U2 – Songs Of Surrender [4CD Collector’s Box Set / 40 songs re-imagined re-worked] (2023)
”Songs Of Surrender” is the new ‘re-imagined / re-worked’ collection from U2 featuring 40 songs from their back catalogue with new arrangements and lyrics, produced and compiled by guitarist The Edge and arranged into individual band member volumes / 4 CDs.
U2 have always had an alternate version in them. They rebooted The Fly for their 2001 Elevation tour, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight was turned into a club anthem on the 360° tour, and Staring At The Sun was a pivotal acoustic number on 1997’s Popmart Tour. They have also been prominent in letting others remix their music. Lemon, Even Better Than The Real Thing and Discothèque have all been enhanced with remixes.
This collection sees the four lads from the north side of Dublin rework 40 of their songs in a more stripped back fashion. Whilst they are stripped back, there are still a whole lot of parts to each composition to enjoy including plenty of synths, drums, guitars, strings. Several of the tracks have also been given a dusting off on the lyrical front to update, rework and reclaim the songs.
With Or Without You similarly follows the reserved but affecting form that many will have seen on Bono’s tour in support of his Surrender memoir. There are plenty of big hitters in play here.
One opens the collection in serene fashion. Bono’s vocals are emotional as ever. Where The Streets Have No Name is given a really cinematic edge through the warm synths and keys. It is an interesting take on such a huge song in the U2 canon; one that is truly affecting in the live arena.
Beautiful Day has slightly reworked lyrics in the middle of the song with the piano taking on the ‘riff’ from the original. Vertigo is still a tough song in its acoustic and string form, and Desire (U2’s first UK #1) is a brilliantly twisted reworking with deep synths, pulsing beats and Bono in ‘Lemon’ form with his brilliant falsetto. It is arguably the best reimaging on the whole collection.
Whilst there are plenty of big songs on the collection, for the U2 fan, it will be a treat to hear songs that have perhaps been consigned forever to the back catalogue.
Stories For Boys sees The Edge take the lead on vocals and piano and the bluster of Dirty Day is stripped away for a menacingly whispered and conversational vocal from Bono backed by pizzicato cello. There is an intimate feel in the delivery of If God Will Send His Angels from 1997’s Pop. This is a song that is vastly underrated in U2’s back catalogue; it is nice to hear it resurrected here.
Faith, philanthropy and good will are always omnipresent with U2. Miracle Drug has a raw Bono vocal and Peace On Earth is re-imagined to great effect with The Edge leading. Walk On (Ukraine) is given a facelift to strip away the previous dedication of the song.
Originally written for Aung San Suu Kyi, Walk On was used prominently to campaign for her release from house arrest however the band had to condemn and distance themselves when evidence of horrific atrocities came to the fore.
Tucked away on the collection are plenty of singles that didn’t grace U2 albums. Invisible, Electrical Storm, Ordinary Love and 11 O’clock Tick Tock all sound wonderful with Invisible standing out. This was also a highlight of U2’s Innocence & Experience Tour in 2015.
The Fly still sounds as fresh as it did in 1991 with a lounge take on the song and the acoustic led Bad still sends shivers down the spine. All I Want Is You is sublime and the emotive Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own feels more like a lament than it ever was.
Sunday Bloody Sunday, a slightly reworded Out Of Control and I Will Follow use arrangements that buskers might like to borrow.
Of U2’s most recent output, Lights Of Home, Cedarwood Road, Song For Someone and The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone) make an appearance. The latter is a little acoustic ditty that really reimagines the sound, words and timbre of the song.
Elsewhere, the quite brilliant The Little Things That Give You Away is still as rousing as ever and takes its place as one of U2’s finest numbers of recent years.
Aptly, ’40’ rounds out the reimagined collection. It’s a song that has always felt epic, especially when performed live with Adam and The Edge swapping instruments and the band leaving one by one.
”Songs Of Surrender” is very much a band content with where they are; four hearts beating as one to enjoy their life’s work. If Achtung Baby was the sound of U2 chopping down the Joshua Tree, Songs Of Surrender is the sound of U2 tearing down the walls and reassembling the pieces gently.
If you like U2, you will really enjoy this collection. Some parts will sound odd due to familiarity with the originals but give these versions time to breathe and you will enjoy them for what they are. If you don’t like U2, you can probably carry on moaning about U2 with the same old cliché takes on the band.
After this, Las Vegas shows, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. returning, hopefully the band will plug back in and unleash another new record. Apparently, that’s what’s next.
Side 1 – The Edge
2. Where The Streets Have No Name
3. Stories For Boys
4. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock
5. Out Of Control
6. Beautiful Day
8. Every Breaking Wave
9. Walk On (Ukraine)
10. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Side 2 – Larry
1. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
2. Get Out Of Your Own Way
3. Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
4. Red Hill Mining Town
5. Ordinary Love
6. Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
8. Dirty Day
9. The Miracle Of Joey Ramone
10. City Of Blinding Lights
Side 3 – Adam
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
3. Electrical Storm
4. The Fly
5. If God Will Send His Angels
7. Until The End Of The World
8. Song For Someone
9. All I Want Is You
10. Peace On Earth
Side 4 – Bono
1. With Or Without You
3. Sunday Bloody Sunday
4. Lights Of Home
5. Cedarwood Road
6. I Will Follow
7. Two Hearts Beat As One
8. Miracle Drug
9. The Little Things That Give You Away
Bono – vocals, guitar
The Edge – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Adam Clayton – bass
Larry Mullen Jr. – drums, percussion