As one of the most popular bands of the '80s, U2 didn't quite fit into any particular category. They were a post-punk band that quickly found acceptance from a hard rock audience, a group that made fully formed albums but often made their best statements on individual songs, especially during the '80s. Consequently, they're a very hard band to anthologize. Since they were most effective on single songs, it seems that throwing all of them together on one disc would work. The problem is, each of the albums, from Boy to Rattle and Hum, has a distinctive flavor that doesn't necessarily blend when combined, especially in the nonchronological form of The Best of 1980-1990. There's little quibbling with the featured tracks on U2's first compilation -- a few important songs, such as "Gloria," "I Fall Down," "Seconds," and "Two Hearts Beat as One," may be missing, but everything else deserves to be here ("Pride," "New Year's Day," "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Bad," "Desire," etc.). Even though the song selection is strong, the album winds up as less than the sum of its parts -- each song is pretty great of its own accord (even the single mix of the B-side "Sweetest Thing," which is, in truth, not much different at all), but the overall effect is a little underwhelming. On one hand, it may be a good choice for casual fans or nostalgia mongers, since it does contain everything they need to hear, but anyone who has more than a passing interest in the band will be better suited with individual albums.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: B.B. King