And I Feel Fine...The Best Of The I.R.S. Years: 1982-1987 Best of, Original recording remastered
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See all 21 tracks on this disc
Disc 1 is 21-track single-disc collection of hits and band favourites including Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.'s debut single), The One I Love & It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Disc 2 also contains 21 tracks of rarities from the I.R.S. and R.E.M. vaults. Includes alternate takes, previously unreleased mixes, live recordings of familiar R.E.M. classics, an acoustic performance from the 1987 documentary film Athens, GA - Inside Out, among them 10 never before released tracks Each of R.E.M.'s four original members has selected a personal favourite for the rarities disc. The package includes descriptive track-by-track annotations in the band members' own words plus newly-penned liner notes by rock scribe Anthony DeCurtis.
The songs collected on And I Feel Fine... The Best of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 are just good enough to render the previous I.R.S. years collection, 1998's Eponymous, officially dead. The latter was likely the way the masses heard R.E.M.'s underground hits on CD the first time--after all, the band had just come off of their apocalyptic breakthrough single ("It's the end of the world...") and CD players were finally hitting below the $400 mark. It did the trick. We all got up to date and it paved the way for a more sonic R.E.M. to grow into the phenomena they've become. This new version is a welcome history re-write as it pulls more from Murmur and Reckoning days and does a far better job at telling the early story--owing a great deal to the photos and in-depth notes from Anthony DeCurtis.
For our money it's worth $2 to buy the "Collectors Edition" for the massive collection of rarities on disc 2. The DVD companion to this CD is a visual goldmine. -- Peter Hilgendorf --This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
At least half the material does not appear on their earlier IRS compilation "Eponymous" so there is still some good value for fans who own that collection.
My only complaint is that the CD does not include more of their mid-tempo and ballad material. I think the CD would have benefitted from including tunes like "Time after Time" "Wendell Gee" and "Old Man Kensey",which would provide some breaks from the intensity of their uptempo material.
This might just be personal taste however, and I can't really justify giving this CD any less than five stars. Unlike "Eponymous" the songs have been remastered, although the sound quality is still somewhat uneven as the early eighties songs are not quite as crisp sounding as the mid-eighties material.
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But... as several other reviewers have commented, this release was mastered to sound as loud as possible. And at first listen, it sounds great. Then, after it's on for awhile, you will probably find yourself turning the volume down, and even thinking about turning it off. That's because the mix has been highly compressed - that's how they get newer CDs to sound so much louder than old ones, but it's akin to how a loud commercial suddenly comes on when you're watching a TV show and sends you jumping for the remote to turn it down. It becomes obnoxious and irritating when everything is so loud all the time, and robs the music of all dynamics. And if you listen closely you'll hear distortion - they mix it so high that they're actually introducing clipping, which means flattened sound waves that results in a static-y edge to the sound.
Unfortunately this is a trend that has been going on with CD mastering for the last decade, though it gets very little publicity. The record companies do it because they think we like it, and actually many of us think we do, judging by a lot of the positive comments on the sound of overloud remasters. But once you're aware of it, you'll notice it, and you'll start to feel ripped off. The public needs to tell the record companies we want quality remasters that don't compromise true fidelity and range for shallow loudness and distortion. To learn more on this topic, do a web search on "loudness war".
I just encoded a couple tracks and the originals, do that if you want to see it-- the songs are all peaked at max level throughout on the remaster. The original has highs and lows...well, dynamics! imagine that! This is unlistenable to me, stick with the original. Of course it may be worth having for the rare stuff, sadly that's no better. Every instrument at the same level. REM from this time is classic, but they've butchered it.
Why not three discs: one live, one rare, one great tracks (not merely the familiar ones)? Oh well. What works best on disc 1 is the sequencing; I imagine this is what circa 1987 might have been a wonderful concert set list. Even the five or six songs out of the 21 that I tend to skip when playing the original albums fit in and you can see the intelligence with which the melodies segue from track to track.
But, if this was all, as on the cheaper one-disk version, it'd be another cash cow, milking the magical potion that sparked the imaginations of REM at its best around twenty years ago. Less so by ten years ago, and as for now, well their last two post-millennial CDs show sadly another band that should have packed it in like they promised, either by our millennium's arrival or the departure of one of the original quartet. Both events came and went, and what REM stood for in the annals of college rock is best left to the best songs on this disc.
These may not be the songs with which they'd rise (like U2) to the top of the charts across the world, but as the notes show, these are the songs that built, listener by listener, town by town, concert at the club and college radio station at a time, their artistic reputation among their first American followers. In the mid-80s, each album sold a bit more than its predecessor, and each year brought another vinyl chapter in the band's sonic experiments. They sang of their political musings and left behind a quasi-spiritual chronicle. Berry, Buck, Mills & Stipe tripped up here and there. Lyrics could be clumsy, but they were honest and sincere.
Yet, only one cut from the Chronic Town EP? The other four tracks would have benefited from sonic upgrading. The remastering by Capitol's Dave McEowen is certainly controversial. The realignment was not as dramatic to me since I have Murmur on the old "gold standard" Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab "original studio master" series, and that version sounds sharper and deeper than the cleaner renderings on this anthology.
The other songs gussied up do flatten and fill up more of their allotted space, although this fits the Don Gehman & Scott Litt-produced albums and their boomier, more accessible, classic "heartland" arena rock-ish drift. I never liked the slicker sound on these LPs as much, as they strove for a more commercial, easier to listen to expression in music and especially enunciation which broadened the band's appeal but detracted from their calculated charm and cultivated mystique. These tracks tend to simmer more steadily on the anthology; they bubbled, sank, or floated in their original album niches. But the harmonium that sighs in the danker corners of many Life's Rich Pageant tracks does emerge here. The more idiosyncratic, underwater-sounding Fables with Joe Boyd and the first records' Mitch Easter & Don Dixon carnivalesque productions do not necessarily gain from the brighter remastering. They sound dimmer, evened out and diffused. Maybe more palatable for today's ears via iPods? A tonal adjustment follows after these songs have been laid out in the disinfectant sun and hauled out of the tangled kudzu.
The wobbly nature of the originals, their shimmering surface yet murky depth, do become pushed more to the front and their quirky shifts in volume and tone are somewhat smoothed out. Once in a while, you can hear bits of the Easter-Dixon LPs calliope swirl and sudden chunk with an off-kilter placement that the remastering possibly by accident manages to highlight. The choice seems to have been made for a more expansive rendering of the IRS years, so some of their stranger songs and eccentric efforts are left out. For instance, there are no Dead Letter Office cuts: selections would have benefitted the scope of this project, which to me lacks surprises in its studio cuts. However, I Believe and Life & How To Live It, for me the best cuts from their albums, are often ignored so it was good to find their classic jangle lilts here.
Disc 2 does mercifully leave off those annoying songs from the increasingly ponderous second side of Document, for instance, so some quality control persists. As with the "In Time: The Best of REM" WB two-disc anthology mostly from their 90s period, the unreleased songs on this collection are too few, and not as revelatory as we fans might have hoped. Pavement in their double-disc, very affordable, overly generous re-issues of their Matador LPs show what could have been done: lots of ephemera, studio failures, concert cuts, alternative mixes. Why R.E.M. chose not to do this puzzles me. But the live tracks, as others have observed, do show what only "In Time" for the later years and the discredited "REM in the Attic" odds-and-ends WB disc from a decade ago has done for the IRS era as a (semi-)official release: to demonstrate their rawer thrust and rowdier concert appeal.
I do agree with Steven Malkmus and Pavement who in "The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" lamented "'Time After Time' is my least favorite song" from the band, and ending it with this track perhaps is a sly wink at them and those of us who, while we are devoted to the early efforts of this band, have enough critical savvy to not follow along blindly with every song and every album with equal fervor and shallow enthusiasm. REM does respect their audience-- this is good value for the money (especially when combined at Amazon's price with their clunky and self-conscious primitive videos on the companion DVD. The band members' comments and Anthony DeCurtis' liner notes do provide enjoyment and add to the value of this flawed but still essential purchase, naturally, for any committed REM fan who longs for more than the band's usual ten songs played on the radio.
Then appeared R.E.M. Four guys who weren't from London, New York or L.A. but from the unlikely southern college town of Athens, Georgia. Their music was simple but catchy, hard-edged but not offensive. Their lyrics (if you could make them out, which was always part of the fun) actually made listeners think, something that had been out of style since before the disco era. The band wasn't self-consciously political but they soon found a college audience who were looking to be challenged a bit. The rest of the story doesn't need to be told. Not until Nirvana came along in the early 90's would another garage-rock band influence music in such a profound way.
Sadly, as all good things must end, so did R.E.M.'s IRS years. 1988's "Green" moved the band to a major record label and put them in the national spotlight. Their small audience could no longer claim the band as their own. College radio gave way to "alternative rock" and eventually to hip-hop and rap.
But the music and the memories live on in this great CD set, which charts the period from their beginning to their wonderful 1987 release, "Document". The 2-CD set is well worth the additional few dollars, the 2nd disc being every bit as enjoyable as the first.
I miss my old college coffee house and I miss the old R.E.M. but we don't have to miss the great songs. Grab this one!
Not so this one. Somehow this "listens" with all the freshness and vitality of the best new releases of the year. That's a testament to the strength of the material gathered here. Those unfamiliar with the band's early material could easily mistake it for the latest outing by a promising new indie band.
The effect is so pronounced that these I.R.S. tunes now seem far less dated than the band's more recent work! Pass this one around. Your friends will thank you.
A mild "thumbsdown" to the remastering team, though. Sure, they gave us clarity, and plenty of it. Unfortunately, though, there's no depth to the mix. Like nearly everything else that's been mixed this Millenium, they simply crowded everything into the front of the mix, where it all clashes and competes with no direction.
This crew didn't even bother to fix Buck's horribly out of tune guitar in "End of the World." Truly an inspiration to underachievers everywhere.