Wednesday, March 24, 2010

U2's 'Rattle and Hum' has withstood the test of time

When U2 released Rattle and Hum in 1988, many people did not know what to make of it. The previous year the band enjoyed an enormous artistic and commercial breakthrough with The Joshua Tree. The band had made the leap from successful rock and roll band to bonafide cultural icon.

However, for people looking for a sequel to The Joshua Tree, they were likely disappointed by Rattle and Hum because the band wisely chose to stay away from that. It was part studio album and part live album. The perfect adjective for it may be 'sprawling' because it offers a little of everything.

The choice of live cuts puzzled some people back in '88. 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' and 'Bullet the Blue Sky' were both pivotal songs on The Joshua Tree. Some critics thought the band was being redundant by releasing live versions of those songs on their very next album. After all, it had only been a little over a year since their initial release.

However, more than 20 years down the road, those criticisms have lost their sting. Both are great songs, and I would rather have these versions than not have them. Additional live songs include covers of The Beatles' 'Helter Skelter' and Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower.' Both these versions rock with passion.

As for the studio cuts, there is a lot to enjoy. The Bo Diddley-style 'Desire' and 'All I Want Is You' were big hits. Plus, the band and B.B King delivered a powerhouse collaboration on 'When Love Comes to Town.' Sprinkle in the haunting ballad 'Love Rescue Me' and the vibrant 'God Part II,' and it is easy to see that Rattle and Hum is deep with choice cuts. 'Got Part II' handles the topic of man's spiritual/fleshly duality about as well as any rock and roll song ever has.

This album tends to get overlooked when discussing U2's great works. Do yourself a favor and don't overlook it.

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