The Good: All the U2 hits from the '80s are here!
The Bad: Some of the hits (and b-sides) were not terribly good
The Basics: A definite for anyone who likes U2 on the radio but does not own any U2 albums, The Best Of 1980 - 1990 is a smart "Greatest Hits" album!
U2 did something incredibly right when it released the limited 2-cd edition of The Best of 1980 - 1990; it gave listeners the best of what they've heard over the years (all of the radio singles) plus something extra. This album is ideal for anyone who likes U2 but is afraid to buy their albums because they fear the singles they hear on the radio will be the best on the album and they won't listen to the rest of the album as much.
What U2 does with this album is they find the happy medium. Whereas the average album has 1 - 3 singles and 6 - 10 additional songs you've never heard, the double cd album comes out with a 14 to 15 ratio. Odds are you've heard almost half the album already and that makes is a much more solid investment than most anything else in your collection! The advantage of this is, when you're in the mood for U2, but sick of the same songs you've always heard, you can pop the second disk in, get U2's distinctive sound and new music. It's a very clever, very marketable strategy.
It's amazing no one thought to do this earlier.
This is a good idea and a nice mediation between getting what you know you want and trying something new.
U2 mixes a nice range of social commentary ("Sunday Bloody Sunday") with personal emotion ("With Or Without You") with the distinctive U2 anthemic style. U2 is rock music, lots of guitars, heavy drums and listening to this album, it's easy to see how the group developed from an unknown into a force in music. A lot of the songs are long, so the two disc set is packed with hours of music which is always a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.
But on a musical level, there tends to be strength in length as well. It allows the artist to do something daring with the sound, as U2 does on "All I Want Is You." In short, the music has time to become something. When music has the chance to develop and evolve, it tends to come out sounding better and more complete. U2 manages to make each piece complete to the point that each song is distinctively new. There is never a mistaking of one track for another on this U2 album and after many crappy discs where the tracks all sound the same, this is a welcome change.
On the negative side, if you don't like anthems (long, soaring songs), this album will completely depress you - it's long and the covers and b-sides make it even longer. More than that, some of the tracks - especially on the b-side half have a measure of over production. For instance, "Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl" is listless lyrically and attempts to make up for that with a cacophony of sound and in the end comes off as disorganized and noisy.
The B-side c.d. does have a lot to offer - Bono's vocal range is extended past his usual on "The Three Sunrises" and "Dancing Barefoot" is just a fun song that makes the listener remember why they like U2 to begin with!
Best songs are "When Love Comes To Town" and "Walk To The Water," weak links are "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and "Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl." And, fortunately, U2 followed this up with the Best Of 1991 - 2000!
For other rock and roll albums, please check out my reviews of:
The Masterplan - Oasis
Opiate - Tool
Forty Licks - The Rolling Stones
For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.