Of the three albums, the one I was most excited to get my hands on was Boy, as my own copy of the original, environmentally correct digi-pak CD has gotten a bit dog-eared over the years. Boy also remains one of my favorite U2 records to this day, because what you hear on this album is a band of young bucks hungry to make their mark on the world.
The digital remastering job on the deluxe version is also strictly top-shelf. Although vinyl purists will inevitably complain (and justifiably so) that the transfer process tends to lose some of the original warmth, the sound here is crisp and clear. Steve Lillywhite's big, booming production — especially when it comes to Larry Mullen's drums — loses little of its original power here, and Edge's guitar sounds as razor sharp as ever. Most of all, those damn bells ring as sweet as I remember when I first heard this great album.
The bonus tracks here are also, for my money, the best of those found on the three reissued albums. You've got the alternate take of "I Will Follow," some vintage early live versions of songs like "Out Of Control" and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock," and a couple of previously unreleased tracks like "Saturday Night" and "Speed Of Life." For my money, Boy ranks as the best of the three deluxe reissues.
1981's October is widely viewed as something of the weakest link in the original trilogy of U2's early albums, and for the most part I'd have to agree with that assessment.
Still, when reconsidered on this new remaster, it becomes apparent that maybe October should have gotten a fairer shake. For one thing, "Gloria" is nearly as powerful an opening track as "I Will Follow" was for Boy. A deeper listen reveals that songs like "I Threw A Brick Through A Window," "Rejoice," and "I Fall Down" all hold up remarkably well.
For the bonus tracks on October, they wisely focus on the live stuff, as this was the period where U2 began to really gel as a live band with some very powerful performances. So you've got some great concert stuff here, including "I Will Follow," "Gloria," "The Cry/Electric Co.," and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock." There's also some rarities like "J.Swallo" and "Trash, Trampoline, and The Party Girl."
Surprisingly, the deluxe treatment of 1983's War is the least satisfying of the three U2 reissues. I say surprising, because in my opinion War was really U2's first big breakout record. No, it didn't have quite the same impact as the mega-selling Joshua Tree did, but it certainly helped to pave the way for that breakthrough, being responsible for first moving the band out of theatres and into arenas as it was. Of the entire U2 catalog, War is also arguably the band's best out and out rock album.