U2’s ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ Deluxe Edition: Review

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U2 (Photo by Helena Christensen)

U2, Ireland’s own Fab Four, ignited a blaze in the mid-1980s with The Unforgettable Fire, then turned up the heat later in that decade with The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Things cooled off a bit in the 1990s, which witnessed the release of the uneven Zooropa and Pop, plus a retrospective collection. But the group greeted the new millennium (or ended the last one, depending on how you figure) with a bang: 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, their 10th album, which builds on the elements that make their 1980s work so great.

Reunited with the production team of Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, who produced all of the aforementioned early triumphs, U2 offers an 11-song set that finds Bono singing passionately, with the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., respectively, adding shimmering lead guitar, rhythmic bass lines and an insistent beat. Moreover, the anthemic, hooks-laden compositions are consistently as majestic and tuneful as any U2 has ever produced. “I’m just trying to find a decent melody,” Bono sings in “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” He and his bandmates find a whole bunch of them here.

The album—which debuted at the top of the charts in nearly three dozen countries—produced four well-deserved international hits: “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” “Walk On” and “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” This is an all-killer, no-filler recording on which tracks such as “Wild Honey” and “Kite” are just as memorable as the singles.

Twenty years later, All That You Can’t Leave Behind still sounds magical—and better than ever in the remastered copy that’s included in a new “super deluxe” anniversary edition. The set arrives in an LP-sized slipcase with a double-sided poster, a 20-page booklet with lyrics and a 32-page hardcover book of band photos, but those are just icing on a five-layer CD cake.

Related: When U2 released The Joshua Tree

In addition to the aforementioned remaster, the first disc features “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” a number with lyrics by novelist Salman Rushdie that appeared as a bonus track on the original album in several countries outside the U.S. A second CD holds nine odds and ends, including an acoustic version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”; “Stateless,” from the soundtrack of the film The Million Dollar Hotel; four remastered B-sides; and three excellent session outtakes: “Levitate,” “Love You Like Mad” and “Flower Child.”

There’s also a disc with 11 extended remixes of songs from the original album, including two versions each of “New York,” “Beautiful Day” and “Elevation.” For the most part, these remixes add the sort of tech clutter that detracted from the group’s 1990s albums. But the new box also devotes a couple of CDs to a nearly two-hour June 2001 Boston concert that finds U2 at the peak of their form. It incorporates seven numbers from All That You Can’t Leave Behind plus such earlier highpoints as “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Bullet the Blue Sky” and The Joshua Tree’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.”

What’s not to like? Well, it seems a good bet that most fans would have preferred a Blu-ray with concert video and/or a surround-sound mix of the album instead of the CD with remixes. That said, there’s more terrific music in this one box than in many artists’ entire catalogs.

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