U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" shines brightly as a box set 20 years later

It's not just the glaring white design of the Super Deluxe Box Set itself that makes U2's 20th anniversary release of "All That You Can't Leave Behind" shine so brightly — it's the wonderful amount of content inside.
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U2
All That You Can't Leave Behind
Island (Super Deluxe Box Set; 11-LPs)

4.5 Stars

It's not just the glaring white design of the Super Deluxe Box Set itself that makes U2's 20th anniversary release of All That You Can't Leave Behind shine so brightly — it's the wonderful amount of content inside. 

It does not seem like 20 years either. Let's not forget that All That You Can't Leave Behind was released prior to the 9-11 attacks on America. The mood of the music is upbeat, hopeful and positive, a lovely but strange sensation before the world changed forever. Traveling back there now, with this anniversary box set, makes the music sound brighter and the album itself a more cherished release.

Grant it, overall, U2 fans were satisfied with the release of  All That You Can't Leave Behind in 2000, but many of us old school fans felt that any material post-1990 could not live up to the music released during U2's pinnacle in the '80s. We went with that attitude going in. The music could still be great, but not alarmingly so. Nothing would ever match the once-in-a-lifetime 5-star sound of The Unforgettable Fire.

That being said, All That You Can't Leave Behind is a great accomplishment. Songs "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" will go down as two of U2's best songs, and "Elevation" and "Walk On" are not that far behind. The remainder of songs on the album do not ignite the same energy, but are a strong listen to this day.

Speaking of listening, the quality is of course a step up with this 20th anniversary release. It's remastered and available on high-grade 180 gram vinyl. And, if you have the money, the 11-LP Super Deluxe Box Set is the one to purchase.

All That You Can't Leave Behind's Super Deluxe Box Set has all the proper goodies: a 32-page hardback book (with never-before-seen photographs during that period), a double-sided poster, 39 additional bonus tracks, including B-sides ("Summer Rain," "Always," "Big Girls Are Best" and "Don't Take Your Guns To Town"), album outtakes galore ("Levitate," "Love You Like Mad," "Flower Child," "Stateless," an acoustic version of "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," etc.), remixes (Wyclef Jean remix of "Walk On," "the Picante remix of "When I Look At The World" and more) and a live performance of the band on their Elevation Tour in June 2001.

It's some of the remixes this listener can do without (part of the half-star reduction of this review). Personally, U2 remixes have always been hit or miss. Still, they are worth collecting (I have collected many on U2 CD singles already);  having 11 remixes spread across five vinyl records ups the ante.

Moving on to the other extras. The additional track "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" is perfect for its dreamy rhythm and the Edge/Bono take the tune to greater heights (The Edge with his eerie guitar break and Bono with his soothing repetitive 'My Oh My's. The song was featured on the soundtrack for The Million Dollar Hotel, with lyrics taken from Salman Rushdie's book of the same name.

Three vinyl records of the Elevation tour — picked from several shows — capture the energy of that tour. The song the tour is named after always delighted far more live than the studio version. This was always the song highlight of the tour amongst many highlights, and it rings true here as well.

The real gem of all these All That You Can't Leave Behind extras, however, is the acoustic version of "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." This rendition is nearly as good as the original. The lyrics already have a poignant message to a common human feeling and the organic touch of the acoustic guitar emphasizes the delivery.

For the music collector, or the U2 completist, with $200-plus to spare, the 11-LP Super Deluxe Set of All That You Can't Leave Behind is the way to go. But for $50 less, there is the 5-CD set. And the plain 'ol anniversary reissue comes in CD ($10-plus) and 2-LP ($40) formats.

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