U2 – The Joshua Tree – Our Shootout Winner from 2009


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This domestic Island LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND on side one. The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is BIG and BOLD. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and agressive — like most U2 albums — or thick and veiled. This one is actually smooth and fairly natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass. 

Don’t get me wrong — this is no audiophile recording or demo disc by any stretch. What we have here is a copy that beats most of the other ones we played, no more, no less. It conveys the ENERGY and POWER of the music, and that makes it a very unusual pressing indeed. The vocals can be a bit edgy in places; with better vocals this one would have been hard to beat on side one.

Side two was not as good sounding, rating a grade of A Plus. It’s rich and sweet but a bit smeared, which takes the edge off some of the sound but keeps the energy and presence from working the way they should.

By the way, the British copies we played were awful. Perhaps there are good ones out there but we sure didn’t hear any.

One More Thing

If you have the time and like the album I recommend you watch the DVD on the making of Joshua Tree. It’s not only very entertaining but if you’re like me, you’ll come away with a whole new appreciation for effort that went into the recording of it. There is a lot in these mixes and it would have to be a very special stereo indeed that could manage to bring half of it out into the open where we could actually hear it.

Further Reading

We have a number of entries in our new Import Versus Domestic series, in which we debunk the conventional wisdom concerning which country’s records are the best sounding for specific artists and titles.

Here are some commentaries on a subject near and dear to all of us, namely Record Collecting.

The entries linked here may help you gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding Hot Stampers.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.


Side One

Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still

Side Two

Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit 4
Mothers of the Disappeared

AMG Review

It’s a move that returns them to the sweeping, anthemic rock of War, but if War was an exploding political bomb, The Joshua Tree is a journey through its aftermath, trying to find sense and hope in the desperation. That means that even the anthems — the epic opener “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the yearning “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” — have seeds of doubt within their soaring choruses, and those fears take root throughout the album, whether it’s in the mournful sliding acoustic guitars of “Running to Stand Still,” the surging “One Tree Hill,” or the hypnotic elegy “Mothers of the Disappeared.” So it might seem a little ironic that U2 became superstars on the back of such a dark record, but their focus has never been clearer, nor has their music been catchier, than on The Joshua Tree.