Elsewhere on the album, U2 effortlessly conjures iconic images in their focus on the Unites States and its rich history, as heard on the solemn “Elvis Presley and America” and the equally stunning “4th of July.”
“Bad,” the disc’s emotional centerpiece, now takes on an eerie, almost hypnotic air in light of the world’s increasing fragmentation, with its message continuing to resonate as dramatically as it did more than 25 years ago.
The second disc in the package will confound collectors, as it includes a generous selection of rarities and remixes, most notably live versions of “A Sort of Homecoming” and “Bad,” outtakes like “Love Comes Tumbling,” plus a magnificent remix of “Wire” that will put a smile on the face of any U2 fan.
This is the album that linked U2’s youthful restlessness to their compelling maturity, as their next album, 1987’s “The Joshua Tree,” would find them perfecting their own kind of rock ‘n’ roll that moves the body, challenges the mind and awakens the spirit.
This updated version of “The Unforgettable Fire” manages to give a deeper, fascinatingly detailed perspective of a band leaving behind its youthful restlessness and confidently maturing with purpose and grace.
U2 goes to Africa
Tribute albums are challenging because not only do the acts involved have to face the reality of knowing that their version of a well-known song will never match the original’s impact, but sometimes, participating in such a project might be more of a marketing ploy and not be such a “tribute” after all.
Neither is the case on “In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2” (Shout! Factory).
Bono has campaigned for many causes to help the people of Africa. That commitment didn’t go unnoticed by music producer Shawn Amos, an African-American who originally went to Africa to help build housing and was inspired to put together this collection as not only a way to pay tribute to U2, but also as a way to give back.
Proceeds generated from the disc’s sales will go to the Global Fund, a charity that seeks to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Third World Countries.
Amos not only shows his formidable abilities as a producer, but also as an arranger, staying true to the rhythms and essence of African music while tipping his hat to U2’s Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.
This collection comes to life thanks to several breathtaking performances, including Tony Allen’s otherworldly “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Les Nubians’ chilling “With or Without You” and a spine-tingling recasting of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by the Soweto Gospel Choir.
The most dramatic moment may belong to Keziah Jones, who glides over the poly-rhythmic grove of “One,” and delivers warm, transcendent vocals.
Jones sounds to deeply understand the song’s plea for unity. This song is the most touching moment on the disc, one that makes it sound less like a tribute album and more like a love letter from the dry, parched plains of Africa to the cold, narrow streets of Ireland.