As you may be able to tell from the title, this is not Achtung Baby! These are recording sessions ahead of the release of the official album.
The only people who will really enjoy this are huge U2 fans and people who have interest in the ‘process’. As much as I’m a big U2 fan, I am not rabid. Some of this bored me to tears.
I had heard of this release for many years but had never actually heard any of it until now. A fellow fan was kind enough to share the material. I will discuss the various songs on here but I will not dissect each and every nuance of each track. It would be nice to see the original coloured vinyl pressings of this. The 3 cds contain a lot of interesting elements.
If I counted correctly, there are nine versions of this song here. Yes, I said nine. All this says is that this must have been a labour of hell. U2 did release Salome as a b-side but the reality is that this song became Zoo Station. There are several versions that give that away. Some of the workings are particularly interesting because you can actually hear the changes that built to the final product.
I found it very interesting at the end of one version to hear a bit of African style drumming. After seemingly endless versions of Bono singing ‘Baby please don’t go’ and ‘Got to, got to, got to get together now’, I want to shoot myself. I liked the Salome b-side. I never want to hear this again. That said, the fact Salome, and much more importantly, Zoo Station, came out of this. I now know why it takes forever to make a U2 album! Salome was a b-side to Even Better Than The Real Thing.
Where Did It All Go Wrong
Pretty catchy effort. Very interesting guitar work with the Edge experimenting with sound bits. Oddly, I kept hearing what sounds like All Because of You (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb), just bits of it. Could Edge be that anal that he brought those sounds so many years forward? I could see it and totally doubt it! Also very interesting to see Bono work through this lyrically.
The real interest here is the mix of guitar work. Many styles and many sounds. This is far too busy a song to be released but I see a bunch of potential from many aspects of this.
Heaven and Hell
Also interesting. The opening sounded familiar in a way but I never came up with a song to map it to. This is a mess but an interesting one. Very rough lyrics though the best line has to be ‘I wanna chance to hold you. I want a chance to kill you’. There are several jarring chord changes on guitar which gives rise to the probable newness of it.
Loving hearing Bono stop everyone but the organ. And the organ bits are quite interesting and you can feel that it may have impacted some of the work on the release.
No, not the Thompson Twins song! This is the same music as Heaven and Hell with different lyrics. Worse lyrics. More boring lyrics. How’s this for a ridiculous line: ‘Will the difference be adjourned’? Ouch. That’s why they don’t release everything they produce. Thankfully!
Okay, is it me? The opening guitar sounds like an early version of Until the End of the World!!! This is cool to me. I love this because the finished product is so polished and this is more raw, slightly slower. Bono does a vocal work out in falsetto with some forgettable lyrics. Love the title though.
Sunset In Colours
A nice, bright ditty! This sounds like they were just sitting around trying stuff. The reason this one interested me was because I felt like I was hearing some early guitar that turned into Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses and Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World. Fades out around 9:00 mark and I like the way it builds back in and then the work in progress continues.
Definitely some essence of Until the End of the World. I really like Bono’s vocal play around the 1:15 mark.
I Feel Free
An absolutely horrible vocal starting out over Until the End of the World. You really feel the song coming together musically. Goes to show you that a lot goes into each and every song. We’ve heard a lot of music at this point and a lot of versions of lyrics but he was nowhere near where he ended up at this point. And that is the point.
Sweet Baby Jane
Well, if you are a real fan, you have heard that Bono has his own language he uses while finding his vocal chops for a given song. Not so much a language as a series of rambling words and noises affectionately called Bonogolese. This is a brilliant example of it. This was a play off with some Edge sounds. Interesting for that but forgettable otherwise.
Morning Child/Don’t Turn Around
A nice little intro to Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses. You can hear much of the song and some examples of the final lyrics as well. There are 3 versions here. The first one has a lot of talk over between Edge and Bono which is cool. Edge gets the backing vocals down very quickly. There’s a lot of lyric searching over the 3 versions.
A very classic sound with the horns. Folksy in its own U2ey way. A very nice ballad without lyrics. Worth the listen.
Even Better Than The Real Thing
Gee, where do I know that title from? Anyway, an instrumental version very close to the final product.
She’s Gonna Turn Your Head Around
One version is absolutely crazy with echo/reverb. Guitar clanging chorus is reminiscent of Until the End of the World towards the end. Second version is cleaner and absolutely rocks! Very cool. Nice Bono screams as well.
Sick For Love
An obviously early version of So Cruel. Bono is NOT in good voice on this one. I think he’s more concerned on working the lyric here as opposed to the vocal. Lots of gaps where it is just music though near the end we get a line or two that will make the final cut.
Wake Up Dead Man
Title sounds familiar but it isn’t anything close to what we know from the Pop album. Although the title obviously survived for a while! This is actually just another cut at She’s Gonna Turn Your Head Around (above). I like the line ‘How does it feel when your head is full of soul’?
This is a short clip and I can’t lose the feeling it was an extremely early version of Trying To Throw Your Arms Around the World. I could be wrong but I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m hearing elements of.
Another early run at So Cruel. Nothing special about this one. I consider it a throw away.
Pretty much the complete song beginning to end with different words. You can see the progression from this to the final lyrics which makes it interesting.
Take You Down
Welcome to Lady With the Spinning Head which became Ultra Violet (Light My Way). Some very interesting bits here including some laughable vocals from Bono, a wonderous Edge guitar solo and after several listens I realized it was actual Bono singing lead AND backup vocals instead of Edge. Very strange! But a very interesting listen nonetheless!
Going Down South
Yeeeeeeehaaaaaawwww!! U2 does blue grass/rockabilly! Not sure who’s on washboard. Must be Larry! No vocals, just the sheer oddity makes this interesting for a VERY brief period of time. Okay, I’m over it!
I have to say this was interesting but I really don’t know that it’s something I would listen to much. I’m glad to have it. Glad to experience the process they go through in some regard. Painful at times, as I’m sure many of these sessions must be. Finding that resonant voice must be brutal. And given what comes out the other side, it is obviously worth it most of the time. I find myself even more impressed, as well as more understanding of the time they put into finding a sound. And I’m glad. Because they have given multiple generations a chance to see something other than the processed crap that we hear 95% of the time these days.
Would I recommend this to anyone? Sure, but not everyone. You’d have to be either a crazy U2 fan or a person who really likes getting a glimpse of how a band operates. For me this was an interesting exercise but not much more. But hey, you don’t learn anything if you don’t give it a chance.