Let's start with a disclaimer: it's almost blasphemous to admit as an Irish person, but I've never been a die-hard U2 fan.

Like a lot of people, there are plenty of songs from their back catalogue that I adore, their longevity is to be admired and they are still a phenomenal live band – their last Dublin gig at the 3Arena had some of the best visuals I've ever seen at a gig and they still undoubtedly have the stage presence, technical ability and vocal prowess after almost forty years in the business – but I've never fallen head-over-heels in love with an entire album from start to finish. In short, I guess I am the quintessential fairweather U2 fan who'll sing the praises of (as well as along with) every track on their 'Best Of' collection.

That said, The Joshua Tree is one of the albums by Bono and co. that I'm most familiar with, so when a chance to review the 7LP Super Deluxe Vinyl edition of the iconic album arose, I jumped on it. Its 30th anniversary is the reason they're on tour at the moment, after all.

The thing is h-e-a-v-y, for starters. There's a lot in it and it feels like an investment. It's also pretty gorgerous to look at and to hold, with an embossed outer box and some beautiful gold detailing.

You get a huge amount of content in the set, too.

Obviously, there's the album itself:


But there's also a good amount of reading material involved, too - including new liner notes on the album itself by U2 biographer Bill Flanagan; something to keep obsessive fans happy and pique the interest of casual observers.

There's also another 'The Joshua Tree: Live from Madison Square Garden' album in the set, which was recorded in September 1987 and pretty much shows a band at the peak of their powers.

Not only that - there's a whole three-vinyl (six sides) album of Remixes, Outtakes and B-sides from the Joshua Tree sessions - everything from new remixes of 'Bullet the Blue Sky' by the likes of Jacknife Lee, Daniel Lanois' remix of 'With of Without You' and a Brian Eno 2017 mix of 'One Tree Hill Reprise'. There is literally hours of listening here.

One of the best things about the set, in my opinion - music aside, obviously - is the inclusion of plenty of photographic material. There's a set of 8 prints taken by Anton Corbijn - who shot the iconic cover art of the album - from the same sessions and they're beautifully presented.

What's more, there's also a whole separate 84-page hardcover book comprised of The Edge's photographs from the same sessions. Again, beautifully presented and behind-the-scenes shots of both his bandmates and the incredible Joshua Tree scenery.


The big question is, however - without all the bells and whistles, is The Joshua Tree an album that still holds up after thirty years? And what does it sound like on vinyl?


Answer: it sounds deadly. In fact, it's almost an album that's better suited to the format than many. Clean production and pristine sound doesn't matter to an album like this - it's all about the atmosphere (although it's worth pointing out that it does come with a digital download code).

Having not listened to 'The Joshua Tree' from start to finish in a long time, I was surprised to find out how well it's held up. The first three songs on the album have to be one of the best opening trios on any album, ever - but the numbers further down the tracklisting, like 'Running to Stand Still', 'In God's Country' and 'Red Hill Mining Town' still pack a pretty ferocious punch.

Put it this way: if you weren't bothered about seeing them play the album in Dublin in July before reacquanting yourself with it, you probably will be afterwards.

Is it U2's best album? For me, 'Achtung Baby' runs it pretty close - but this is a powerful yet simultaneously vulnerable snapshot of a band who were yet to become the biggest rock act in the world when it was released in 1987.

This box set won't be for everyone and it's certainly not cheap, but if you're a committed fan - or have a loved one who is - it'd make a great present.

Roll on, Croke Park.