30 Best Loved Albums - All That You Can't Leave Behind

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2007 will bring the 30th anniversary of my first rock concert (Kiss, December 2, 1977 – Metropolitan Sports Center). In honor of that momentous event I have decided to use this blog to review my 30 best loved albums. They will not be in any order or progression but I will try to review them musically and why they mean so much to me. I’ll also note if they made the Definitive 200 List. Here's number 9 on the list:

u2.jpg
9. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

Grace
It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that
Changed the world

U2 is arguably the biggest rock act on the face of the earth and Bono is not only known to millions of music fans but has crossed over to become almost a world ambassador -- one who dines regularly with Popes and Presidents. It easy to forget, however, that by 2000, U2 was seen as an act that was past its prime musically. All That You Can't Leave Behind (ATYCLB) changed all that and propelled U2 even higher to the pop culture and political stratosphere.

Part of the reason why ATYCLB had such an impact is (counter intuitively) due to low expectations. The later half of the 1990’s saw U2 experimenting with a new sound and personae as Zooropa and especially Pop, although good, were not typical U2 albums. They focused on pop-cultural issues that a mega-rich and mega-popular band might find interesting. Bono’s character, “The Fly? was a cynical, pop culture-savvy character who cut a little too close to home. Their tours were in-your-face, multi-media extravaganzas that mocked and parodied the consumer culture that gripped the 1990s . Although interesting, these two albums didn’t have the personal resonance that albums such as War, Unforgettable Fire, and Joshua Tree had. However as people recovered from their Y2K fears there were rumblings that U2 was coming out with a new album that was to harken back to the U2 of old.

We got a first glimpse of this old/new approach with the release of the single Beautiful Day and not only was it like U2 of old, it was a somewhat refreshing sentiment in light of a presidential election that focused more attention on the color of Al Gore’s suits than it did on what kind of temperament and policies someone like George W. Bush would bring to the White House. When the album was finally released all the hype was correct, U2 had gone back to making an album that was both poignant and meaningful, full of hope and courage.

What really sent the album over the top was that it seemed be a response to the events of 9/11, even though it was recorded a year prior to those events. Songs such as Beautiful Day, Stuck in a Moment, and especially Peace on Earth, New York, and Grace gave comfort to a grieving nation and Bono became our grief counselor, telling us everything is going to be ok, that we can stand up and move forward despite of all that happening around us. We can leave it all behind.

Don’t get me wrong, ATYCLB is not a dirge, it flat out rocks too. Songs such as Elevation, Beautiful Day, and Kite would be strong contenders on any U2 album and the Edge’s guitar work throughout the album is strong and the rhythm section really anchors the songs. One can listen to these songs today, forget about the events of 2000-01 and still find a strong, engaging album.

U2 has many great albums to choose from and it’s a lot of fun to chart their growth from Boy and October to War to Joshua Tree. One could quite easily pick any of those albums as a favorite. However for what it meant to me when it came out, how easily it was to listen to and feel better about the world, for giving us such classic songs as Kite, Peace on Earth and Beautiful Day, All That You Can't Leave Behind is one of my 30 best loved albums.

What is your favorite U2 album?

Place on the Definitive 200: 197

8 Comments

Free - great pick. It's funny you mention this album's connection with 9/11. I have always associated three albums with 9/11, mainly because of sheer timing. This one, Ryan Adam's "Gold," and Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft (actually released on 9/11/01)." In fact, Ryan Adams has a song on Gold called "New York, New York" in which he shot a video exactly one week before 9/11. It prominently features shots of the Twin Towers in the background as Adams plays the song. I have seen it updated in which they point out the production date and pay tribute to the towers.

Anyway, U2's "Stuck in a Moment" really struck a cord with me back in late 2001. I had a hard time shaking the images of 9/11, and this song and album really helped with it's positive message in a time of turmoil.

Jeff T.

Thanks J. Sometimes when listening to this album it's hard to remember that it was recorded prior to 9/11, it seems like such a strong response. Then when you compare it to albums that were in response to 9/11 (e.g. Springsteen's The Rising) you really appreciate what U2 did with this album and how universal it themes are in light of 2001's events as well as 2007.

Free, this is indeed a great pick, especially for the impact it had around 9/11. I also heard that going to a U2 concert around this time was like going to church. People needed the message that pervaded this album, and I was no exception.

I wonder, though, how this album will fare as time goes on? Within the context of 9/11 its importance was obvious, but 20 years from now? Will it have the same timelessness of The Joshua Tree?

Sgt. Peppers comes to mind when thinking about ATYCLB. Sgt. Peppers is obviously very, very important, but overall it has not aged well. Only time will tell as far as ATYCLB is concerned.

My favorite U2 albums (as of right now):

1. Achtung Baby
2. Joshua Tree
3. Zooropa
4. Unforgettable Fire
5. ATYCLB

Good points Shane. Because it wasn't recoreded in direct response to 9/11, I do think ATYCLB will age well.

Unfortunately a song like Peace on Earth will always be relevant, as will Grace. Elevation and Beautiful Day will also hold their own.

I'd probably move Unforgettable Fire up on your list and replace Zooropa with War.

I am much more "old school" when it comes to U2:

1. War
2. Unforgettable Fire
3. Achtung Baby
4. October (For some reason, I love this one!)
5. Joshua Tree

Jeff

great pick, Free. i was thinking about this album as you were putting together your list (also when i was raging about the so-called hall of crap definitive list). the wife and i constantly debate about whether U2's pre- and post-Joshua Tree music. i think the band has matured musically and spiritually over time, aging like a good bottle of wine. sure there were missteps over the years (see, e.g., POP). ATYCLB for me represents the culmination of U2's maturity as band. kick butt songs and beautiful ballads, without some of the self-rightesousness of earlier efforts. it's a shame that ATYCLB didn't receive the accolades of their follow-up, Atom Bomb, because i think ATYCLB is a better album from start to finish.

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This page contains a single entry by Freealonzo published on May 7, 2007 9:13 AM.

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