Tuesday, 2 October 2012

"Document: 25th Anniversary" by R.E.M. (2012 Capitol 2CD Mini Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"…Try To Tell Us Something We Don't Know…" 

The last of the 5 studio albums R.E.M. recorded for IRS Records finally gets the DELUXE EDITION CD treatment in 2012 and like the others before it - "Reckoning" (1983), "Murmur" (1983), "Fables Of The Reconstruction" (1985) and "Life's Rich Pageant" (1986) – it's a mixed bag of vastly improved sound quality offset by hollow extras you're never going to play, infuriating packaging and a far-too-steep price tag.

Released Monday 24 September 2012 in the UK (25 Sept 2012 in the USA) - "Document" by R.E.M. on Capitol 5099997200628 (Barcode 5099997200628) is a 2CD '25th Anniversary' Mini Box Set Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (39:49 minutes):
1. Finest Worksong
2. Welcome To The Occupation
3. Exhuming McCarthy
4. Disturbance At The Heron House
5. Strange
6. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
7. The One I Love
8. Fireplace
9. Lightnin’ Hopkins
10. King Of Birds
11. Oddfellows Local 151
Tracks 1to 11 are the studio album "Document" first released on vinyl in early September 1987 on IRS 42059 in the USA and on IRS MIRG 1025 in the UK.

Disc 2 "Live At Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht, Holland 14 September 1987” (79:37 minutes):
1. Finest Worksong
2. These Days
3. Lightnin’ Hopkins
4. Welcome To The Occupation
5. Driver 8
6. Feeling Gravity’s Pull
7. I Believe
8. The One I Love
9. Exhuming McCarty
10. Wolves, Lower
11. Fall On Me
12. Just A Touch
13. Oddfellows Local 151
14. Little America
15. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
16. Begin The Begin
17. Disturbance At The Heron House
18. Moral Kiosk
19. Life And How To Live It
20. So. Central Rain
Disc 2 is a 20-track PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED live concert (title above) and was recorded for Vara Radio in Holland in 1987

The first thing that hits you is the power of the REMASTERED album which has been done by ROBERT VOSGIEN in the USA – never too showy or trebled up – it's impressive to say the least. The drums and bass are so sweet now and the guitars finally heard – making lesser-heard nuggets like "Disturbance At The Heron House" (lyrics above) and "King Of Birds" suddenly feel alive. The treated guitar and drum opening of "Oddfellows Local 151" is HUGE – not overdone – just meaty in all the right ways. "Strange" is the same - great rocking stuff…

The live set with its 20-tracks and near 80 minutes playing time is certainly value for money – but I found after 4 songs its unlistenable – same tune – over and over again. The sound quality is excellent though – great presence.

The 10-page booklet has some new liner notes by David Daley describing the US political landscape that so influenced the songs (Reagan, Iran etc) - there's a large black and white fold-out poster and 4 x Lobby Cards of the band. But you can't help but feel that non-album B-sides should be here instead of tedious live stuff – the lyrics aren’t reproduced – neither is the inner sleeve to the UK LP - it's the typically oblique artwork that isn't artwork.

The overall feel is this – a really great remaster of the album that truly makes you reassess just how good the record was – but the rest is superfluous to requirements – and you're being charged for the privilege.

These guys used to be the biggest band in the world – and the excellent remaster of this forgotten album will go some way to explaining why.

But I doubt the rest will do anyone any favours...especially long suffering fans...

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