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U2 – Songs of Surrender

April 16, 2023
Songs of Surrender (2023)

When recording artists rearrange their songs and call it a new album it is usually a sign of artistic bankruptcy. There are exceptions, for example, Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue (2022) was a well done orchestral re-recordings of songs from throughout her career. U2’s Songs of Surrender is a similar successful re-recording of 40 songs from their career. In general, it takes a minimalist approach to the arrangements with the focus on Bono’s vocal performance.

The most startling thing is how great Bono’s vocals sound – he sounds as good if not better than at any point in his career. It is a rare that rockstar’s voice improves with age. It is not that he has greater range – he just knows how to use his voice better.

This is basically The Edge’s solo album featuring Bono. The Edge assembled backing tracks, mostly by himself, but occasionally he used some previously recorded parts from Adam (bass) and Larry (drums). He encouraged Bono to show some restraint on the vocals.

I recently listened to The Edge on a podcast and his goal was to create austere versions of U2 classics and to have Bono sing in a more intimate fashion vs. the bombastic original vocals. The Edge is comfortable that this music may be consumed as a background soundtrack.

The Edge takes the vocal leads on a few tracks. He has always provided background vocals and it is fun to hear him front and center. Many of the arrangements are keyboard focused which made me think that The Edge is not a guitar god, but rather a composer and he uses his guitar to create sonic soundscapes versus shred.

This is a pleasant take on the catalog, but nothing overshadows the original versions. What is interesting is that without the big U2 arrangements, the songs have a singer songwriter vibe. What I have learned here is just how good the songs are – they are not diminished by the simple and sparse arrangements.

Given the girth of this project (40 songs clocking over 2:45 hours) this is a tedious listen. But taken in more bite sized pieces, it is great. This is not an album for the casual U2 fan, but you don’t have to be an obsessive completist to enjoy.


From → Music Reviews

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