Fans of Irish band U2 may not realize that The Joshua Tree, the group's 1987 breakthrough album, was also nearly the death of the band. Band members were in their early twenties at the time and the album's massive success led to a subsequent couple of completely overblown years and eventually an unhappiness that pushed the band close to dissolution. Creatively stymied in the aftermath, U2 went to Berlin to record with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and ultimately emerged with 1991's Achtung Baby, another highly-successful album that Bono says in the opening minutes of this film, saved the band. Last year, 20 years after Achtung Baby's release, U2 went back to Hansa Studios in Berlin to rehearse the album which they were to go on to play in their first-ever appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in England. This documentary from Davis Guggenheim takes advantage of the occasion of the rehearsals to tell the band's story during this 20-year + span, achieved mostly through band member commentary that's utilized as narration as opposed to just having the guys sitting there in chairs answering questions. The technique works nicely; the film is put together so that the viewer sees vintage footage while Bono, the Edge and company speak about how these times affected them personally and musically. Fans won't find earth-shattering revelations here but From the Sky Down is mandatory viewing for those who want to know what makes U2 tick, especially for those who perceive Bono as an egomaniac. About a quarter hour of bonus interview footage is included.
Once all the rowdiness of St. Patrick's Day is over (or before it begins) you'll need something mellow and the four-woman vocal group Celtic Woman provides with Believe exactly what you'll need to take the edge off and still stay in an Irish mood. With voices as soft and gentle as an Irish mist the girls cover a wide variety of Irish favorites here like "Green Grow the Rushes," "The Water is Wide," "The Parting Glass" and many more comingled with a set of familiar pop tunes like "Sailing," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" and chestnuts like "Ave Maria." Studio musicians playing traditional Irish instruments add to the Emerald Isle flavor, as does the perfect accompaniment of the Irish Film Orchestra. A live DVD version of Believe is also available.
The Essential Clannad
The music on this 30-song, 2-CD retrospective comes from the band's output over the past few decades. Clannad's ethereal, Celtic-flavored pop and traditional music certainly needs no outside embellishment---primary singer Moya Brennan is captivating throughout---but guests here include Bono, Bruce Hornsby and former Journey singer Steve Perry. The first half of the set contains songs sung in English but Disc 2, with tunes like "Caislean Oir" and "Ri na Cruinne," is sung entirely in Irish.