I had not heard this album in years but know it well from high school, when U2 and The Police were my ‘secret bands’ I listened to by myself in my room.
Publically, it was all Quiet Riot, Sabbath, Maiden, Priest etc. U2 were just not musically adept enough to pass muster with my metal friends. Plus, way too many of our fellow students with strange haircuts liked this stuff. Therefore, I could not.
But I did! And The Unforgettable Fire is my probably my favorite U2 album, followed by All That You Can’t Leave Behind, No Line on the Horizon, The Joshua Tree, and War, in that order.
Anyway…This remaster is fantastic. The original CD is crisp and as with all good remasters, I hear all sorts of stuff that I never heard on the original. For example, you can hear the amp hiss at the very beginning of Bad. Not something you really WANT to hear, but you get the idea of the clarity presented here. This album is also a great one for remastering because it is so sonically ambitious. The layers of guitars, echo, keyboards and the pulsing bass and drums just sound really good here. A Sort of Homecoming and the title track really stand out.
The very odd Elvis Presley and America is very Floydworthy. I heard they got that sound by slowing the tape down and letting Bono wing it live. He wanted to re-do his vocals and they all said no. Imagine that. Telling Bono ‘no.’
The bonus disc also sounds great. It kicks off with a song begun for the album but finished for the remaster. So, kind of a ‘new’ old U2 song. The next four songs are from the EP Wide Awake in America, which contained live versions of A Sort of Homecoming and Bad, and two studio tunes, the better of which is The Three Sunrises -- a song that sounds like it would have been on War. I have to note that this live version of Bad is my favorite version of my hands-down favorite U2 song. And it just sounds great here.
The rest of the bonus tracks are B-sides, remixes and odd soundscapes that didn’t make the album. Together, they paint an ambitious picture of a band trying to do something new, with producers (Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois) who had some powerful sonic tools at their disposal and weren’t afraid to use them. For example, the instrumental Yoshino Blossom has a bit of a New Years Day feel, but with some screaming guitar tones from The Edge armed with an E-Bow, according to the liner notes written by Edge himself.
Another fun piece is the remixed version of A Sort of Homecoming that was done at Peter Gabriel’s studio (around the time he was recording So with Lanois). You can hear Gabriel doing backing vocals and that is kind of a neat novelty. The song starts like a Peter Gabriel song, as a matter of fact.
Two new mashup mixes of Wire are pretty good too. Overall the bonus disc adds a lot to this release, and the packaging is really nice too, with liner notes from Eno, Lanois, and like I said, Edge. Lyrics are also included. Very helpful in the afore-mentioned Elvis Presley and America, which has always been mysterious to me lyric-wise.