Last month, Universal Music reissued the first three landmark U2 albums, Boy (1980), October (1981), and War (1983) in deluxe double disc packages. There is also a box set of all three records available exclusively through Amazon.com. All three of the packages are for the most part beautifully done, although you can also expect to pay through the nose for them with a suggested retail price of $29.98 each.

As collector's sets, all three of these are very nice pieces. Each is housed in a hardbound box, with a removable, fold-out cover that reveals a nice booklet with loads of pictures, and newly written liner notes. What will be of interest to collectors who already own the original albums are the bonus discs, each of which feature rarities, B-sides, and live tracks.

Of the three albums, the one I was most excited to get my hands on was Boy, as my own copy of the original, environmentally correct digi-pak CD has gotten a bit dog-eared over the years. Boy also remains one of my favorite U2 records to this day, because what you hear on this album is a band of young bucks hungry to make their mark on the world.

I think the thing that most immediately struck me about Boy the first time I heard it was the sound. The drums were huge, leaping out of the speakers and into your face right out of the gate on "I Will Follow," the opening track. The jangling yet edgy guitars likewise cut across the big boom of the drums like a razor.

But what really got my attention were those cool sounding bells, which I assumed at the time were made by a xylophone. Those damned bells just really grabbed me at the time, and they didn't stop at "I Will Follow." By the time you were halfway through the first side (back when vinyl albums came in two sides), the bells were back on "An Cat Dubh" and "Into The Heart," providing a lighter sort of counterpoint to the dark minor chords of the appropriately named Edge's guitar, and the higher register of Bono's achingly passionate vocals.

The digital remastering job on the deluxe version is also strictly top-shelf. Although vinyl purists will inevitably complain (and justifiably so) that the transfer process tends to lose some of the original warmth, the sound here is crisp and clear. Steve Lillywhite's big, booming production — especially when it comes to Larry Mullen's drums — loses little of its original power here, and Edge's guitar sounds as razor sharp as ever. Most of all, those damn bells ring as sweet as I remember when I first heard this great album.

The bonus tracks here are also, for my money, the best of those found on the three reissued albums. You've got the alternate take of "I Will Follow," some vintage early live versions of songs like "Out Of Control" and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock," and a couple of previously unreleased tracks like "Saturday Night" and "Speed Of Life." Boy ranks as the best of the three deluxe reissues.

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