Feb 5, 2009

My Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs

In anticipation of U2's new album, No Line on the Horizon, due out March 1, I've decided to do a list or two, try to nail down exactly which songs are my favorites and maybe a short explanation of why. I realize a blog of this post appeals to very few people who read me, but I feel led to do this.

Starting off this series is my Top 5 Favorite In-Studio U2 Songs. The big thing with U2 is that they go into the studio just to write songs they can play live. At heart, they are a live performance, some (Bono) would say worship, band. Because of this, their live performances are generally ten times better than any studio recording. However, there are the occasional songs that don't translate to a live medium. So two distinctive lists are needed, one for live material, one for in-studio.

These next 5 songs are my favorite in-studio performances, even if the song has been done live, or even if the better performance is live.

I've provided when I can a YouTube link to the song.

Also...this list is constantly changing. There are just too many songs I like...I've attempted to highlight a few, yet for every one I choose, another one is left off. It's painful, really.

1 - Mercy (2005, Unreleased - Atomic Bomb sessions)
This song is an oddity as it has never been officially released, has been talked about by the band, Bono loves it and wants it on every album they do, but no one knows how it was released. Since the band reportedly wrote 60 plus songs recently and are only using 13 or so for the upcoming album, they got the material for a quick album or two, this would be a great song to officially get out there so they can sing it live.

As for why I love it...I don't know, it's U2 being their most U2ish. The lyrics are straight up Biblical and spiritual, the emotion in the song is real, there is a breaking through into God's throne room that happens during the song...the song is pure joy, pure worship, pure Spirit. It's one of those songs I can just sing at the top of my lungs with reckless abandon. "Love is the end of history, the enemy of misery..."


2 - In God's Country (1987, The Joshua Tree)
The Joshua Tree was one of the first U2 albums I was exposed to, and this is still the standout track to me. Edge's chiming guitar really stands out on this one, and Adam's bass provides a fun little counterpiece to play around with. Bono's lyrics are interesting, joyful, and heartfelt; the reference to a "desert rose" is clearly an allusion to Bono's wife Ali, who does look a little Spanish although I'm not sure if she has any in her ancestry. Also, Bono manages to incorporate a little irony intermingled with Biblical imagery in the lines "love, faith, her vanity/but the greatest gift is gold."


3 - Staring at the Sun (1997, Pop)
The band tried to play this live a few times, but they think it only really worked live on acoustic. I disagree. While this song was eventually re-recorded on the Best of 1990-2000 album, the original is by far superior. There is a great mellow vibe to this song, one that compels you to take a ride through the musical landscape. The lyrics are a little nonsensical, but not all music is about the lyrics. Edge's organ guitar is amazing here, an effect I wish he would use more often.


4 - Zooropa (1993, Zooropa)
This song is all about the guitars once again. The opening is trippy...the very first time I heard this album was while working janitorial at Fourth Baptist on a really rainy summer day, and this song just fit perfectly. Edge sounds like he is playing the guitar underwater...great effect. I love the way the sound bites just flow in and out, never quite there to grasp; it's like ZooTV meets a late night drive in the country during the summer with the windows down.

There was also a point in my life where the line "and I've got no religion" was a great comfort, especially after I had left the church but not walked away from God. While Bono isn't saying that HE himself has no religion, rather the character in the song has none (music is a form of acting, didn't you know?), it was still a great concept, the idea that while you have no worldview or boundaries holding you in, as you step outside the whole world just appears bright, clean and new.


5 - Another Time, Another Place (1980, Boy)
From U2's very first album, this song was probably around in one form or another from the beginning, way back in 1977. If anyone made a list of "darker" U2 songs, such as "Exit", this song deserves to be on it. The section with the guitar solo takes a decidedly darker turn, and when the backup guitar comes forward in the mix, you really get the feeling that these boys are rocking. Plus, that brief section right after the guitar solo, when Larry starts drumming really fast and Bono is growling something I've never quite understood...love that.


Songs that didn't make this list include Achtung Baby's "Acrobat", the Passenger's song "Your Blue Room", U2-18's "Window in the Skies", Boy's "Shadows and Tall Trees", Best of 90's new mix of "Discotheque" and "Numb", and Achtung Baby's "Ultraviolet."

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