September 29, 2008

Nothing New Under A Blood Red Sky

In reissuing a classic album — especially one still in print — the intent is to present the work in a fresh perspective. Usually that entails including previously unreleased material, like demos or outtakes or live cuts, which puts the album proper into sharper context. If the reissue is nothing but a duplicate of the original version, then what’s the point?

Earlier this year, U2 reissued their first three studio albums, all of which included bonus discs of rarities and remixes. This week sees the re-release of Under A Blood Red Sky the live audio document of the band’s 1983 War Tour which, regrettably, contains no additional cuts whatsoever.

The album’s sole attribute is that the audio has been remastered. Audiophiles can analyze the intricate merits and sonic distinctions that it may afford, but in all honesty this new version doesn’t sound dramatically different or enhanced from previous ones. Sure, it sounds quite good, but it sounded quite good in 1983, too.

And so this reissue’s glaring fault lay in what it doesn’t provide. The album’s tracklisting comes from three separate concerts on the aforementioned War Tour. Surely U2’s archives hold further live footage from that era which could have expanded this latest version beyond its core eight cuts.

The DVD release of Live At Red Rocks (also out this week) features five previously unreleased songs. Given that the DVD and CD both derive from the same tour, it’s unfortunate that the audio document could not have similarly included added performances.

And especially considering the absence of extra content, critiquing the album on its intrinsic merit twenty-five years after its initial release would only be futile and superfluous. Suffice it to say, Under A Blood Red Sky captures U2 on the ascent, playing like a legendary band before they’d reached legendary stature.

The bottom line, though, is that with no substantive incentives, this reissue doesn’t enrich or expand the existing perception of this quintessential live album.

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