At first impression, this Eagle Vision release from the Classic Albums series could be perceived as a “making of” documentary. The band and producers unveil old studio recordings of the most poignant tracks from The Joshua Tree, sharing musical snippets that did not make it to the final cut and anecdotes of how those songs were born.
Essentially, this documentary is U2 reminiscing about recording their most successful studio release, The Joshua Tree. Of course, expect the usual vanity to exude from Bono and the boys, but nonetheless their drive to create to the best of their abilities and the passion for their chosen subject matter is powerfully sincere. They describe the album as highly influenced by American folk and blues culture, with their urge to draw on political messages born of their Irish heritage and experiences.
Fans may appreciate a demure Bono in the presence of producer Daniel Lanois, Adam’s misguided assertion that The Joshua Tree was one of the first techno albums on the music scene, Larry’s quiet offence at being the ignored drummer, and an exuberant Edge proudly demonstrating his atmospheric melodic riffs.
We learn that mixing the album was an art in and of itself with producers, Steve Lillywhite, Brian Eno, and Daniel Lanois, developing and injecting their own ideas into the music. They lament over their difficulties in creating “Where the Streets Have No Name”, seemingly a work of great difficulty and contention for both band and producers.
Along with cuts of concert footage from the Popmart tour, Classic Albums: U2 – The Joshua Tree includes potent live performances of “Mothers of the Disappeared” and “Running to Stand Still”. The 60 minute documentary closes with the full-length music video of “The Sweetest Thing”, crafted as an apology to Bono’s wife for forgetting her birthday while on tour. The song was not included as a track on the album, but was recorded during the same studio sessions, and released as a b-side for the 1987 single, “Where the Streets Have No Name”.
With this, their fifth album release, The Joshua Tree won a 1988 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and established U2 as one of rocks most significant musical artists, filling arenas world-wide to this day.