well, this post is going to be as much of a celebration as it is a criticism, so consider yourselves well and truly warned!
Edition 305 of celebrated music magazine Q certainly sounded like it could be interesting. it was to feature a recreation of U2's much celebrated album Achtung Baby, with the album 'mostly' consisting of cover versions of each track. this was all in aid of "celebrating" (as in "the band boosting publicity for the re-release") the 20th anniversary of this particular album.
as a quick aside, i have the slightly-less deluxe than some versions 2 disc set of the Achtung Baby reissue "on order". a full review is entirely possible as and when it lands.
in the mean time, if the idea of a "covers version" of the album sounded mildly interesting, it became one hell of a lot more exciting and "must get hands on this one" when the full details became clear!
that, as you can see from the cover, is one hell of a set of artists they have got to cover U2! whereas free CDs with magazines tend to have a bit of a hit and miss trend to them, with one or two songs being something you really want if you are lucky, this one promised to be all good across the whole running time.
and, as i have (ahem) heard it, i can with great delight tell you that this is one excellent, must-have disc!
if i were to select a highlight, it would probably have to be Depeche Mode's insanely genius take on So Cruel. it's a song that never particularly stood out on the original version of the album for me if i am honest, but in the hands of 'The Mode' it becomes a clear and present masterpiece.
that said, there is not one bad cover on it. i thought it was usual Bono hyperbole when he said "some of these covers are better than our versions", but when you hear it you get where he's coming from.
starting with the album opener Zoo Station and Nine Inch Nails was a relatively straightforward choice; the track commencing with a quasi-industrial slice of music on the original. Reznor & Co however, do not overplay the insudtrial roots of the song - far from it, for if i am not mistaken that's a xylophone lurking around on the recording.
Patti Smith's take on Until The End Of The World does exactly what it says on the box, as indeed does Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses as performed by Garbage. Both are, then, if you didn't work it out, brilliant. My favourite on the album, and perhaps favourite U2 song of all time, The Fly, is tackled here by someone called Gavin Friday, who i have never heard of. no matter, as he does an absolutely sterling job.
all of these great tracks lead up to no less than Jack White - yep, the Jack White, closing proceedings with a dazzling take on Love Is Blindness.
there is a case to say that AHK-toong BAY-bi could easily be considered one of the best 10, if not best 5, albums of the year. the trick, of course, is the rather difficult way one has to try and get hold of it. that means the criticism is on its way.
now, if you are in the UK, you really should not have a problem getting this - off you to go WH Smiths or the like and buy a copy now, really. for those of us outside of the UK this would not normally be a problem. usually the magazines all turn up here some six weeks later, 99.9% of the time with the cover CD attached. this time, and i do not know if it is because Q have been taking anti-consumer lessons from Sony or similar, this is not to be. there are warnings and messages all over the official Q internet page site thing and similar that this disc will not be available to people outside the UK, whether they subscribe directly to the magazine or buy it off the shelf. i am sure whoever is behind this finds it very funny that the best free CD ever is not available anywhere else in the world.
on the upside, perhaps sensing a consumer backlash, Q and U2 have made a "limited number" of copies of the disc available to buy for people all around the world. the cost of the CD (no idea if it comes with the magazine or not, is $7.50 in United States terms, which i am led to believe is the magazine cover price. on the downside, however, a little bit of research on the site tells you that it will cost you $14.95 for them to ship it to you. which is very close to twice the price of the actual item. "con" and "unfair" are words that spring to mind.
the album, of course, is already freely available - with the emphasis on free - across the whole of the internet. which makes me think that this is one of the largest wasted opportunities ever.
considering they have the recording, and all artists have settled the rights and what have you, why not put this out for sale as an actual, worthwhile and big selling "charity" release for any of the noble causes that both U2 and the majority of artists involved with it would be delighted to give some support to? that would be better than it being limited to regular or casual buyers in the UK, those with enough funds to pay excessive and over the odds postage or, for the most part, bootleggers.
i cannot condone any "less than legal" way of obtaining this, but i will leave it at saying that AHK-toong BAY-bi is essential listening, and i advise you to get your hands on a copy by the most legitimate means available to you in your country.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!