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Off the Record - Great but pricey U2’s Achtung Baby 20th anniversary box set

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Box set for U2's 'Achtung Baby!' 20th anniversary (RollingStone.com)

Santa was particularly good to one of my good friends, and he got some U2 under his tree in the form of the Achtung Baby 20th anniversary super deluxe box set.

This edition contains six CDs, including the original Achtung Baby album, the follow-up album, Zooropa, B-sides and re-workings of previously unheard material recorded during the Achtung Baby sessions and four DVDs, including From the Sky Down, Zoo TV, all the videos from Achtung Baby plus bonus material, in addition to a 92-page hardback book and 16 art prints in a wallet.

Some snarky music industry friend of mine nicknamed this the box set that only Bono could afford and at many hundreds of dollars, it seems that only the diehard collector should shell out this kind of money. If you’ve picked up the singles and B-sides along the way as I have, you probably own most of this anyway.

There are 57 songs and 4.8 hours of music, most of it consisting of unnecessary remixes. It’s always nice to get shiny remixed versions of tunes and the digital makeover on these murky originals add a nice kick of aural spice! I love how the box set bridges Achtung Baby with Zooropa, a lesser-known album born from the same sessions.

Out of the four bonus discs, the only remarkable one is the one marked Baby.  It contains demo versions and scratched lyrical ideas that offer interesting deviations for the fan that knows every space of these songs like the liturgy of the Mass.

“Ready to slip/ready to slide/ready to accept what I once denied,” is an example of one lyrical gem from “Zoo Station” that hit the cutting room floor at the time but makes it into the Baby version.

You can hear Bono playing with the words to match the melodies as he goes along, making a delightful insight of the band’s creative process.

“So Cruel” contains a previously unheard Johnny Cash-like spoken vocal -- it’s cruel that this didn’t make it on the final album!

Some folks have no doubt loaded these goodies into their iPod, which explains why used versions of the collection are popping up online. That might be your best bet to access these goodies without paying an arm and a leg. Proceed with caution, baby!

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