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Old 04-15-2010, 07:15 AM   #81 (permalink)
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Thanks for that great review of Out Of Time. The song Losing My Religion takes me back to when I was a young kid. Rather, the whole damn album brings back good memories. I was just a year old when this record came out, so I grew up with it. Half A World Away is one of my most favourite songs by REM, and (if you don't mind) I must share this beautiful acoustic performance from 1991 on MTV:



The other dude playing guitar with Peter Buck is Peter Holsapple, the guitarist from fellow Athens band the dB's. Mike Mills is on organ here and Bill Berry is on bass.
Incidentally, the next album lined up to review is their 1991 Unplugged bootleg. What a great performance. The Out of Time songs really fit in the Unplugged setting.
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Old 04-15-2010, 08:52 AM   #82 (permalink)
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Incidentally, the next album lined up to review is their 1991 Unplugged bootleg. What a great performance. The Out of Time songs really fit in the Unplugged setting.
Oh good! I think that's when the band was really at their peak regarding live performances. They played a few older songs at that performance as well. I think the entire thing (or most of it) is on Youtube. The songs from Out Of Time really do suit the acoustic performance.
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Old 04-15-2010, 11:34 PM   #83 (permalink)
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I've listened to Out of Time on and off for a few years. It's a really solid album. It's definitely a very sunny album. I remember just randomly playing it as I walked the river front sometime last year on a very nice spring day. I still think "Shiny Happy People" was meant to be tongue-in-cheek but was somehow taken seriously by people. I like the addition of Kate Pierson on the album, due to my love of the B-52's.

I think I'm more anticipating the review of Automatic for the People. It's the album that made me (and thousands of others) fall for the band. I'm not really old enough to have been around for their IRS albums. I was really only familiar with the radio songs until a certain point in my life which I will probably go into detail after you get to the album.

I vaguely remember hearing the "Leaving New York" single when it was new. It actually wasn't until Accelerate when I heard, and then actually purchased, a whole album of theirs brand new. The rest of them I've found in thrift stores and through the local library. It's kind of sad when a band like R.E.M. seems to be donated frequently with a lot of mediocre '80's and '90's CD/vinyl collections.
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Old 04-16-2010, 06:39 AM   #84 (permalink)
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Great review, one thing I seemed to notice when listening to this is it seems to have more Mike Mills vocals than any other album.

Totally agree with the summer theme, the music video and sound of Near Wild Heaven especially, if you've ever seen it?
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Old 05-23-2010, 04:36 AM   #85 (permalink)
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You given up already? ;-)
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Old 05-23-2010, 09:48 PM   #86 (permalink)
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Sorry guys, I've been really worked out for the past month with school and such, but my finals are done in two weeks and I should be able to rocket through the next few reviews after that.
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Old 06-14-2010, 04:57 PM   #87 (permalink)
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Finally...

Blue
Released 1991
Bootleg/Unauthorized


Recorded in 1991 and released later that year, "Blue" is an unauthorized audio release of R.E.M.'s 1991 MTV Unplugged session. For those of you unfamiliar with the "Unplugged" format, it is fairly simple. Bands are invited by MTV to play stripped down versions of some songs of their choice without the use of electric instrumentation. Some of these songs that are performed are aired on TV, and audio bootlegs of the full shows sometimes surface. Occasionally, these performances are released officially. Nirvana and Eric Clapton have both released official Unplugged albums to critical acclaim. R.E.M. performed two Unplugged shows, one in 1991 and another ten years later. Neither of these performances were officially released, so the quality is less than stellar on both. Nevertheless, their first Unplugged show "Blue" provides an interesting new look at R.E.M. songs both well known and more obscure.

The show begins with the Out of Time standout "Half A World Away," a song the beauty of which transcends explanation. The performance is essentially note-perfect, and while the lush string arrangement and high production of the album version are missing, the stripped down nature of the song gives it a more honest and earthy tone, something that is best captured by a live performance. It is with this release that R.E.M. seem to assert their position as a folk/gothic country band, and while no songs from that album are present here, many of these performances evoke the more mellow cuts from their 1985 masterpiece "Fables of the Reconstruction." it pains me to listen to Blue without wondering how perfectly "Wendell Gee" or "Maps and Legends" would fit on here, but I digress. Rather than choose songs already tailored to acoustic performance, they instead chose to reimagine many of their songs new and old for the Unplugged setting. This is a bold choice, but one that pays off well on Blue. Their folk leanings are evident on darkly reserved "Low" from Out of Time, whose plodding bass stands out among the sparse instrumentation. When Michael raises his voice fully to sing "You and me, we know about time!" chills abound, before he continues the stream of consciousness outburst. On Blue, Low begins a remarkable five song run of fantastic performances. After Low comes a version of Murmur's "Perfect Circle", prefaced by a heartfelt dedication to an anonymous Donald. "Don't give up" Stipe says, before launching into the sparse, organ led performance. As the organ plays, Peters Buck and Holsapple (the latter of jangle pop band The dB's) play quiet acoustic guitar melodies, intertwining with each other to produce a very cathartic result. Stipe's own voice takes a backseat to the chorus harmonies of Mike Mills, stunning in their own right, but particularly beautiful here. All in all, it is perhaps the best performance on the record.

...that is, if it wasn't directly followed by Fall on Me, the best song on the band's 1986 record "Lifes Rich Pageant." Though my love for Fall on Me is well documented, I need to go on record once again to say that it is truly one of R.E.M.'s greatest accomplishments if not one of the greatest accomplishments in all of music. This song is mindblowingly good, and the Unplugged performance of it is no exception. The twin guitars shine once again, as do Mills' harmonies. Stipe sounds more harrowing than ever; his age gives the song a new, more mature sound, and while the average listener may be unable to understand his cryptic lyrics, he certainly sounds confident in what he is saying. After thunderous applause unexpected given the intimate nature of the show, the band segues into "Belong." While the Out of Time version suffered from immense overproduction, the version found here is quite wonderful. The guitars, bass and congas provide a flowing undercurrent for the gorgeous wordless chorus, rich in Beach Boys-like harmonies. The song is still marred by Stipes' borderline thought-provoking/borderline pretentious spoken word stuff in the verses, but it is a significant improvement over the original. The five song run culminates in a heart-warming cover of the Troggs' "Love is All Around", for which Mike Mills takes lead vocals duties. Mills' child like voice gives the song a joyfully innocent tone, while Michael's dutiful "Ba ba ba ba ba"'s keep it centered.

Unfortunately, none of the performances elsewhere on this record match the quality of the aforementioned six. While some of them are performed well, they seem uninspired. Such is the case with the version of the then-megahit "Losing My Religion", as well as the Document song "Disturbance at the Heron House." Even the encore closer "Pop Song 89," fantastic on record, sounds contrived and out of place in this setting. Worse still is the performance of the abysmal "Radio Song" which is improved slightly over the original by removing KRS-One's inexplicable rap, but still suffers from general sucking. Finally, "It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" is performed as something of a joke; a bitter kiss off to MTV who requested that it be played as an obvious cash grab. "We had to get the words on a computer," Michael says, "and I'm not sure they're right."

In all, Blue is great in concept and scope and while often well executed, it suffers from some poor song choice and occasionally weak performances, as well as somewhat lackluster sound quality. Nevertheless, it is a worthy addition to any R.E.M. fan's collection.

Key Tracks: "Half A World Away", "Perfect Circle", "Fall on Me"

7.5/10



Next Step: Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York

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Old 06-14-2010, 06:07 PM   #88 (permalink)
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Next Step: Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
What's this mean?
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Old 06-14-2010, 06:10 PM   #89 (permalink)
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A "Next Step" feature will also be implemented. For each studio album I review, the "Next Step" album will be an album to look into after listening to the reviewed album, which you may be interested in if you liked the reviewed album.
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Old 06-14-2010, 06:13 PM   #90 (permalink)
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Oh, OK.
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