When we talk about great U2 albums, we often hear the same sentiments concerning the same albums. Much is spoken of ‘The Joshua Tree’ with its uplifting gospel rock sounds and the experimental, electrifying sounds of ‘Achtung Baby.’ And while these are great albums- among the best rock albums ever produced, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ is usually not often spoken about. Its unfortunate that due to U2’s exceptionally large catalogue, most of ‘The Unforgettable Fire’s songs are often forgotten. With its experimental, atmospheric sound, this was a true landmark in U2’s early history, one which propelled them to Rock music greatness. The truth is 1984’s ‘The Unforgettable Fire’, with some classic U2 songs such as ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’, ‘Bad’ and ‘A sort of Homecoming’ ranks almost as highly as these other two great albums.
In 1985, U2 were praised by ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine as being ‘The band of the 80’s’, ‘Saviour’s of Rock and Roll’. They had conquered the European and American music scene and were universally renowned for being a great live band after their breathtaking performances at ‘Live Aid.’ After the lofty expectations following their third album ‘War’, U2 produced their greatest album at that time, breaking musical trends in the process.
With the help of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2 embarked on a more artistic, atmospheric and abstract sound unheard of previously. While most of the lyrics on this album are somewhat abstract and unfocused, one came only admire the ambition and passion embodying ‘The Unforgettable Fire.’ The ringing Edge-inspired guitar sounds of ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’, is glowing tribute to the late Martin Luther King Jr., while the epic ‘Bad’ and ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ are truly grandiose. However, it is the lesser, less renowned songs that propel this album towards greatness. The complex-layered ‘A sort of Homecoming’, is a song that will grow on you with every listen, while the improvised lyrics and beautifully nostalgic tone of ‘Elvis Presley and America’, are truly spectacular.
Like great U2 albums, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ doesn’t fade toward the end. It is quite ironic that U2’s great desires to experiment with their music have compromised the very experimental ‘The Unforgettable Fire’. Each forthcoming U2 album since (except the latest two), have introduced a sound that has been unique in their own right. The Blues, gospel and soul influenced ‘Rattle and Hum’ and the electronically infused ‘Zooropa’ are two notable examples. With the release of a new U2 album just around the corner, one can only hope that they stay true to the lyrics of ‘Indian Summer Sky’- ‘the seasons change and so do I.’ Its certainly a formula that U2 have proved to be so successful time and time again.