CD Stock Number: Uni/Interscope B00004Z0LW
O.K. I know what all of you are thinking. "He saw them on the Grammy's and thought U2 would be an easy review. What a Poseur!!" (editor Steve sez: i saw that while at the Grammy Awards, see Grammy show report here). Well, you'd be wrong (again). In my defense, I emailed my editor weeks ago, informing him, that I would be reviewing the U2 CD for the March edition. Really I did! Ask him!? (editor Steve sez: he did, we did, it's done).
I had this really cool opening. I was going to start the review with a rather cocky statement (I know, coming from me... who'd a thunk it?), like, "I just had the pleasure of reviewing the Album of the Year!" Then I was going to defend my statement in the review. With a bold opening like that, I was just begging for some hate mail. Instead, I face being labeled a groupie. I'd rather be dead!
Since there is nothing I can do about the Grammy's, I shall continue on with my review as planned. If you know me, you know I speak the truth. If you don't, well, I'm sure there is a good reason why I avoid you. : ) So let me continue...
So I just finished listening to the Album of the Year. Yep, record sales aside, this CD deserves the title. The CD in question is All That You Can't Leave Behind, by U2. This is without a doubt some of the best work the boys from Ireland have done is quite some time. Gone is the retro-disco hop, Gone is the "in your face" preaching we have all grown a little tired of. Gone is the hook-laden, stadium filling anthems we have come to expect. What remains is a minimalist (sometimes stark) musical environment in which four guys pounded out one excellent CD.
Now I have been a fan of U2 since the beginning. Sure, I'm not a diehard, fly around the country to see their concerts, type of fan (like my good friend Vinnie... who hasn't responded to my emails or calls... Vinnie? Vinnie? ). I do own most of their CD's (except for the last few). I thought they had lost their way, that a fog had descended upon them, and the only way out was more glitz and glitter. I missed the Sunday, Bloody Sunday U2 because all that was left was the Pop U2. I didn't recognize them. I didn't know who they were anymore. I don't know if they did, either.
All That You Can't Leave Behind feels like the first morning you wake-up after the five day flu. You wake-up weak, but as the day goes on, you feel stronger. You eat your first good meal and you feel even stronger. By mid-day, you have your smell and taste back. It feels good. You take a deep breath. It feels good. You have a hard time remembering what it even felt like to be sick. That is what this CD will feel like to U2 fans. It will feel like the morning after a bad flu has finally left your body.
Bono sings through most of this CD in a quiet, sometimes raspy voice. It's as if he is singing to himself and we just happened by. Sometimes, the lyrics are so personal and introspective, that we feel we have stumbled into his private room, and we should leave quickly and quietly. Virtually every song on this CD has those moments. It's hard to pick out a few to spotlight, but I'll try.
"Beautiful Day" (as we all know) captured Song of the Year. While I think it's an excellent song, and falls into my "Morning after the flu" hook, I thought "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" or the CD closer, "Grace" was more deserving. The later is not right for radio format, so "Beautiful Day" wins by default. There is a little experimentation on the CD, but nothing on par with the POP CD. I kinda can do without the song " New York", as it seems to break the flow of the CD. They did seem to capture the feel of New York, though. So, is was a successful departure, then.
"Elevation" is sure to be a good concert number. I see Bono strapped to a harness, flying above the crowd on this song. This could be fun. Buy a ticket to the next show! "Walk On" is a nice feel good song, as well as " In A Little While". Take a few spins on those two. All That You Can't Leave Behind has the feeling of a successful transition into middle age. Bono sounds tired and world-weary, but not disillusioned. He sounds at peace, not bitter. No, he doesn't sound defeated, but more like a tired General, after a long battle. He is at peace with the world and himself, having seen the best and worst of the world.
I don't know what personal turmoil the band has been through. I've heard rumors of divorce and the like. but whatever it is/was it seems to have awakened the band from a deep, fitful sleep. In the end I particularly enjoyed the CD closer, "Grace". This simple song is quite moving, whether it is describing the act of having Grace, saying Grace or being a woman named Grace. Whatever the meaning, Bono sings this song quietly and simply:
Whether going through personal triumph or personal tragedy, the new CD
All That You Can't Leave Behind, by U2 is the calm after the storm, the peace after the war.
Add this CD to your collection. Not because it won some Grammy's, but because it is good music. Maybe the best music you will hear all year. Purchase this CD with pride, with humility, with grace. That's really all you can leave behind.
Sound quality: 83