Column: off the record…, vol. 11-488

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off the record, from @U2

Coldplay released a new album, Mylo Xyloto, late last month. It pulled off a No. 1 spot on the Billboard sales charts for the first week of sales. I expected that, but what surprised me were several news stories discussing Coldplay's great success and using U2's No Line On The Horizon as the target to beat. And Coldplay's debut at 447,000 purchases during the first week of sales fell short of U2's first week sales of 484,000 for No Line On The Horizon.

The Billboard article explains that Coldplay's album was the biggest rock debut since No Line On The Horizon. They are using U2's album as a measuring stick by which all other rock albums released since are compared, and so far U2 is doing better. There are a lot of factors to look at when determining how an album does, first week sales being only one of them, but it looks like the folks at Billboard are using No Line On The Horizon as an example of an album that did well in sales, and indeed no rock album released since has done as well in that important first week.

And how did both albums do in the second week? Sales of Mylo Xyloto decreased 76% and sales of No Line On The Horizon dropped 73%. Looks like both albums are on a parallel sales path.

Will someone please tell Bono that the album didn't do that badly, they are still standing ahead of the pack, and perhaps the sales aren't as irrelevant as he seems to want to make them out to be?

Matt mentioned in last week's OTR column that several songs on the Achtung Baby anniversary release had new vocals and instrumentals recorded for this new package. The songs "Heaven And Hell," "Oh Berlin," and "Blow Your House Down" all include newly recorded material and this is confirmed in the liner notes. U2 has done this before on the remastered collections, taking old instrumentals and adding vocals. Like Matt, I'm not really a fan, but I've gotten used to it and expected it this time out. The one track he missed is the 'Baby' version of "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World." The credits show that this song also had newly recorded music and, after listening to it, I believe it also has new vocals.

This one does bother me more than the others. The way the disc is labeled and put together I expected raw early versions of the Achtung Baby songs. I don't expect them to be perfect. And we get a full album of Achtung Baby demo versions, only to find one song out of twelve that has modern-day tweaks and fixes. Including this newly updated version seems to be a bit of a reconstruction of the past. That particular track really throws me out of my enjoyment of the demos when listening to the Kindergarten CD. It just does not fit for me. I guess I would have much preferred a raw demo, even an instrumental, over the version that we did get.

For those who have bought the Über set of Achtung Baby, you may have noticed an insert in your package that leads you to a download page. If you went to the download page early on, you would have found only the six CDs in WAV or MP3 format. But entirely unannounced, in the middle of the first week the download site was available, they added an additional track. If you go back to the page now, you can download an acoustic performance of "Love is Blindness" taken from the movie From The Sky Down. I was surprised to go back in and find this little extra. I'm hopeful over time that they may make other content available there as well.

Another change to that site since it initially launched is an announcement that some users in North America are unable to play the Zoo TV Live From Sydney DVD in their standalone DVD players. Most report that it can be played in their computers and the difficulty is only in trying to play it in standalone players. Universal has announced a disc replacement program for any that have this difficulty. Details are available at the same website you go to for your bonus tracks.

I grew up and still live in an area that doesn't get many concerts from big artists. U2 ending their tour in Moncton last summer brought a lot of attention to the region as a concert destination. Prince is playing here at the end of the month, and there are rumors that Madonna may be playing here this summer. I'm happy to say I have my Prince tickets. I never thought I'd be seeing him here at home.

One local newscast has suggested that the U2 concert in Moncton may have made some of these bigger acts look east of Montreal for performance opportunities. They suggested there was much more to come. I have to give a big thank you to U2 not only for coming and ending the tour in Moncton, but also for turning the eyes of the entertainment industry in our direction. It means a lot to us concert junkies living out here who have been forced for years to travel to see concerts from the big acts.

We spent a lot of time with the International Space Station astronauts during the 360 tour. Ever wonder how they see us? There's a group of photos on Flickr of nighttime photos of Earth, taken from the International Space Station. Enjoy!

Until next time!
(c) @U2, 2011.

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