Monday, July 19, 2010

Music Review: R.E.M. - Fables Of The Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)

This is a short excerpt of my latest review. See link at the end for the full article.

Continuing R.E.M.'s recent string of reissuing classic albums from its earliest years, this week marked the reissue and 25th anniversary of the Athens, Georgia group's sometimes overlooked third outing, Fables of the Reconstruction. It is now out as a two-CD collection with all original tracks remastered on one disc and demos of all tracks, plus three non-album demos on a second disc.

Where the first two albums Murmur (1983) and Reckoning (1984) are considered among their best works, this album was considered a bit of a step down for R.E.M. upon first release. It was also the album that nearly broke up the band.

These workaholics were in the middle of an impressive run where they would put out one studio album for six straight years (from 1983-1988). But between long commutes to the London studio every day, poor food and weather, and nervous breakdowns by these mid-20-somethings, it's a wonder Fables sounds cohesive at all.

For this record, the quartet parted ways with its previous producers, including Mitch Easter, and left its native land for London to work with producer Joe Boyd, who'd previously worked on pre-Dark Side Of The Moon-era Pink Floyd and folk acts like Nick Drake, among others.

The results made for a (mostly) darker R.E.M. record (ex. "Old Man Kensey") than fans may have expected, but one where singer Michael Stipe came into his own as a lyricist, getting into storytelling of the American South for the first time. The oddest one, which fans would learn more about many years later, is that steady rocker "Life And How To Live It" is based on an author from their hometown (Brivs Mekis) who wrote and published a book called Life: How To Live, then suddenly pulled all existing copies off the market and kept them home.

This article was first published July 16 at Blogcritics Magazine

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