Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. With a new R.E.M. LP in stores today, we think about something that's missing from their extensive discography: a full, career-spanning compilation.
Today is the day that R.E.M.'s fourteenth studio LP, Collapse Into Now, hits stores. I haven't bought it yet myself, but I have been keeping the Athens, Georgia-based rock icons in heavy rotation today; their lengthy, Rock and Rall Hall of Fame-inducted catalogue is full of plenty of strong moments. (I'm also particularly looking forward to our good friend Slicing Up Eyeballs' hour-long tribute on their Strangeways Radio show tonight.)
Now, you probably know this, but R.E.M. are one of those acts that have been around long enough to have had a spot on several label rosters. From 1982 to 1987, the band were contracted to Miles Copeland's I.R.S. Records, whose catalogue in turn is distributed through several majors (the deluxe editions of albums from 1983 to 1984 are distributed through Universal, and everything afterward is distributed through EMI/Capitol). In 1988, R.E.M. switched to a major for the first time, signing to Warner Bros. and staying with them through Collapse Into Now. (R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills recently told Billboard that their contract is currently fulfilled with the new record, but did not hint as to whether or not the band would re-sign, go indie or migrate elsewhere.)
While there are two pretty darn good introductions to each era of the band on CD - 2003's Warner-era In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 and 2006's And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 - there has yet to be a set that joins the best of both eras together on one set. In honor of Collapse Into Now, we humbly present today's Reissue Theory: a theoretical compilation that covers the hits (and a few rarities) on one disc. Bear in mind this isn't meant to be anywhere near comprehensive (probably not unlike how a real label would do it) - some really enjoyable tracks, rather than hits, have been thrown in, along with a few soundtrack and compilation appearances.
Talk about the passion after the jump!
R.E.M., The Very Best of R.E.M. 1982-2008 (I.R.S./EMI/Warner Bros.)
- Radio-Free Europe (Hib-Tone Version)
- Gardening at Night
- Talk About the Passion
- So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)
- Driver 8
- The One I Love
- It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
- Orange Crush
- Losing My Religion
- First We Take Manhattan
- Man on the Moon
- Everybody Hurts
- What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
- E-Bow the Letter
- The Great Beyond
- Imitation of Life
- #9 Dream
- Supernatural Superserious
Track 1 from Hib-Tone single
Track 2 from Chronic Town EP (I.R.S., 1982)
Track 3 from Murmur (I.R.S., 1983)
Track 4 from Reckoning (I.R.S., 1984)
Track 5 from Fables of the Reconstruction (I.R.S., 1985)
Tracks 6-7 from Lifes Rich Pageant (I.R.S., 1986)
Tracks 8-9 from Document (I.R.S., 1987)
Tracks 10-11 from Green (Warner Bros., 1988)
Track 12 from Out of Time (Warner Bros., 1991)
Track 13 from I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (Atlantic, 1992)
Tracks 14-15 from Automatic for the People (Warner Bros., 1992)
Track 16 from Monster (Warner Bros., 1994)
Track 17 from New Adventures in Hi-Fi (Warner Bros., 1996)
Track 18 from Up (Warner Bros., 1998)
Track 19 from Man on the Moon: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Warner Bros., 1999)
Track 20 from Reveal (Warner Bros., 2001)
Track 21 from Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur (Warner Bros./Amnesty International, 2007)
Track 22 from Accelerate (Warner Bros., 2008)
Mark Beattie says
Banner work, as always, Mike. And good looking out on the radio show "Slicing up Eyeballs" is doing tonight.
As you're well aware R.E.M. remain one of my favorites. The stuff I've heard from the new LP is great, and certainly commendable for the band at this point in its career.
I've been spinning R.E.M. lately as well, having recently obtained original I.R.S. vinyl pressings of "Reckoning" & "Document" during a particularly fruitful weekend of crate digging.
Anyway...allow me to nitpick!
For me 80's cuts "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" & "Fall On Me" have to be on there. Ditto i.e. 90's tracks "Nightswimming" & "At My Most Beautiful" (two of the prettiest ballads in Stipe's repertoire).
I'd perhaps chop out "Gardening," "Stand" & "Daysleeper."
Major, major props for including "E-Bow the Letter" - which to me is the highlight of all of the bands' 90's output (video of the band performing with a 'looks to be mentally-collapsing Thom Yorke' is certainly a YouTube Hall of Fame nominee). Hell, I would've found room for another "New Adventures" standout, "New Test Leper."
I agree on "Rockville", "Fall On Me" and "At My Most Beautiful" -- all essential. As are "Can't Get There From Here" and "Drive".
I'd also swap the Murmur version of "Radio Free Europe" since that's the "hit" most of middle America would've heard first.
As much as I hate it, "Shiny Happy People" belongs on a comprehensive hits set.
"Talk About The Passion" had a video when Eponymous came out, so I'd leave that off. And I don't think "Cuyahoga" should be there. Also, if we're talking "hits", then while "The Great Beyond" fits, things like "First We Take Manhattan" and "#9 Dream" don't.
I also nominate "Bad Day".
I wouldn't have thought it possible, but your track list actually covers their entire career in a respectable way for a 1-CD effort. Wow!
I definitely wouldn't put "Bad Day" on the same disc with "It's the End of the World as We Know It," though, as it would almost be like putting the same song on the CD twice. 😉
Darn, and here I was hoping for a 4-CD box set approach to their body of work. I don't mean this as an insult, but R.E.M. is (for me, anyway) one of those groups for whom the idea of a single-disc career-spanner is laughable. 🙂
Any way you slice it, way too much good stuff will get passed up when you've got an 80-minute limit. And a strictly "big hits" approach just feels wrong, with so many gems in their catalog (Country Feedback or The Apologist, anyone?).
Having said that, I'd argue that FWTM and #9D are more appropriate as potential "bonus disc" material, and I'd much rather make room for, oh, Rockville or Fall On Me or Nightswimming or Bittersweet Me or...
Mike Duquette says
I think this was one of the few Reissue Theory posts where I tried to think in the stereotypical "like a label" mindset. That said, I kept a few of the "lesser" hits ("Cuyahoga," "Daysleeper") intact because they're personal favorites. (No "Fall on Me" was definitely an error in judgment on my part, though.)
A sane approach for such a compilation would have to include two discs, hands down. A comprehensive box set would also make sense, if only to free up the B-sides that the current 25th anniversary reissues are ignoring. (The WB-era material hasn't ever been expanded outside of some DVD-A releases, I think - but it's Rhino, so I'm not holding my breath at the moment.)
Okay, this is how much of a geek I am - I actually made the 22-track playlist in my iTunes, only to realize that this wouldn't fit on a single disc anyway! 🙂
I've been following this site for a while, and I always get a kick out of the Reissue Theory posts, but I always assumed the tracklistings were "accurate," in the sense that the contents would fit on the assigned disc(s), which for me is part of the fun ("oh crap, I've only got room for one more song!")...so is that just another aspect of the "Theoretical" nature of these posts?