The Crystal Ball: A Look Forward

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2022-01-28)

On January 27, Alice Cooper spoke with Eddie Trunk on SiriusXM. The interview included discussion that Cooper was working on two albums at once, something he was able to do because he was waiting for his producer, Bob Ezrin, to be free from other projects. Cooper offered that Bob Ezrin was currently working with U2.

Ezrin is a Canadian producer who has worked with a wide range of artists over the years including Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart, Nine Inch Nails and Thirty Seconds to Mars. Ezrin has worked with U2 before, he produced the live performance of U2 and Green Day when they performed at the reopening of the Louisiana Superdome. Ezrin also launched Music Rising with Edge from U2. And although it sounded like Alice Cooper was saying Ezrin was working with U2 in his capacity as a producer, Ezrin did recently work with The Edge on the auction of guitars for the Music Rising charity. Ezrin also worked with Larry Mullen during Larry’s recent work with Alice Cooper on two albums.

What would Ezrin be working on if he was working with them in the capacity of producer? U2 are currently working on two albums, one of older material reinvented and one of new material.

The first we will get later this year will be re-recordings of songs from throughout their back catalog. These are being re-recorded by the band and are not just remixes of older recordings. The album will feature a mix of acoustic recordings and other non-acoustic reinventions. The band has been working in studio on these for some time, and we expect to see them later this year.

Adam Clayton has been speaking about this work, saying: “We have been recording acoustic versions of some of our catalog in different keys and different tempos just as a challenge” and that the reinterpretations “breathe new life into the songs.” In early interviews about the project he was hopeful that something would have been out at the end of 2021. “I think it’s an opportunity to explore different versions of the band in a way. Because it’s very much the early days, it’s embryonic, it could go somewhere between Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash – very stripped down and bare – towards something that is very lush. Very hard to say where it will end up or if it will all end up with the same tone across it, or if each song will be treated differently. I’m excited to see how the songs could exist in a different universe.”

Bono’s recent interviews for Sing 2 about disliking the sound of his own voice on some of the band’s early work, and feeling he’d only found his singing voice more recently certainly would play well with a new album of reinterpreted songs…

The band are also working on new material in studio for a new album, with current plans to try to release that material in early 2023. The album will pick up work done while touring in 2019 on a new album. Adam Clayton referring to this new album shared, “I will just say that some of the tracks fill us with pride.” Bono has said in late 2021 “It’s nice to work without a purpose. Which is to say, it’s not like somebody is coming up and saying we have to have a U2 album or we have to have a U2 tour. We’ve been talking, and are excited to work together again. In the next few weeks there will be some recording.”

This second album does not appear to be Songs of Ascent and Bono has been clear in interviews that the Songs of Ascent project is something he’d still like to return to, but all descriptions of this new album of material appear to be a departure from that material.

The band seems to want to put this album out in 2023, but we do know that until timelines are officially announced, things can and will change with U2.

A new tour is not expected this year. The band has no current planned live dates to our knowledge, and previously reliable source have said the band do not plan to tour in 2022.

But along with talking about the band working on an album for 2023, Adam Clayton also shared, “we are preparing new songs, for an album which should be released in 2023. And if circumstances allow it, we will go on a world tour at that time. It’s been a long time since we last performed in public.”

We’ve also heard that some of the touring crew have started to hear that the band are looking at touring in the second half of 2023 if it is possible at that time, and a new album is complete. At this point no plans are set in stone, and we’ve been told repeatedly that U2 are not scheduling tour dates until an album is ready.

In 2022, we are told that the band will continue to work on their online offerings on streaming services and digital store fronts. Much of 2021 was spent focused on video offerings on YouTube, as well as getting these videos into online stores.

This year we are told they will be focusing on the singles that are offered on streaming services. A lot of U2’s singles contained unique material, live versions of songs, B-Sides and remixes and demos. That material is somewhat available on deluxe versions of the albums on these services but much remains missing.

One such digital offering came out just before Christmas, with the release of an EP of Christmas music with the lead song being “I Believe in Father Christmas“. There was no new music included in the compilation, but in this case new artwork was included as the song had not been previously released.

The band are currently in promotion mode for their latest single, “Your Song Saved My Life” which is being pushed for an Oscar Nomination. Those nominations will be announced in early February, and the ceremony is due to take place on March 27, 2022. Advertisements of the song are running in trade magazines dealing with film and music, and a new edit of the song has been serviced to modern rock radio stations this week in North America. Earlier this month the song was sent to mainstream radio stations.

The edit is similar to the longer version released in November, with the extra verse. For those who have been wanting to hear the longer version of the song, you may be able to hear it on your local radio stations now. No promo CDs have been issued and the promotional mix is being sent direct to radio stations through digital delivery.

The annual MusiCares Charity Relief Auction is live on Sunday. The auction takes place in Beverly Hills. Bono has contributed hand written lyrics to “Your Song Saved My Life” to the auction. Benefits from the auction go to MusiCares, a music industry charity. The lyrics can be viewed here. The item currently has two bids and currently sits at $4000.

(Many thanks to David for contributions to the article above.)

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