March 9 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of U2's iconic album "The Joshua Tree". The album stood out among its peers for its imagery, lyrical allusions (hope remains yet in the moral, spiritual, and economic desert of America) and for its singular sound. Amidst the banality of 1980s synthezised pop this album yearned to mean something more.
In a 2001 VH-1 poll of 40,000 voters, "The Joshua Tree" was named the top all-time greatest album, beating out some outstanding work from the usual competition such as The Beatles, Radiohead, Oasis, Stevie Wonder, and Nirvana. A lovely tribute to the staying power of what is for me a very special album. And just this week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released its list of 200 essential rock albums, and "The Joshua Tree" came in at #5 (after "Sgt Pepper", "Dark Side of the Moon", "Thriller", and "Led Zeppelin IV").
A longtime U2 fan, I do consider "The Joshua Tree" to be U2's greatest album. Note I did not say "best". Without question their best album is "Achtung Baby" (1991)--it's their finest studio craftwork and it deserves all that much more praise for breaking the juggernaut that was their post-"Joshua Tree" image. But art is more than production. In terms of its scope, its cinematic ability to take you to a place you may not have yet imagined, and its vision of hope, "The Joshua Tree" is U2 reaching as far as they can with big sound and even bigger dreams. [Image: Anton Corbin]