The 1983 U2 release, "War," features a boy with haunted eyes on the cover, and the song cycle displays an increasing political awareness by the group, with "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Seconds," and "New Year's Day."
What caught my attention back in the day was the video for "New Year's Day" played in high circulation on MTV. The band playing their instruments in that snowy field was cool, but I really liked the powerful bassline and piano melody. The Edge's slashing guitar style was unlike anything I'd heard before, and Bono's vocals are passionate and evocative. This remains one of my favorite U2 songs.
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" invokes images of Irish history, and with its rat-a-tat-tat martial drums and guitars, it's more choppy than "New Year's Day" but more anthemic. This really hit home with the Red Rocks video when Bono was waving that huge flag. It's a powerful song.
"Seconds" benefits from being sandwiched between these two songs, but the cold war lyric and intertwining vocals of Bono and the Edge, along with the largely acoustic tracking, make this an interesting piece.
Another standout is "Two Hearts Beat as One," which does not usually make the best of compilations, but is an underrated nugget with a propulsive guitar line and vocal performance by Bono. "Like a Song" moves with youthful energy and urgency, and the band captures excellent dynamics. "40" is a short closer, but another anthemic rouser that was captured well on the live Red Rocks EP.
While less atmospheric than "Unforgettable Fire," the songs on "War" are full of heart and soul and the band's personal convictions. They're playing like they mean it.
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 later remixes 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! I've waited like most fans 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. 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.
on July 7, 2005
This is my favorite U2 album; I feel like it was made at the crossroads of their career; their songwriting skill had matured beyond the atmospheric feel of "October" (another album I love) but hadn't yet become big megastars. The songs are still more "raw" than "cooked" like they were to become in the 1990's when Bono seemed to become a lost, self-parody who's biggest talent was wearing sunglasses - what was that about?
I'm not the only person who points out that "Two Hearts Beat As One" is an underrated tune and, along with the tracks which make the "best of", part of the winning hand on this set. It was one of the first U2 songs I ever heard and immediately I knew there was something different about this band from the usual new-wave fare. It's something that hockey fans routinely call "heart" and, not to mix metaphors, but this song has it in spades. Bono sounds like he is standing on a mountain peak, shouting the words:
I try to spit it out
I try to explain
The way I feel...oh, yeah, two hearts...
The rhythm section is driving and Edge's guitar line is propulsive with a riff that constantly invades my memory. I don't know, maybe you had to be there...hard to believe that was 22 years ago and that I'm that old!
on July 22, 2008
I was really excited to have the first three U2 albums remastered with bonus tracks for the first time. These are my favorite U2 records (I am off the train after The Joshua Tree) and the b-sides, single only cuts and live tracks are nice to have in one package. So, how did the band screw up War's bonus material? By including some lame New Year's Day Ferry Corsten remixes instead of the original 12" versions. It's really nothing short of a slap in the face to the fans, whom i'm sure would like to have seen only original period songs included. October makes the same mistake by adding the Common Ground remix of Tomorrow, but that's a minor quibble. And while I know it would have been impossible to get ALL the War versions on the 2nd cd, it would have been in keeping with the spirit of the records to just play it straight. A five star record knocked down to three - what a shame....The other cds BOY **** and OCTOBER *****
War is the most overtly political album of U2's career. They touched on political subjects on their first two albums, but on War they take up arms. The album opens with the anthem "Sunday Bloody Sunday" which finds the band outraged at the situation in Northern Ireland. "Seconds" is about the nuclear arms race. "New Year's Day" is an apathetic song about despite all the rhetoric, nothing really changes. It contains a lovely piano and strong Edge solo. "Like A Song" is another anthem-like song, a declaration for solidarity. "Refugee" finds Larry Mullin providing a pounding drum beat to a fierce Bono vocals and Adam Clayton bass gives "Two Hearts Beat As One" it's driving backbone. Despite all the anger, "40" closes the album on an optimistic note. The song is based on Psalm 40 and the band states that there is chance for peace and understanding all though things are bleak. War broke U2 in America as it was their first top twenty album. They shifted away from making another album this political, but War's spirit still continues to permeate their work.
on October 1, 2004
An indisputable rock classic, WAR was U2's first "big" album. It gave the band a huge international following, and effectively cleared the field of any serious competition for the post-punk throne. With its fervent political commentary, poppish sensibilities, killer hooks and vague nods to world music, it also served in many ways as the band's blueprint for the remainder of the '80s. Henceforth U2 would become a social as well as a musical phenomenon, its overt dedication to various headline-grabbing causes alternately complementing, combatting and at times even eclipsing the quartet's artistic accomplishments. Whether you love or hate U2, chances are WAR has a lot to do with why you feel that way.
With a pseudo-martial drum statement now nearly as familiar as the opening lick of "Satisfaction," "Sunday Bloody Sunday" starts the proceedings off in typically absolute fashion. One may choose to read this angry song as either a celebration or condemnation of the Irish nationalist cause - or neither, which probably makes the most sense - since the lyrics, for all their earnestness, are a good deal more ambiguous than the spare and sharp music behind them. So easily does U2 pull of this transformation into explicit topicality, however, that it's rather surprising to think it took the band until its third album to begin addressing political issues so directly.
"Seconds" expands on this new, socially conscious side of U2, with The Edge sharing vocal duties for a strangely catchy number about atomic bombs, power brokers and the eternal possibility of instant annihilation for others' mistakes. in lesser hands the message would undoubtedly sound rather clumsy - the names of countries and capitals are tossed out like buckshot, with the stark assurance that in all of them "It's the puppets who pull the strings" - but then as now, Bono found ways to make profound truths sound as obvious as they really ought to, while his bandmates drove those truths home with fully realized, no-nonsense arrangements.
"New Year's Day," another classic track, may be the album's strongest song. The haunting piano figure which underpins the melody sounds as distinctive today as it did twenty-one years ago, while the lyrics cleverly alternate the woes of lost love with grander and more threatening sorrows. "Like a Song," on the other hand, shows that Bono's penchant for bombast started early. Having apparently run out of specific gripes, he here takes aim at just about everything and everyone, getting downright silly by the end. "Drowning Man" sounds like earlier U2, a droning number complete with violin, which only brings home how much Steve Lillywhite cleaned up the band's sound for this album. As much as U2 itself, he is responsible for WAR's greatness.
"The Refugee," my personal favorite track here, combines thundering percussion and heavily processed guitar in a portrait at once harrowing and humorous. "Two Hearts Beat As One," another single, is one of the band's stronger early love songs. "Red Light" goes a bit over the top with its blasting trumpets and girl backup singers, but "Surrender" makes extremely effective use of the latter in its huge chorus and extended ending. "40" closes the album on its softest and most profound note, with Biblical lyrics perfectly summing up the catalogue of ups and downs presented over the preceding forty minutes. For all of those ups and downs, WAR is justly famed, and an essential addition to any serious rock music collection.
Review no. 153. Originally released in early 1983, as 'War' was U2's third album and the one that more or less made them a household name. I remember the day this lp came out and the 'impact' it apparently had on some people. I think I may even still have my cassette copy of this relic. Impressive cuts like the boot-stomping "Sunday Bloody Sunday", the extremely well-written "New Year's Day", "Surrender" and "40" deals with Ireland's political issues. The only tune here I never cared for was "Two Hearts Beat As One". Maybe it's just that I've heard one too many cover bands play it. A must-have for any and all true U2 fans and followers alike. Recommended.
on September 8, 2001
War is a sensational album that has already become a classic in the annals of rock music. There's not a bad cut on this album and I highly recommended it to all U2 fans. Here is a summary and an evaluation of each song on this album:
· Sunday Bloody Sunday: For all the airplay this song has received over the years, it's still a good song that has something of a timeless quality to it. This is one of U2's signature songs that not only cries for help but also offers hope. Grade: B
· Seconds: An apocalyptic piece that features an evocative rhythm section from Mullen and Clayton. Good vocal by Edge. Grade: B+
· New Year's Day: Another song that has apocalyptic overtones. Features a screeching guitar, driving bass, a razor-sharp acoustic piano and an in-your-face vocal performance from Bono. Great anthem, great song. Grade: A
· Like A Song: Larry Mullen hits the drums with full intensity and Edge's guitar will scorch your speakers on this one. An intense song that features a hard-hitting bass and a passionate vocal performance from Bono. Score: B+
· Drowning Man: A haunting yet pensive number that uses an electric violin to convey the mood here. Like many of U2's songs, this one includes a passage from Scripture (in this case, Isaiah) to underscore its message. Grade: A
· The Refugee: A political commentary on the plight of a Latin American refugee. Larry Mullen's drum work dominates this piece. Good vocal performance from Bono. Grade: B
· Two Hearts (Beat As One): The second single from this album. Nice guitar work from Edge and Bono's scat-like singing make this one of the more distinctive cuts on the album. Grade: B
· Red Light: One of my favorite cuts on this disc. The combination of background vocal harmonies, solid guitar work from Edge and the hearty sounds of a trumpet makes this one of U2's most atypical songs. Grade: A
· Surrender: Edge dominates this song with his usual guitar prowess. Also features a resounding bass from Adam Clayton and solid drum work from Larry Mullen. Bono's vocals are solid as usual and the background vocals enhance the song's tempo. Note: As I understand it, the Martin Scorsese film, Taxi Driver, was the inspiration for this song. Grade: A+
· "40": Psalm 40 was the inspiration for this piece. Although conflict and emptiness are the main themes of this album, U2 ends it on a positive note by asserting that there is always hope. Nice acoustic guitar work complemented by a restrained rhythm section. Grade: A
on July 22, 2008
Call me a nitpicker, but I would still like to know why this remastered version isn't the same as the MFSL gold CD. I have that one as well, and unfortunately it's still the gold standard. I say unfortunately because it's so hard to come by without forking over a week's paycheck, and while I'm lucky enough to have it, it would have been nice to give everyone a chance to hear the album that way.
I just wish they would have put the full version of "Seconds" as is on the MFSL version. Original LP (and CD) pressings listed the song as 3:24, but that version never showed up til the Mobile Fidelity version came out. Also, the gold version's "Like A Song" is 5:00, while "New Year's Day" is 5:38 (four extra beats before Edge's solo in the middle of the song). Sounds trivial, but it raises the question, if the original master tapes were used for this version while Mobile Fidelity also claimed to use the original masters, why the discrepancy? There were timing errors on three other songs as well, so if you're looking for the 5-minute version of "Two Hearts..." or the 6-minute "Surrender", there's apparently no such animal.
But it's still a five star release and even though it might seem redundant to put ALL those remixes of "New Year's Day" and "Two Hearts Beat As One", I'd rather have everything out there for completists sake. I was lucky in 1987 to buy someone's U2 collection on 7-inch back to the U23 EP and even though the value on those singles might be diminished by these songs finally being available on CD, I don't care. If you enjoy the B-sides from these new remasters, wait until The Unforgettable Fire gets the deluxe treatment. I'd guess next year where it's the 25th anniversary.
U2 started a string of masterpieces with 'War' their first brilliant album from their early years. While 'Boy' and 'October' are excellent and reinvented the wheel of pop music, 'War' is more accomplished and varied musically and is conceptually sound. The raw power of their early years is harnessed on this album as well as an expertise the two predecesors lacked. There are really two sides to the album: One could be called "War;" the other could be called "Love," but they are both intertwined throughout.
Passion is U2's hallmark, and they certainly jump-start the album well enough with their celtic-laced political anthem "Sunday Bloody Sunday". Consisting of basically a mixed band of Irish Catholic and Protestant band members, Bono, their talking head, sings such scathing lines as "We eat and drink while tomorrow they die," and "...to blame the victory Jesus won...on you." "Seconds," continues the flow with a folk-rock beginning that melts into haunting images accompanied by ethereal sounds. Containing the admonition that "They're doing the atomic bomb/Hoping you will join along," Bono and The Edge end singing,..."Say, goodbye; say, goodbye; say, goodbye!" Then, if the drama and tension weren't enough, they play "New Year's Day," a brilliant and mesmerizing song with shimmering piano and the pulsating electric current of Edge's guitar. It is a beautiful and haunting rock song done in the first person for Poland's then-exiled solidarity members. Following is "Like a Song..." one of the best on the album. With great thrusts of fast-forward power, Bono sings a stinging lament for the older Irish generation who don't leave hope for the younger. At the end of the "War" side, "Drowning Man" is the first of their brilliant portraits of someone torn by the horrors of war. The harrowing dimension of a refugee is expertly captured by the music and words. They cover most of the major conflicts well on half a C.D. Then, the second half starts with a make love not war notion by saying the Irish Civil War is making beautiful women defect to America. At this point, Bono couldn't sing "America" with enough scathing force. "Two Hearts Beat as One" demonstrates that "Refugee" is just a transitional song, but the spare lyrics and the cyclical pattern of The Edge's guitar (which give one the sound image of the early flying machines before the Wright Brothers triumphed) a fine thrust of music. It is pretty bottom line about love. "Red Light" addresses unrequited love with a jazzy accompaniment that gives the album a scope previous efforts lacked. "Surrender" is beautiful, and "'40,'" based on Psalm 40, is a celestial send-off that foreshadows the advent of their next work, 'The Unforgettable Fire'.
'War' is a brilliant beginning masterpiece for U2. It is characteristic of what experience would bring for them in a string of albums up to and including 'Achtung Baby,' in '91. It is a ten year stretch that changed the face of music, even while providing passion for often disturbing material.