U2's third album was unleashed on an expectant world in 1983 and launched them as a genuine global phenomenon. This long overdue CD Remaster is released today, Monday 21 July 2008 in the UK and then 22 July 2008 in the USA and other territories. Also released today are "Boy", their 1980 debut and "October" their second album from 1981. The Edge has personally overseen the remastering of all of them utilizing the same team that brought us the amazing quality re-issue of "The Joshua Tree" last year.
Here in the UK, "War" (like the others) comes in no less than 4 physical variants. The single CD is a straightforward remaster with an extended and upgraded booklet (it's one of those new round corner jewel cases) and costs £10. The second is this issue - the 2CD Deluxe Version at £20 - the 2nd disc being the B-sides of singles and new previously unreleased mixes. The third variant is a Limited Edition containing the 2CD Deluxe Edition housed in a DVD sized card box with a T-Shirt of the album sleeve - it costs a frankly ludicrous £35 and is a waste of space and money in my book. Last is the humble 10-track LP - it's housed in a repro of the original gatefold sleeve and is pressed on 180 grams vinyl with upgraded liner notes - it costs £15 and is a limited edition. THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2CD DELUXE EDITION and the SINGLE DISC EDITION.
Here's the layout:
Disc 1 is the 10 track original album, issued March 1983 on Island ILPS 9733, remastered 2008 (42:11 minutes)
Disc 2 is the B-sides of 7" and 12" singles from Germany, the UK and the USA along with two brand new mixes of "New Year's Day" - all tracks remastered in 2008. It should also be noted that the CD lists 12 tracks, but the booklet lists only 11 - and in the wrong order! Looks like the track list was changed at the last minute, but the booklet wasn't upgraded to reflect this - a bit sloppy to say the least considering the expensive price of the 2disc set. Whether this is a mistake or a hidden track is unsaid, but the song not listed on the packaging is number two, "Angels Too Tied To The Ground" (59:29 minutes)
Housed in an outer hard card sleeve is a 36-page hardback booklet with lyrics, album history by noted writer NIALL STOKES, 7" singles pictured, photo outtakes from the videos and a detailed breakdown of the tracks on Disc 2. The 26-page single disc booklet is extended for the deluxe one by about 12 pages and there are informative notes by The Edge on how and why some of the B-sides were recorded. Both the single CD and 2CD set are picture discs with 2 members of the band on Disc 1 and the other 2 on Disc 2. A nice touch in the 2CD set is the way the card leaves that hold the CDs have slits at their base to let the disc slide out a fraction (it would have cut through anyway). It's a small thing, but nice attention to detail. The packaging is good (apart from that track list), and classily presented, but the best bit is the SOUND...
Remastered by ARNIE ACOSTA at Bernie Grundman Mastering, the tapes and remasters were also overseen by THE EDGE and the quality achieved is fantastic. Like most fans, I've waited for over 20 years to hear "Seconds", "Drowning Man", "Surrender" and "40" in truly great sound quality and this re-issue delivers that in dollops. The drums are clear and loud, the guitars and keyboards passages leaping out of the speakers at you - the great guitar work given the muscle it needs - as I say - FANTASTIC STUFF. "New Year's Day" too - unbelievably good (lyrics above). Fans will really delight to this.
The extras, however, are a very mixed bag. "Endless Deep" is the non-album B-side to the German and UK 7" singles of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and is a sort of a meandering instrumental - interesting but hardly great. "Angels Too Tied To The Ground" is much better though and new to me - it's got to be an outtake from the sessions - musically it sounds like a rehearsal for "New Year's Day". It's a fully formed song and would have made a great B-side - it's a superb little ditty - and without question one of the best surprises on here. Fans will eat this one up. Unfortunately, tracks 5 and 6 are - in my mind - absolute travesties. They're 1999 Ferry Corsten remixes of "New Year's Day" which sound like those endless crap versions that came off "Pop" CD singles - they're staggeringly inappropriate to an 1983 album and its unique sound. What were they thinking about - tagging these on here - they're so out of place as to be laughable? "Treasure..." is the B-side to the UK issue of "New Year's Day" while 10, 11 and 12 make up the 3 other songs on the UK double 7" pack of "New Year's Day". The live tracks are good, but not that well recorded. All in all, with 4 mixes of "New" and 3 mixes of "Two", Disc 2 is a very boring and disjointed experience. In truth, I doubt I'll be returning to these soon, despite their rarity value.
To sum up, Disc 1 is 10 out of 10, but Disc 2 is pushing 5.
"War" is a superb U2 album and still stands up to this day - and this great remaster has only reminded us of that. Shame that Disc 2 lets the side down somewhat. Fans will have to own the 2CD Deluxe Edition, while the casual buyer should opt for the single disc version instead. On its own, it's a superlative remastered reissue.