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4.6 out of 5 stars96
4.6 out of 5 stars
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Originally released in 1984, the dark ages of Wham and Ronald Reagan, "The Unforgettable Fire" was, at the time, a brave move. U2 ditched their conventional rock writing and production, roped in Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, and became impressionistic, ambigious, brave, visionary. The songs became shimmering things, built on arpeggios and fragments, never afraid to pull back instead of the suckerpunch stadium chorus. This was, until 1993's "Zooropa", U2's most experimental record in every sense, and the first time U2 latched onto a concept - that of nuclear war and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki : a clear parallel between then, and the now-of-then (of 1985) where we all lived under the threat of instant extinction in a Dr. Strangelove farce.

Aside from the poking-you-in-the-eye lyrical sledgehammer and thumpingly workmanlike structure that was "Pride", every lyric and melody on this record is something other. U2 were stepping into a new dimension of work, and this would serve them well for the rest of their career. From here on, U2 were two bands at once, obvious stadium rockers in love with the big chorus, and also, trying to weld to that a desire to explore and invent. The album threw away the obvious lyrical clunkery and sincerity instead of impressions and ideas, suggestions of music and wordless melodies that exist in the keening, crooning lift of a modern hymn. "The Unforgettable Fire" was a brilliant record that challenged your idea of what U2 are with ambiguity and fog.

Next, U2 would stand in a desert in sharp focus. Here, they are barely visible in overgrown ruins. The listener brings to this their own imagination. And this combination is wonderfully effective. Songs hover into view, stay for a few minutes, then fade out with cloud and form new shapes. U2 would never be quite so accessably obtuse again.

The songs have never sounded so clear or so bright. Thankfully, there is little if any of the ugly compression and squashed sound of modern mastering. Whilst the tracklisting lacks, to me, much in the way of narrative focus - the songs don't always sound as if they fit well together - the material itself is some of the best U2 ever produced. "Bad" - still featured in live sets today - leaps off the deck with clarity. I've been hearing these songs for 25 years, and there's something new I heard in the remaster I'd never noticed before. In fact, all of this material deserves to be heard more often : "Elvis Presley and America" is a formless, halfspeed jam, but one that transcends such beginnings with Bono's imaginary words and invented dialect that moves beyond English into some kind of impressionistic new vocabulary. It's the inarticulate speech of the heart that can barely grasp whatever vision is evaporating in front of your eyes. Miles Davies would sit and listen to this album on repeat on his death bed.

"A Sort of Homecoming" is possibly the greatest lost song U2 ever written. There's three versions on this remaster : a staid studio recording, a thrilling rearrangement by Daniel Lanois that was clearly destined for a hit single, and best of all, a version re-recorded at a London soundcheck that deserves to be on every compilation they release. Normally three versions of the same song would be boring, but each variant is substantially different. Quiet why this song isn't a staple of their live set today is baffling to me - it knocks better known but lesser songs into the dust.

Filling out the second disc are two unreleased songs - the superior, fabulous "Disappearing Act" that is the equal of anything on the album itself, and the more abstract "Yoshino Blossom" that is a compelling blur of sound that sounds akin to a wonky, broken, frazzled "New Years Day". Around this time, U2 also pushed some of their greatest material onto b-sides : "The Three Sunrises" and "Love Comes Tumbling" are better certainly than a couple of album cuts and could very well have elevated the band to stadiums sooner. There were also some unusual b-sides : "Sixty Seconds In Kingdom Come", "Bass Trap", "Boomerang I", were all odd, fragmentary improvisations, and thus often shunted to the fourth side of double 7" singles.

Rounding out the bonus disc are alternate versions of "Wire" (lots more everything, and less Bono), "A Sort Of Homecoming", "Pride" (more choruses), "11 O Clock Tick Tock" (more guitars), and "Boomerang II", a vocal version of the aforementioned improvisation that is light years beyond, and practically a different song, It's surprising to see how little work could turn a formless jam into a realised song, and here U2 provide both parts of the song. A fascinating look. They should do more of this.

What there is though, is a faithfully presented and packaged version of U2's most interesting album, replete with worthy extra material that expands the original and reveals a few, oft-unheard nuggets from the time. The alternate versions and unheard songs are as good as most of the material on the album itself, and well worth a second glance. If you are to re-visit U2, this is their most intruiging work : before age, guile, money, and fame corrupted them, when they were young, almost naive, and hungry to explore.
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2009
The Unforgettable Fire was the album with which U2 took a great leap forwards, and it remains my favorite to this day...I remember vividly taking up the empty cassette case to my local WH Smiths to purchase it, ah, more innocent times, anyway I digress...

That cassette tape got played until it died, but the CD when it appeared didn't really do justice to this pivotal album - until now. The remaster is a great success, clarifying the delicate, yearning textures, filling out the filigree guitar work and the expansive Eno-lead sonics to thrilling effect. Bono is young and passionate, his voice still soaring (compare his new vocal on "lost track" Disappearing Act for a modern comparison), and this is a band firing on all cylinders, out of their comfort zone, striking out for new artistic territory, and succeeding.

The xtras CD is nice enough, great to the have the Wide Awake in America tracks included, especially the live version of 'Homecoming. I have't watched the DVD yet, but fantastic to have their game-changing appearance at Live Aid the followying year.

This adds up to a terific memorial to a pivotal moment in the history of U2, and to a time and place for yours truly!

Highly recommended. Roll on Achtung Baby!
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on 28 October 2009
This is not the place for the vinyl / CD / remastering debate (which a previous reviewer implies is a matter of clarity of volume; hmmm... sounds like Spinal Tap `11' logic). What can be said is that, outside of that debate, this is a superb remaster both in and of itself c/w the so-called bonus tracks - it's really a two-fer with the Wide Awake in America ep included, the live version `Bad' from this being worth the price of admission alone; you can get this through the cheaper CDs only package. But that won't give you the DVD with a few of these `videos' long unavailable, esp. The Unforgettable Fire itself.

This is the place to say... Finally! A top drawer presentation of the key U2 album: no Unforgettable Fire = no Joshua Tree and quite possibly, no U2 today. 25 years on and still an unadulterated joy.
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on 3 December 2009
I would have given this box set either 4 or 5 stars, but what brought the rating down for this remaster is the lack of video content on the bonus DVD. It's well known that video footage does exist from U2's Unforgettable Fire tour, and yet surprisingly only 1 song from one of their regular concerts (Croke Park) shows up, in addition to their appearances at the Live Aid (complete) & Conspiracy of Hope/Amnesty Int'l (incomplete) concerts.

At least with the Joshua Tree Remaster, the fans got pretty much a complete concert on the DVD. With the Unforgettable Fire Remaster, the DVD feels like it was too short on video content.

Other than the lack of video content, the rest of the box is fine, from the book, the postcards, & the extended audio content, it's worth listening to this album again. For my money, I would probably just stick with the 2-CD version of the Remaster.
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on 27 October 2009
"The Unforgettable Fire" gets an unforgettable reissue in the style of "The Joshua Tree" release a couple of years back, and it's an instant hit.

I think it stands up as the best of their reissue work to date by a country mile, and iv'e enjoyed all of the reissues thus far.

Even if you are one of those who have felt that U2 have been cashing in with all of the recent rereleases (and I know that even a good few genuine U2 fans are included in this) You will want this one.

The Bonus CD has enough quality material to have produced a fresh album, whether back in the mid 80's or possibly even now.

The DVD documentary section captures the pure rawness of the band as they were transforming unwittingly from psudo punk pretenders to the super-rock-band they would become within the next few years. The footage of the Slane castle sessions is gift to their fans just before xmas. The whole DVD is a well put together "video scrap book" of the period with a couple of defining live performances, four commercial videos from the album and the aforementioned documentary.

The whole period from "War" to " Achtung Baby" is my favourite U2 era, and If like me "Bad" is one of your enduring favourites from the band, then the live versions on the bonus discs (DVD and CD) are probably worth the purchase price alone.

And I haven't even mentioned the title CD yet. Do I have to say anything? it speaks for it'self surely....... Only I would say that a few folk have said they prefer the sound of the original vinyl. Well I remember having the vinyl and I must confess that I'm a true digital convert. I think that CD beats vinyl any day, but thats just a personal opinion (sorry guys). I get the whole raw sound thing of vinyl but still love the cleanness of CD and how you can play with the sound on good equipment.

From a true "U2-o-phile" (mind you i'm not sure if one of those doesn't sound a bit dodgy... read that 3 star review, and you'll get it) This is a complete winner and I dearly hope that "Achtung Baby" gets the same treatment as this and "The Joshua Tree" did to complete the set.
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Before recently reviewing all my U2 CDs, I used to think that 1984's `The Unforgettable Fire' was the best. Now I'm not so sure. It's certainly a very good album, but some tracks no longer shine: the opening `A Sort of Homecoming' is a mess; `Indian Summer Sky' is banal; and `MLK' is just plain corny. Perhaps my revised thoughts on these tracks are a result of growing up. (I was nineteen years' old in 1984.)

This review, by the way, is of the unremastered CD edition, but the sound is still good. The Edge's guitar work sound just as fresh and innovative as ever, whether it's playing the hard wire, like rapid electric contacts, or playing a soft shimmering echo. There are imaginative drum and bass arrangements too: U2 was never a `Bono's Band' concept.

In 1984 I considered (still do) Simple Minds to be a better band and there are reminiscences for me of Jim Kerr's vocal style in `Bad', a song that almost achieves a five-star rating when Bono's words "I'm not sleeping ... oh no" tempers beautifully the preceding passionate climax. I am also reminded of Simple Minds's `New Gold Dream' phase, this time both lyrically and musically, on unarguably the greatest piece on the album, namely the title track. What an opening!

I began this review by suggesting that this was not the best U2 album after all; that was to follow with `The Joshua Tree'. There is a hint of the developing style here in the instrumentation of `4th of July'. With its sustained echoes it is also the most Eno-esque track on what was and remains a remarkable album.
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on 17 June 2012
From the lead off single, the impressive and catchy Pride (In The Name Of Love), you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was U2's entrance into the mainstream. But like the rest of their career from here onwards, the big anthems always shadow the more interesting album cuts, and first impressions that were made with Pride on what the album would sound like are thrown out the window. U2 would release more great albums (and depending on who you are, much greater albums) after this one, but with the exception of Zooropa, not one which would be so unpredictable.

At the centre of the album is Brian Eno. The band made a genius choice in hiring him as the producer and U2 and Eno fit hand in glove. The Edge turns down the amps for this one, but his atmospheric sound scape chiming sound comes to prominence here, which was hinted at in the first three post-punk U2 albums. The sparse arrangments in contrast to the first few U2 records, added with ambient effects, lets the music breathe and it all sound beautiful sounding, much like Eno's ambient records. Bono, being the fine lyricist he is, is more ambiguous, less direct than what he was in the album War. What's even more is Bono's potential as a singer is fully realised here. A great singer, he was lung bursting on the likes of Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year's Day, but on this album, he provides a greater range and more emotion to his voice, seems more sensitive - Bad is probably the best example here.

Such ambiguity in the lyrics, along with the marvellous soundscape pioneered by Eno and The Edge makes for a very mysterious haunting quality to the album. Such qualities other bands would attempt to follow in the years, influencing the like of Sigur Ros and Radiohead for example. Some say that a couple of the tunes sound unfinished, but I disagree. Tunes like Promenade and MLK sound short and could be fully realised as bigger tunes, but that takes away the mystery of them I'd think.

The Unforgettable Fire, I think, is the first example in U2's career that shows a band who fit into the mainstream, yet also push the boundaries creatively. Very very few bands have been able to find a balance for this - the sign of one of the greatest bands. While U2 were ready to conquer stadiums after War, they could have followed it up with an even bigger slice of guitar rock. They would eventually, but The Unforgettable Fire throws a curveball for everyone giving us a mystical and beautiful album that sits well with U2's finest albums.
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on 12 September 2010
This Brilliant album HAS got better and better!I originally got this on cassette in 1984 as a 14 year old boy.Pride was a huge hit and was played on the radio also,which was a big deal in 1984.Footage of U2 on the telly was even rarer at the time no MTV europe back then or VH1!Compared to the 1st 3 U2 albums, Pride and Wire most sound like those early albums.Textures,atmospheres different rythmn patterns are to the fore,all done in a powerful and melodic way.This album may take a few spins ,but is definitely worth the effort as there are some fabulous songs on here Homecoming,Bad,Promenade and the title track itself ,to this day probably contains Bonos greatest ever vocal,which is some statement as his voice on this album is awesome throughout!There is a clarity with the mix and production that U2 hadnt previously had and Larry & Adam are right up there. Only 4th of July and Elvis & America leave me cold and seem a bit filler,otherwise this is inspired! The 2nd disc contains stuff you can find elsewhere ,however a finished version of Disappearing Act is here,extended version of Pride and my favourite a Lanois inspired remix of A Sort of Homecoming ,is an unashamed 4 minutes of absolute joy,which a U2 fan MUST own.The DVD is a slight disappointment,again some of the content here is available elsewhere and theyve missed a trick by NOT including the short set from 1986's Self Aid gig,however there is a little footage from 86's Amnesty tour and 85's Croke Park,pity its not a full set.That said, any U2 fan should own some version of The Unforgettable Fire,totally essential!
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on 17 November 2009
As a follower of U2 since 1980 and having purchased all their material including the recent re-issues, it was more or less a given that I would buy this anyway.
However, having already purchased the Super Deluxe Joshua Tree I knew what I was getting for my investment.
Ok, so I've got the original vinyl and the cd from 1986 but this collection is not just about the music - it's a piece of art, memorabillia and a great way to celebrate this release. Although I liked October from Day #1, The Unforgettable Fire was the album that set U2 back on track to mega-stardom. The album is a celebration of everything that was good about the mid'80's and is highly likely to be an important part of a large number of peoples lives.

The presentation box is just like that of The Joshua Tree release and very classy.
The contents are a great record of the album and U2's music at the time.
> The original album - re-mastered.
> The Bonus Audio cd contains 16 tracks of live numbers, alternative mixes and 'B' sides - OK, so a true fan has most of these already (if not all!) but they're here together on 1 disc.
> The Bonus DVD is (as it says) a collection of video footage, the customary 'making of' documentary and the famous Live Aid footage.

Amazon's great pricing during pre-order made this an even better purchase!

If you've got the original it's worth getting this updated/improved version.
If you haven't got the original then you definitely should get this!

Let me in the sound!
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on 13 July 2011
Four youths from Dublin put a band together and expressed their working-class outlook on life with the post-punk sound of the late `70s and many people related to it. Much of their material dipped into or was blatantly about Christian spirituality rebelling against a material world and the band gained a cult following with their thoughtful lyrics that Bono sung with gritty, passionate zeal.

Gradually they got bigger and The Unforgettable Fire captures them on the cusp of world recognition and commercial success. Their punk sound is sucked into Eno's atmospheric production and somehow it works. Bono's screaming voice and the Edge's distorted guitar echo through the synthetic sounds of A Sort of Homecoming, Wire and the slow but equally as powerful MLK and Elvis Presley and America.

I don't know if it's because I heard this when I was fourteen, when music seemed to touch my soul in a special kind of way but this album has got a magical feel for me. It possibly captures U2 at their most serious (before they changed their leather jackets for their anti-image of worn out vests and greasy uncut hair, which in turn was replaced by their ironic fully embraced rock-star look) and I guess they were never going to be the same again after the world domination that came with this.

Listen to Pride after reading about Martin Luther King and it'll have the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. The whole album is a masterpiece.
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