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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest U2 Albums

Your picks include ‘The Joshua Tree’, ‘War’ and ‘Zooropa’

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There's been no official announcement, but it's safe to say that 2014 will be a very big year for U2. Their long-awaited 13th album will probably hit shelves sometime around April, and they're going to support it with a tour. There's no way they can top the size and scope of the 360 Tour, so expect them back in arenas this time.

To kick off this new year, we asked our readers to select their 10 favorite U2 albums. Here are the results.

By ANDY GREENE

Courtesy Island Records

5. ‘Boy’

U2 had been around for nearly four years when they began recording their debut album, Boy, with Steve Lillywhite, but they'd only just begun to write truly great songs. Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. was only 19 at the time and the others weren't much older, but constant gigging around Ireland had turned them into a tight unit.

The album begins with the classic "I Will Follow" and the 10 songs that ensue are largely about the process of boys turning into men. The influence of groups like Television and Joy Division was apparent, but it was very clear that this was a group with a unique sound and critics latched onto them right away. 

Courtesy Island Records

4. ‘War’

Many U2 fans have come to love October, but the band knew it wasn't their best work and they were determined to rise to the next level with their third album. Putting aside the spiritual matters of October, they wrote a strong collection of songs centered around the horrific political troubles in Ireland.

The very title of War makes the point quite clear, though many of the tracks deal with the emotional aspects of conflict rather than the overt politics. "New Year's Day" became their first American hit, and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" showcased the band at their absolute best. Bono began waving a white flag during their concerts and climbing high into the rafters. The album was a huge hit on college radio and MTV began airing their videos. 

Courtesy Island Records

3. ‘The Unforgettable Fire’

After three straight albums with Steve Lillywhite, U2 decided to go in a different direction with their fourth album, The Unforgettable Fire, by bringing in the unique duo of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Bono was inspired to write songs about the bombing of Hiroshima when he saw an exhibit about the attack in Japan called "The Unforgettable Fire."

Around the same time, Rolling Stone writer Jim Henke gave Bono a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. called Let the Trumpet Sound. It inspired him to write "MLK" and "Pride (In the Name of Love.") The latter became an enormous hit single and brought the band into arenas and the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time. The decade wasn't even half over, but Rolling Stone labeled them "Our Choice Band of the 1980s." It was a lot to live up to, but they pulled it off.

Courtesy Island Records

2. ‘The Joshua Tree’

After a string of hit singles, a spotlight-stealing set at Live Aid and a triumphant Amnesty International tour with the Police, Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed, U2 were suddenly one of the hottest bands on the planet. Some groups wilt under that pressure, but U2 were determined to write a series of songs that lived up to the hype.

With the help of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, they created The Joshua Tree, an album that took over the entire planet in 1987. "Where the Streets Have No Name" might be the single greatest stadium rock song ever recorded, while "With or Without You" is the best prom song of the decade. "Bullet the Blue Sky" is a brutal condemnation of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy in South America, while "The Mothers of the Disappeared" is a mournful ode to the young men tortured and killed during Augusto Pinochet's brutal reign in Chile. These are some serious topics, but they caught on in a huge way and U2 suddenly found themselves on the cover of Time magazine. 

Courtesy Island Records

1. ‘Achtung Baby’

The four members of U2 instinctively knew that the 1990s were going to be a very different musical decade than the 1980s. Mega-1980s groups like Dire Straits, INXS, Poison and Bon Jovi were happy to simply repeat past successes in the new decade, but U2 knew they had to completely reinvent themselves in order to survive in this new world. They headed over to Germany right as the Berlin Wall was coming down and holed up at Hansa Tonstudio, where David Bowie and Iggy Pop worked in the 1970s. The place was falling apart and tensions nearly caused the group to split, but everything turned around when they stumbled upon the melody for "One."

They went back to Dublin and crafted an album that was the opposite of everything they did in the 1980s. This was music you could almost dance to; drawing influence from German techno, Euro-disco and Krautock, Achtung Baby sounded like the music of the future. It shocked critics and fans, eventually selling million of copies and guaranteeing that the band had an extremely bright future.

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