Rattle And Hum


Island Records, 1988


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


“This is a song that Charles Manson stole from the Beatles…we’re stealin’ it back,” states U2 frontman Bono as he launches into “Helter Skelter,” the first cut on Rattle And Hum, from the concert film of the same name.

Then, Bono gets even more sanctimonious on “Silver And Gold,” with his onstage rant about apartheid in South Africa. After such bold political statements, he would quickly become the biggest crusader for human rights that the rock world had ever seen. In a sense, this is where the Bono we know today began.

The other members of U2 would be behind him all the way. All of them are at the top of their game on Rattle And Hum, which was produced by Jimmy Iovine and which continues the band's fascination with America.

Although many were perplexed by U2's claims to be heavily influenced by blues and gospel music, one had to admire their audacity in treading on ground where very few white men had dared to tread before. Of course, all they needed to do was point their fingers in the direction of Elvis Presley. Trading their punk credentials for their newfound devotion to soul music came with a stiff price, as many U2 devotees cried “sell out” or accused them of being imposters. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As blue-eyed soul singers go, Bono doesn’t do too badly in his attempt to impress the likes of B.B. King, who joins him in a duet on “When Love Comes To Town.” The gospel group Voices Of Freedom lend their support, encouragement and voices on the overlong live take of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and U2 even pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix on a punched-up rendition of “All Along The Watchtower.” Okay, we beg you for mercy, Bono, we get it -- you’ve got soul. We just don’t know why you had to go to such lengths to prove it.

Excessive as it may be (a double album, split between live and studio tracks), Rattle And Hum did succeed in securing U2’s place as the greatest rock band ever when it was first released in 1988. Throughout the 90s and beyond, they would continue to challenge, confound and convince us that The Joshua Tree wasn’t a mere fluke.

The best moments on Rattle And Hum show just how tight a unit the four friends and bandmates had become. From the suspenseful and gripping “Hawkmoon 269” and “God, Part II” to the potent singles “Desire” and “Angel Of Harlem,” there’s a lot to digest here, but you can rest assured that you will come away feeling satisfied by most of it.

Yes, “Bullet The Blue Sky” comes as redundant and unnecessary, and “Heartland” is painful to listen to, but amazing cuts like “Love Rescue Me” and “All I Want Is You” certainly make up for those minor blights. There’s even a rare vocal performance from guitarist The Edge on “Van Diemen’s Land,” the catchy pop hit "Desire" and, of course, a live performance of the anthem “Pride (In the Name Of Love),” which served as a reminder that U2 was ready for its status as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B-



© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.