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U2 - 18 SINGLES - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: *****

U2 - 18 SINGLES Few bands have managed to survive 30 years together, much less continue to craft chart-toppers for the duration of such a period. U2 are a prime example of that longevity and for those who donít know their history, the quartet from Ireland have sold close to a 150 million records worldwide in an extraordinary career, which has firmly established them as the worldís most important rock and roll band.

Intended as a companion piece to the bandís official autobiographical book (U2 by U2, Harper Collins), 18 Singles attempts to fit all of their hits onto a single CD. While U2ís remarkable body of work is far too large and complex to lend itself to such a compilation, this still manages a decent overview of the bandís oeuvre. The 18 track collection dips back in time to their first worldwide smash New Years Day and tracks the band's progress in the non chronological form through pop tunes like B-Side Sweetest Thing to more complex creations like Rattle And Humís Desire. Bonoís focus was never clearer, nor the groupís music catchier than on 1987ís The Joshua Tree, and three singles are here from that ~ I Still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For, Where The Streets Have No Name, and With Or Without You. Fans of later works Achtung Baby and Pop will feel shortchanged ~ thereís practically nothing here from the 1990s era other than singles One and Mysterious Ways.

In a nod to the bandís continued dominance on the charts in this decade, the disc instead emphasizes on more recent material ~ most notably 2000ís All That You Canít Leave Behind which is represented by four singles. It's disappointing to discover that such latter day entities are included in favour of memorable hits like All I Want Is You, Stay (So Faraway So Close) and Whoís Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses, and one must ask whereís Bad, the single that made them a household name in the US long before Joshua Tree did. Still, the primary draw for Bono-philes will of course be the two new tunes that round out the compilation, both of which are undeniably up to the band's highest standards.

The first is a cover of a 1978 song ~ The Saints Are Coming ~ which attempts to recapture a good bit of the grandeur of U2's halcyon banner-waving days, as the band plays in tandem with punk outfit Green Day. The other is the elegiac Window In The Skies, which seems like a good harbinger for the bandís new studio album expected in 2007. The final verdict ~ there's no question that whatís on 18 Singles is all great music and showcases a band at the peak of their creative powers. Well recommended.

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