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I have this album in my collection and it's one of my favourite "best of" albums.
This album contains most of their well known hits, apart from Shiny Happy People which was actually banned from appearing on the album. Their most popular song "Everybody Hurts" is on this album. This is a power ballad from the early 1990s and it was popular all over the world. The song is what I would describe as quite sad and depressing, however lyrics such as "sometimes everything is wrong" are somehow quite reassuring, in a weird kind of way. The song is very healing and it actually helps you to heal if you are listening to it when you feel down/ depressed. It heals me anyway. It's their song for everyone, so they say.
I also love "Losing My Religion", even if I don't understand the meaning behind the song. It's another power ballad which was recently covered by the cast of Glee in their second season. This just shows how popular the band are - world over. The album isn't all ballads. There are a few upbeat songs on here too, such as "Imitation Of Life" but around 70% of the album is slow. This doesn't really bother me as all of the songs are really meaningful not to mention powerful. Michael Stipe has a gorgeous soft voice and he sings each and every song with emotion and understanding. The album is very personal to the band, just read the sleeve notes for a story behind each song. There are no fillers here, just wonderful music.
The best "best of" album.
I was never a 'huge' REM fan, and never owned an album, but I felt my CD collection was in need of one. Rather than risking my money on something like Automatic For The People for example, which is a great album anyway I should point out, I played safe and went for the Best Of album.... what I discovered was a production of brilliant, beautiful and intelligent music.
Before buying it, I thought I'd be able to name, roughly, 7 or 8 REM tracks, (the obvious ones - Losing My Religion, Everbody Hurts, What's The Frequency Kenneth? etc.) but I knew all but a couple of these tracks - proof that REM are a band well known across the globe.
1. Man On The Moon
This is an essential REM song. Michaels Stipe's vocals fit majestically on top of laid back guitars and crisp drums. It has an eerie sense to it, especially after about have way with the guitar interlude and when the vocals re-commence. A fabulous track.
2. Great Beyond
A fairly recent track, compared with many of the other tracks available here. On top of a selection of instruments, Stipe works his way through to a laid back first chorus, which eventually builds as we get through the song.
3. Bad Day
Again, another fairly recent track here. The quick vocals and drumbeat and slightly distorted guitars make this a toe-tapping kind of song. This is the energetic version of REM at their best.
4. Whats The Frequency, Kenneth?
Another essential REM track. Using just basic instruments and basic light distortion, this is an excellent track, quintessential REM you could say. And even a small guitar solo on show for us as well - excellent for those of us who love good old rock n' roll!
5. All The Way To Reno
The almost hypnotic six-string bass intro to this song is a highlight, although I never really saw this track as a 'great' REM track - yet I can't put my finger on why exactly. Maybe it's just to laid back for it's own good?!? I'm just not sure!
6. Losing My Religion
This is the track that arguably, and the band would almost admit it themselves, split their career up - from good to great. Before and after. After this song was released, they became the platinum-selling superstars that we know today. You must all know this, and we must all be greatful that it was written.
7. E Bow The Letter
I thought that this was the first track I didn't recognise on first listen, obviously because I wasn't a 'huge' fan beforehand, but it was more a case of that I didn't know the title of the track!! This is a laid-back affair from the band that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
8. Orange Crush
A fast tempo drumbeat kicks this track off. 'I've got my orange crush' - yeah I don't know what it means either! But it's an excellent tune anyway. With vocal melodies adding to the complexity.
9. Imitation Of Life
A very upbeat, poppy kind of track. This is the kind of feel-good track that anyone should listen to when they fell at all down - it's a guarantee that it'll improve your spirits!!
I remember watching the band play this on Top Of The Pops back when it was released, when I first knowingly knew the name REM, and I still think it's one of my favourite REM tracks. The build up into the choruses, and the whole song as a whole manages to work perfectly
A new track when the album was released. 'What's the big deal? I'm an animal' - this kind of sing-a-long chant is instantly recogniseable with REM
12. Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
This is another glimpse at the band's upbeat mood, although not a huge favourite of mine unfortunately, although I'm sure there's loads of people out there that love it.
The opening of a carnival-like noise, and then more infectious chanting - 'Stand in the place where you live...' - again, another great example of the band's quicker tempo appearance.
Personally, this is my favourite track of the lot, if I really had to find one out of this collection of gold. Very blues-like and laid back and beautiful in every way. Perfection.
15. All The Right Friends
This is an old one, yet recorded only in 2002 for the film Vanilla Sky. It's amazing to think it wasn't recorded before then, as it's another great piece of music - must be the band's high standards!!
16. Everybody Hurts
If Losing My Religion didn't make REM superstars, Everybody Hurts must have! The perfect song to take solace from. Again, you must have heard this one. Melodic, harmonic, incredible.
17. At My Most Beautiful
A very bassy opening, put the piano accompanies it perfectly, rather than clash against it. A Beach Boys tribute according to the inner notes - you can certainly to see why with the melodies in backing vocals.
The final track of an epic journey. Just Stipe's voice and a piano predominantly make up this final song, until the orchestra slide in towards the second half of the song. Another perfect tune.
This is musical brilliance. Yes, there's the odd track missing out. but give credit where it's due - this album has 18 first class tracks - how many 'best of' albums can say that and still have high-quality tracks left out? Not many, that's for sure.
One of the biggest and best bands for decades, 'In Time' captivates perfectly what REM are all about.
***Who are REM?*** REM?s career can be clearly split into 2 sections? before and after ?Losing My Religion?. Before the worldwide success of this track from the ?Out Of Time? album, REM were a successful touring band, usually playing college gigs and on the road for up to 10 months every year! They achieved some minor record sales success, but nothing to really trouble the chart compilers. Following the loss of their religion they achieved platinum album sales, $80 million record deals and the title ?America?s greatest rock band? from no less than Rolling Stone magazine. Talk about selling your soul! This album features 18 of what REM consider to be their greatest hits since 1988? not necessarily the hits with the greatest chart success as is usually the case. The band formed back in the late 70s and is fronted by the very deep and nervous lyricist Michael Stipe. The rest of the band (Pete Buck, Mike Mills and until 1997 Bill Berry) write the tunes we all know so well. Despite being classed as a rock band, REM are very adept at turning their hand to different styles, such as the poppier-than-usual ?Shiny Happy People? (surprisingly not included on this selection, despite being their first UK top 10 hit) and ?Imitation Of Life? from the Reveal album. They are well known for their slower numbers? slow as in thought-provoking rather than end-of-disco slow! Anybody who slow dances to ?Everybody Hurts? needs to see Stipe?s overworked therapist. ***The album*** The oldest track on the album is 1979s ?All The Right Friends?, a song featured in the more recent film ?Vanilla Sky?. The song was never actually recorded in the early days, despite being played at every REM
; gig until 1982. When the band were asked for a song for the ?Vanilla Sky? soundtrack at very short notice, they dug it out, dusted it off and recorded it, hence it?s inclusion on this compilation. As for the tide-turning ?Losing My Religion?, it seems ironic that after years of relentless touring, the song that changed the lives of four men forever was so easy to produce? 5 minutes for the tune and lyrics finalised within the hour! ?Life is bigger It's bigger than you And you are not me? ?If I was I?d not be earning pennies on Ciao.? (The last line, if you?d not spotted, was my touch of creative genius.) Whatever the genre, the tracks are usually adorned with lyrics which delve deep into Stipe?s psyche? so deep in fact, that sometimes they don?t mean much to the listener. Pete Buck says he has played ?Orange Crush? on stage over 300 times, and still has no idea what it is about! But with such great musical talent in the band, it never seems to matter! If you want to hear good examples of REMs rockier songs, listen to tracks such as ?What?s The Frequency, Kenneth? and ?Animal?. ?What?s The Frequency?? reminds me of the time I saw REM play live at the home of quality football ? Hudderfield?s McAlpine stadium? the gig was part of the ?Monster? album tour and this was the opening song, as it is on the ?Monster? album. For fans of the band who have not seen them live? if you get the chance, do so ? they are even better live than on CD. If, like me, you?ve ever wondered what the opening lyrics are to ?What?s The Frequency?? then let me enlighten you? "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is your Benzedrine, uh-huh I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to s
peed I thought I'd pegged you an idiot's dream Tunnel vision from the outsider's screen I never understood the frequency, uh-huh You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh.? None the wiser? neither am I! Apparently the song is about a network newsman called Dan Rather. He was assaulted one day, and between beatings his assailant kept shouting "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" Nobody knows why, or who Kenneth is! The recent UK release was ?Bad Day?, a song seemingly about political disillusionment which actually took 17 years to complete. It bears more than a passing resemblance to an old track of theirs called ?The End Of The World As We Know It?, but I couldn?t care less? it gets belted out full volume in my dulcet tones whenever it is played. The song was a new addition to the Greatest Hits package (somewhat of a growing trend these days) along with ?Animal?. I have always found it amazing that more tunes don?t sound alike, as with ?Bad Day? and ?End Of The World?? after all, there are only so many notes to play with! REM also seem to struggle with this too? only after ?Imitation Of Life? was recorded and released did they notice that the striking similarity between it?s verse and the verse of an old album track called ?Driver 8?. Still, no-one was hurt? ?except that ?Everybody Hurts?? sometimes. This song is possibly my favourite REM track and was released at a time when the lyrics seemed to have penned for me, as I?m sure they seemed to a lot of people at some time. The lyrics are unusually simple for Stipe ? an intentional move as he wanted the song to be understood by teenagers, who he feels are passing through a particularly stressful time?
?If you're on your own in this life, the days and nights are long, when you think you've had too much of this life to hang on.? ?Man On The Moon? is regarded by many as REM?s signature tune and it really will stand the test of time as a classic. However, it nearly didn?t make it onto the ?Automatic For The People? album? the music was written, but Stipe was stuck for lyrics. He went awol for four days, returned to the studio, recorded a set of lyrics in one take and left! Just in time for a last minute inclusion on the album. I have highlighted a few lyrics as I have seen appropriate? there are many more classic Stipe lines, too many to just throw down haphazardly. I will, however, take the liberty of noting just one more verse, which I particularly like: From ?Man On The Moon?, a great few lines that link science and religion: ?Moses went walking with the staff of wood. Newton got beaned by the apple good. Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp. Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask.? Anyone who has read some of my previous work will know that Darwin is a hero of mine, much vilified by the religious world of his time. ***Should you buy this album?*** Who would I recommend to buy this album? If you have liked any REM singles in the past, or have one or two of their albums, then this is a great record to buy. Having said that, I personally believe that many of REM?s best tracks are album tracks that were never released as singles; so if you like the Greatest Hits package, go back and buy some of their older work. I would start with ?Out Of Time? or ?Monster? to really appreciate typical REM, then move onto the often overlooked ?New
Adventures in Hi-Fi? and the more morose ?Automatic For The People?. The album is also great for long-time fans of the band like myself, who already have most of the band?s albums ? the track list has been put together beautifully, blending their different styles of music, rather than being a bland, chronological record of a chart career. What if you have lived in a cave for the last 20-odd years and have never heard of REM. Well, Osama, buy it anyway. It?ll be a great addition to your collection. The only downside to the album is the omission of a few great tracks, such as ?Shiny Happy People? and ?Strange Currencies?. Stipe is the kind of artist who has his reasons for such acts though, and I am not about to start arguing with a man who has more musical talent in one of the shaven hairs on his head than I have in my entire body. The album receives 10 platinum discs out of 10. The album cost £8.99 from CD-Wow, usual price (£11 ? 13) in shops. There is a special edition available with a second CD featuring an enhanced ?Rarities? second CD for just a few pounds more. For full track-listing and more information about this and other works by REM, go to their website at www.remhq.com
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Man On The Moon
2 The Great Beyond
3 Bad Day
4 Whats The Frequency Kenneth?
5 All The Way To Reno
6 Losing My Religion
7 E-Bow The Letter
8 Orange Crush
9 Imitation Of Life
12 The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
15 All The Right Friends [from Vanilla Sky OST]
16 Everybody Hurts
17 At My Most Beautiful
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Pop Song 89 [acoustic]
2 Turn You Inside-Out [live]
4 Chance (Dub)
5 Its A Free World Baby
6 Drive [live]
7 Star Me Kitten [feat. W.S. Burroughs]
9 Leave [alt. version]
10 Why Not Smile [alternate version]
11 The Lifting [Demo]
12 Beat A Drum [Demo]
14 The One I Love [live]
15 Country Feedback [live]