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Near Wild Heaven: R.E.M. Bundle Warner-Era B-Sides for Digital Box

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REM WB RaritiesNo sooner did R.E.M. plan a generous digital equivalent of a two-disc set collating nearly all of their B-sides and rarities for I.R.S. Records have the departed Athens quartet – or label Warner Bros., anyway – planned a massive digital bundle of their B-sides for their major label era.

Complete Warner Bros. Rarities 1988-2011 features a similar packaging scheme as its I.R.S. comparison, but the scope of time certainly allows for more material – 131 tracks, in fact. The complete claim is not entirely true – several obscure instrumental versions only available on vinyl singles are no shows, and some EPs as well (2001’s Not Bad for No Tour, last year’s Record Store Day exclusive of live cuts from the concert on the bonus disc of Warner Bros. debut Green). But there’s far more to parse here than any other Warner-era rarities set (the only one being the bonus disco to In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003). Soundtrack songs, live cuts, the odd single versions and even the 12″ promotional single of “Shiny Happy People” are replicated herein. It’s certainly an investment at $79.99, but for the true fan who’s missed a lot of these tracks along the way, probably worth it.

If only this had a physical release; it’d likely rival the likes of other Rhino-era B-side boxes like The Cure’s Join the Dots and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s The Power of Negative Thinking. In any case, Complete Warner Bros. Rarities 1988-2011 is available now, and yours to enjoy after the jump (along with an intensely thorough discographical breakdown!).

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Written by Mike Duquette

May 19, 2014 at 13:09

“Weird Scenes Inside” Rhino’s Record Store Day Slate

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Doors - Weird ScenesWith April 19’s Record Store Day a little more than a week away, it might be time to start making those checklists! We’ve already filled you in on exciting releases from Legacy Recordings, Real Gone Music, SundazedOmnivore Recordings, Varese Sarabande and many others, but today it’s all about Rhino! The Warner Music Group catalogue arm has a bumper crop of more than 25 exclusive offerings from some of the biggest names classic rock, vintage R&B and beyond – including The Doors, Grateful Dead, Ramones, Randy Newman, and, as previously reported, R.E.M.! And that’s not all.

A number of new titles are at the heart of Rhino’s RSD campaign. The Dead premieres Live at Hampton Coliseum for the first time on double vinyl, preserving the band’s Virginia concert of May 4, 1979. Another live set getting a first-ever vinyl issue is Donny Hathaway’s Live at the Bitter End 1971, first issued last year on the Never My Love: The Anthology box set. The Pogues with Joe Strummer Live in London 1991, was like the Donny Hathaway release, first issued on CD in a recent box set (last year’s 30 Years complete albums box) and makes its first appearance in the LP format. It dates back to the period when the Clash frontman filled in for Shane MacGowan in the Pogues line-up. Rhino’s new releases are rounded out by a collection of new-to-vinyl outtakes from country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, a new Greatest Hits from rapper and longtime Law and Order: SVU star Ice-T, and of course, R.E.M.’s eagerly awaited Unplugged 1991/2001: The Complete Sessions.

Randy Newman - Randy NewmanRhino continues its Side by Side series of 45s featuring two versions of the same song with pairings of Devo and The Flaming Lips (“Gates of Steel”), Dinosaur Jr. and The Cure (“Just Like Heaven”), Pantera and Poison Idea (“The Badge”) and two Mystery Artists– and Mystery Song, natch.  The label is also bringing a number of classic LPs back into print. These rare treats include The Birthday Party from Jeff Lynne’s pre-ELO psych-rock band The Idle Race, Randy Newman’s stunningly original debut solo LP – on which he created something new under the sun! – in its original mono version, Otis Redding’s mono Pain in My Heart, and classics from The Everly Brothers, The Velvet Underground, Hüsker Dü and many others.

Last but not least, Rhino has an array of compilations and singles on tap. Perhaps the most unexpected title is The Doors’ Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, the band’s first compilation following the untimely death of Jim Morrison. First released in 1972, Gold Mine will also get a first-time CD reissue in May. A rare Ramones EP (1980’s Meltdown with the Ramones) and the first-ever U.S. release of Fleetwood Mac’s 1970 single “Dragonfly” b/w “Purple Dancer” join titles from Joy Division, The Specials, The Stranglers and even a reissue of Elektra’s 1964 multi-LP box set The Folk Box. The latter even comes with a bonus single featuring Judy Collins and Tom Paxton!

We wouldn’t leave you hanging with all of this tantalizing information; just hit the jump for the full specs (including limited edition numbers, vinyl details, etc.) as helpfully provided by our very own Mike D. for every title mentioned above and more! Look for Rhino’s releases at your finest local independent record retailer on Saturday, April 19. Read the rest of this entry »

R.E.M. “Unplugged” Set to Complicate Your Life on Record Store Day

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REM Unplugged RSD

A then-unheard of gap of three years stood between R.E.M.’s first two albums for Warner Bros. Records – 1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time – so there’s still time to go before the departed band’s ongoing 25th anniversary album remaster campaign enters the 1990s. With that, Warner Bros. is instead releasing, for the first time, two complete live sets the band recorded for the beloved MTV Unplugged series. Both sets will first be available in a single, four-disc vinyl box set to be released on Record Store Day.

The Athens, Georgia quartet’s first appearance on the program followed the release of seventh studio album Out of Time, which would become a massive hit off the strength of Top 10 singles like “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People.” Six of the set’s 17 performances hail from tracks recorded during the album’s sessions, including non-LP B-sides “Fretless” and “Rotary 11.” (Those two tracks, as well as acoustic renditions of  Document‘s “Swan Swan H” and Green‘s “Get Up” and “World Leader Pretend,” were never included in the original broadcast and are heard here for the first time.

Almost exactly a decade later, R.E.M. reappeared on Unplugged a somewhat different band – not the least of which was due to the departure of drummer Bill Berry. In promotion of the band’s second album as a trio, Reveal, the group delivered a slightly more diverse set, stretching all the way back to 1984’s “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” and including some of the best tracks from the band’s early trio years, including “Daysleeper,” “At My Most Beautiful” and “Imitation of Life.” Six of the 16 performances from this set were excised from the original airing.

For those who are looking for a smaller or less expensive way to enjoy this one, fear not: a two-disc CD edition will be released on May 20. But for those looking to put this on your RSD shopping list – and don’t forget, the full list is live this Thursday – this is definitely going to be one to look for. (Doubly so if you frequent Bull Moose Records in Scarborough, Maine, where R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills will be on hand on April 19 to sign copies of the RSD-exclusive box.)

After the jump, check out the full track list for the set!

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 17, 2014 at 15:20

Review: R.E.M., “Green: 25th Anniversary Edition”

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REM GreenLet’s say you’re part of one of the most hotly sought-after bands in the world. You’ve developed a distinctive style that’s set you apart from most of your peers since day one. You’ve put out five basically flawless albums out in five years, eventually earning yourself a U.S. Top 10 hit and exposure on MTV. And now, a major label wants to sign you.

What do you do?

The way R.E.M. answered this question on Green, their sixth album and first of many for Warner Bros. Records, is perhaps a gold standard of how well this question can be answered. Bands in this position often walk a fine line between critical darling and sellout based simply on how they go about their first major-label project. (Consider Green Day’s successful Dookie, full of polished pop moments that expanded their cultural cache while alienating much of their existing core fan base.) Green, by contrast, makes just the right amount of tweaks that come not from an A&R meeting but from the hearts and minds of a ridiculously great rock quartet – and the recently-released 25th anniversary expansion of the album (Warner Bros. R2 535408) does a good job of underlining this fact.

While frontman Michael Stipe reportedly told his bandmates not to write any R.E.M.-type songs for Green, some of Green probably could have fit anywhere on the band’s I.R.S. Records discography. The band’s tendency for simple, singable, muscular rock (produced once again by Scott Litt, who collaborated with the band on Document and would be the band’s go-to producer until 1996) is evident on tracks like “Get Up” and “Orange Crush,” while fellow singles “Stand” and “Pop Song 89” are catchy winks at the band’s newfound major-label darling status, boasting some of the band’s most intentionally facile lyrics.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ve got a very diverse set of songs, anticipating the kind of multifaceted, often heart-tugging beauty R.E.M. mastered throughout the next decade. “The Wrong Child” and “You Are the Everything” are anchored around mandolin lines, while “World Leader Pretend” anticipates future ballads with its tender interplay between acoustic guitars and piano. Even the more traditional rock stuff sometimes aims a little to the left of center, veering away from Peter Buck’s typically jangly riffs in favor of slightly crunchier ones (“I Remember California,” the untitled closing track). Green‘s position as “pivot” on the R.E.M. discography may not make it as effortless as the five LPs that preceded it, but it’s still pretty darn good.

With Rhino handling the reins for R.E.M.’s 25th anniversary reissue series (UMe handling Murmur (1983) and Reckoning (1984) and EMI having covered Fables of the Reconstruction (1985), Lifes Rich Pageant (1986) and Document (1987)), fans certainly must be curious as to how Green stacks up against its predecessors on the reissue scale. Packaging is fairly similar to EMI’s handiwork, with the Green sleeve replicated on an oversize case that opens, lid-style, from one end. Inside are individual CD wallets for the remastered album and bonus disc, as well as sturdy, framable shots of Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry, a large fold-out poster and a liner notes booklet.

As with most of the 25th anniversary bonus discs, a live show is paired with Green – this time a show from the Greensboro, NC Coliseum in November 1989. Like the bonus disc that accompanied Document, the show isn’t complete on disc (though a Record Store Day-exclusive EP last month issued a portion of the missing tracks). But that’s not what makes this bonus disc just alright, instead of essential. As the live video Tourfilm showed, the Green tour was visually arresting – something you’re obviously not getting on CD. And the band’s sound was getting expansive enough to make it harder to nail the new tracks with the same sort of emotional heft as just a four-piece. (Tellingly, the band took a five-year hiatus from the road, after which they came back as a slightly extended lineup.) In spite of these drawbacks, the set is appropriately representative of where the band was at the time – and it’s thus pretty neat to hear audiences react strongly to both the new songs and the band’s back catalogue.

Even taking into account its pop crossover success, Green may not be the perfect starter for the new R.E.M. fan. But it’s certainly worth a reappraisal in the grander scheme of R.E.M.’s sterling discography – and this new set is surely as good a means of reintroduction as they come.

Written by Mike Duquette

May 15, 2013 at 15:14

Posted in Reissues, REM, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of May 14

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REM GreenR.E.M., Green: 25th Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros./Rhino)

The Athens, Georgia rockers celebrate the quarter-century mark of their first Warner Bros. LP with a new 2CD deluxe edition featuring an unreleased live show from 1989. (2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) (LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Sports 30Huey Lewis & The News, Sports: 30th Anniversary Edition (Capitol/UMe)

Another hit-filled rock LP paired with a live disc; this one sees live versions of every hit and album cut from Sports over Huey Lewis & The News’ 30-plus year live run. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Doors InfiniteThe Doors, Infinite (Analogue Productions)

The Doors’ complete studio discography with Jim Morrison – six studio albums in all – newly remastered for multichannel SACD by Doug Sax and Bruce Botnick. It’s a box fit for a lizard king. (SACD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.) (LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

KoL CollectionKings of Leon, The Collection Box (RCA/Legacy)

In advance of KoL’s anticipated European dates this summer, here’s a new collectible package collecting all five of the band’s studio albums (and the Live at the O2 Arena, London DVD) in a custom, lidded box with high-quality mini-LP jackets. Cool points for collectors: all the original European artwork is used, and bonus tracks are present on several discs. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

May 14, 2013 at 08:17

Release Round-Up: Week of September 25

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Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, In Session (Concord)

The legendary songwriter and equally legendary country superstar join forces for two 1988 television broadcasts, joined together on one DVD and accompanied by a CD of the programs’ musical selections!  Campbell’s only recording of Webb’s “Sunshower” can be found here, among other gems.  For those of you anticipating the arrival of In Session today, it appears that this title has been delayed until October 9!  You can read more about it here.  Now, onto some titles actually arriving in stores today…

Aretha Franklin, Love All the Hurt Away / MFSB, Love is the Message / Platypus, Platypus / Lipps, Inc., Mouth to Mouth / Dionne Warwick, Heartbreaker (Big Break Records)

It’s another soul banquet from the good people at Big Break Records with expanded and remastered titles from the catalogues of Casablanca, Arista and Philadelphia International!  Watch for features and reviews on all of the above, coming soon!  These are out in the U.K. today, while a U.S. berth follows next week.

Dickie Goodman, Long Live the King/Moving Sidewalks, The Complete Collection (RockBeat)

RockBeat Records returns with two new releases: a single-disc compilation spanning the career of the “break-in record” king, Dickie Goodman, and a two-CD anthology of music from Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top band, The Moving Sidewalks!  Here’s the scoop on these titles and more from RockBeat.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The 50th Anniversary Collection (Columbia/Legacy)

The New Orleans institution turns 50, and celebrates the occasion with this deluxe box set of performances recorded between 1962 and 2010, including five previously unreleased tracks!  Read more here!

R.E.M., Document: 25th Anniversary Edition (EMI)

R.E.M.’s fifth studio album has turned 25!  Document was recorded by vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry, and was the band’s first album to achieve platinum sales.  The remastered album is joined by a previously unreleased 1987 concert, and it’s all packaged in a sturdy lift-top box with four postcards.  Read all about it here.

Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia, Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings (Fantasy/Concord)

Fantasy Records issues four CDs of prime live Garcia, in which the Grateful Dead leader is joined by Merl Saunders.  These remarkable Bay Area performances are packaged in a handsome box with copious notes and a bit of swag, too.  Watch for our review as part of our Holiday Gift Guide, coming soon!

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., Christmas with the Rat Pack (Capitol)

2012 is bringing another new version of Capitol’s Rat Pack holiday compilation, and it appears to have lost a few tracks since its original 2002 release (and subsequent 2006 reissue).  Still, this music simply can’t be beat, pallies.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols: Super Deluxe Edition (Universal U.K.)

Never mind the rest, the Sex Pistols have gone super-deluxe!  That means you’ll get a remastered version of the original album, a CD of outtakes and rarities (including previously unreleased tracks), a live CD, and a DVD, too, plus the requisite swag including a replica of the original A&M pressing of “God Save the Queen.”  This is available in the U.K. now, and in the U.S. next week!  If you don’t think this set is a load of bollocks, you’ll want to read more about it here!

Barbra Streisand, Release Me (Columbia)

La Streisand unlocks the vault doors for this first collection of previously-unreleased material recorded between 1967 and 2011, with songs by world-class composers like Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, Paul Williams and Michel Legrand.  Word has it that future volumes might follow as Streisand kicks off her 50th year of recording for Columbia Records.  Release Me is out today on vinyl, while the CD release follows on October 9.

The John Wilson Orchestra, That’s Entertainment: A Celebration of the MGM Film Musical (EMI)

The John Wilson Orchestra’s 2009 BBC Prom concert, with guest stars Seth MacFarlane, Kim Criswell and Curtis Stigers singing reconstructed tunes from classic MGM musicals, receives an American release.  It’s available as a standard edition and a deluxe one, with the latter containing liner notes and session photos in a casebound, hardcover book plus a DVD containing a featurette and music videos.  A stand-alone DVD of the concert is also available.

Frank Zappa, 12 catalogue reissues (UMe/Zappa Records)

Twelve more Zappa classics arrive on CD, many in freshly-remastered editions. Full details and pre-order links for every title can be found in yesterday’s full rundown, or just click on the li’l fella, above, to order and jump headfirst into FZ Territory!

Warren Zevon, Mr. Bad Example/Mutineer (Friday Music)

The late Warren Zevon’s witty, mordant and moving oeuvre is celebrated on this two-fer from Friday Music, bringing together his 1991 and 1995 studio albums.

Original Soundtrack, Dirty Dancing: The Anniversary Edition (RCA/Legacy)

Will you have the time of your life with this deluxe version of the smash soundtrack album to the 1987 film?  Only the original 12 songs are present, but they’re joined in a commemorative package by six suitable-for-framing art cards and a bumper sticker.

At Their Most Beautiful: New R.E.M. Compilation Announced

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The music world was kind of shocked when R.E.M. announced their breakup. (We even devoted a whole Reissue Theory to their 1987 B-sides compilation Dead Letter Office.) It’s certainly interesting timing, then, that the band has one last act of catalogue material before they split: a double-disc compilation coming in November.

Named after a quippy assessment of the band by its own guitarist, Peter Buck, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011 is the first set from the band to span their career in full – both their heady, pioneering college-rock days on I.R.S. Records as well as their move to further international acclaim on Warner Bros. Naturally, it also includes three new tracks: a new single, the aptly-titled “We All Go Back to Where We Belong” (available to download October 18) and two additional tracks from the sessions to the band’s latest album, this year’s Collapse Into Now.

It’s easy to be cynical about the timing of this release, coming less than a week after the band’s split. But the ability to collect the band’s full greatest hits in one spot is actually rather neat. The only other Warner compilation on the market is 2003’s In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, while the I.R.S. era has been anthologized to death, most recently with 2006’s And I Feel Fine…The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987. (Both sets, in fact, had their own deluxe editions with various rarities here and there.) The song selection is certainly arguable (as it was when we did our own Reissue Theory on a full R.E.M. hits set earlier this year), but the 40 songs herein aren’t a terrible place to start.

The package is available November 15 and can be ordered (along with the track list) after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 26, 2011 at 16:45

Posted in Compilations, News, REM

Reissue Theory: R.E.M., From Start to Finish

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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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

March 8, 2011 at 15:34

Posted in Compilations, Features, Reissues, REM

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Warner Classics Coming Back to Vinyl for Record Store Day

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Warner Bros. Records issued a press release last week touting their forthcoming vinyl reissues for Record Store Day, and the results are pretty neat for catalogue enthusiasts.

We already told you about the upcoming Flaming Lips vinyl box, and several other classic WB-oriented LPs are coming for the special event, too. Audiophile editions of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American and the first two LPs by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers will be pressed on vinyl. Several of these platters have been remastered by Bernie Grundman Mastering, while Bleed American – which spawned massive hits in “Sweetness” and “The Middle” – will feature a bonus LP of B-sides and rarities.

For the full rundown of all the releases, including some new stuff from R.E.M. and some other collectible singles, click here.

Written by Mike Duquette

March 7, 2011 at 17:34

Short Takes: Hectic Edition

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Sincerest apologies to all our readers who may have wondered where The Second Disc went off to. Though I hate jumbling personal/professional stuff with maintenance of the site, today was kind of busy. But there will be a few relaxed posts over the weekend as a way of thanking you, the reader, for your patience (and continued readership, of course!).

In any case, here are two links that might be worth your perusal on the reissue front:

  • The Yep Roc label posted a neat interview with Nick Lowe, who discusses at length his forthcoming Labour of Lust reissue, coming out in the U.S. on Yep Roc next month. Illuminating stuff for power pop fans.
  • R.E.M.’s Mike Mills talked to Billboard about the band’s forthcoming record Collapse Into Now, and while the article is mostly about the new album (and the fact that the band will not tour behind it), the last paragraph confirms a 25th anniversary deluxe edition of Lifes Rich Pageant (1986) is on the way (as has been the case with every album of the band’s for the past few years). Mills says the set will have “a lot of demos, some of which I think are actually better than the songs on the record.” The new album also marks the conclusion of R.E.M.’s contract with Warner Bros., their home since 1988; no word on their next move or how it will relate to their catalogue affairs.

Written by Mike Duquette

February 25, 2011 at 15:29

Posted in News, Nick Lowe, Reissues, REM