Category Archives: Limited Edition

R.E.M. • In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 [2LP]

It’s easy for us old school R.E.M. fans to dismiss the post-IRS Records era of the band. Those fabled times were unique in our music experience: Band comes out of nowhere – that is, Athens Georgia – and takes over the college radio airwaves, steadily builds a fanbase with their amazing records and compelling yet elusive videos (you had to look pretty hard to find them at first), and eventually signs to a major label. It’s also easy to say, “they were better before they sold out,” but of course, most of us also realize that R.E.M. didn’t actually do that, since their label switch was on their own terms. Still, I definitely prefer the albums up through Document over the Green-and-on elpees. I certainly didn’t stop buying their albums, though, but aside from Automatic for the People, I’d rate the post-1988 albums lower than those before that.

One listen to In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 tells you that Buck/Mills/Stipe(/Berry) & Co. didn’t really lose the plot – they just matured and morphed into a different monster. Their sonic palette got bigger, better, engulfing the scruffy, indie R.E.M. they once were. In this later personae the band gave us epics like “Man on the Moon,” “The Great Beyond” and “Everybody Hurts,” as well as burners like “Bad Day” and the absolutely gorgeous “At My Most Beautiful.” Even the band doesn’t quite know how to sum it all up; Peter Buck wrote the liner notes to each song and he himself is frequently unsure what the songs mean or where they came from. But one thing is sure: R.E.M. weren’t even close to finished having something to say when the ink on the Warner Bros. Records contract had dried.

In Time was first released in 2003, available in a few different formats (including vinyl), but the 2LP version was hard to find. It’s now been reissued by Craft Recordings in a standard double black vinyl version and a blue colored set offered exclusively by Barnes & Noble. The mastering job on this reissue was done well, and it’s nice to have the 18 songs spread over two records. But I do have a minor issue with B&N’s colored vinyl: the transparent blue could’ve been matched better to the color of the blue moon on the cover. It plays and sounds lush, though, so don’t pay too much attention to that part of my critique. The takeaway from this review is that R.E.M. were one of the great American bands of the ‘80s and In Time is the perfect summation of their latter days.

4/5 (Craft Recordings CR00166, 2003/2019)

 

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Devo • Turn Around: B-Sides & More (1978-1984) [LP]

Limited to just 3,256 copies, the latest Run Out Groove release is a collection of semi-rarities from Akron’s finest, DEVO. Turn Around: B-Sides & More (1978-1984) features fifteen tracks on one slice of tomato red marbled vinyl and is something for the devotee who must have everything. I say this because most of the tracks here will be on the hardcore Devo collector’s record shelf and so this limited edition release would be superfluous if it weren’t for the album’s own likely future rarity.

About half of the tracks on Turn Around are B-sides, such as the title track, “Social Fools,” “Penetration in the Centrefold” and “Growing Pains.” A bunch more are remixes, either for single release or as extended mixes, such as “Snowball (Remix),” “Through Being Cool (Dance Velocity)” and my favorite, “That’s Good [extended version].” And then there’s “Working in a Coal Mine,” which is here presumably because it was originally released as a bonus 7″ single that came with the New Traditionalists vinyl album. It’s not very rare, at least not like “Mecha-Mania Boy,” which was the B-side to “Jerkin’ Back and Forth” and is new to me. (I’m not as hardcore as some Devo fans, for sure.)

Turn Around’s fifteen tracks make for an enjoyable listen, yes, and though it’s running time may seem a bit long for a one record set, the mastering job is good and the record itself was pressed at Record Industry in the Netherlands. Mine’s got some surface noise between tracks but that will presumably wear away after a few listens. The cover is definitely of a 1980 vibe, with a painting that looks like something from a 1930s WPA billboard (not counting the energy domes) and was “adopted for commercial release,” whatever that means. To purchase Turn Around – paraphrasing from “Nu-tra Speaks” – “…is not like spending money, but rather it is an investment in the future and a blow against the empire.” Or something.

3/5 (Run Out Groove ROGV-043, 2019)

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The Rutles • The Rutles (40th Anniversary) [LP+7″]

Ouch! THE RUTLES’ landmark anthology, The Rutles, turned 40 this year and nobody noticed. Was it because of another band’s bigger anniversary? Was it because of bad management? I’ll tell you what I think: I think it was the trousers.

For those wondering just who in the world The Rutles were, well, they were a legend. A living legend. A legend that will live long after other living legends have died. Okay, they were actually a parody of The Beatles. The idea was cooked up by Eric Idle (of Monty Python) and Neil Innes (of The Bonzo Dog Band), who wrote a mock rockumentary (a mockumentary, if you will) that was produced for an NBC-TV special by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels. That show, All You Need Is Cash, played on television in March 1978 and this record was written and recorded for it by Innes. Like the show itself, the songs parodied the history of The Fab Four by tackling the different types of tunes The Beatles wrote. So, for instance, there’s a song that recalls “I Am the Walrus” entitled “Piggy in the Middle,” or an Indian flavored, sitar clad tune called “Nevertheless” that recalls George Harrison’s forays into middle Eastern territory. It’s all quite clever. Neil Innes’ lyrics are funny and yet still an homage to John, Paul, George and even Ringo’s songwriting. And the arrangements are so spot-on, you would almost think you stumbled upon some unearthed outtakes. These Pre-Fab Four tunes are played by Innes and a handful of musicians who knew the foundational Beatles records well enough to craft twenty songs that bring a smile to the face and to the ears of any fan.

This time the record is presented by, of all labels, Parlophone (The Beatles’ original UK label)! The Rutles was originally released by Warner Bros. in both the US and England, but here in 2018 Warners and Parlophone are both part of Universal, so we get the album cover and labels sporting the latter’s logos and look. Sonically, the album itself is presented as the original was (14 songs), though the mastering job is much clearer than the 1978 issue and even better than the 1990 CD. That CD gave us twenty Rutles tunes – the fourteen from the album and another six that were featured in the TV special but not on the record. To remedy that, included here is a 7″ EP with the other six songs that made the CD but not the original album, in a picture sleeve that’s a parody of a mid ’60s Japanese Beatles record. Also included is the original color booklet, which is a fun read, and an extra special insert of a mock press release. Strangely, the typography on the inside gatefold and in the booklet is different from the originals, but the artwork is otherwise presented fairly crisply so a change in typefaces shouldn’t be a big deal. (If you’re a normal person, which I am clearly not.)

If you’ve never watched All You Need Is Cash, which predates This Is Spinal Tap by six or seven years, it’s good for many laughs and you can get or rent it on DVD and Blu-ray. If you want to enjoy The Rutles’ music, the Rhino CD can be found online or you can treat yourself to this fab 12″+7″ set. For Beatles fans with a sense of humor, it’s not to be missed.

4/5 (Parlophone PCS 7018, 1978/2018)

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