Thursday, June 12, 2014

CD Review: R.E.M. Visits The Vault For "Complete Unplugged" Release

American rock band R.E.M. called it quits in 2011, mutually deciding to go their separate ways. Lucky for us, "the vault" is filled with unreleased material that dates back to their beginnings. The first official post break-up release is the two disc set "R.E.M. The Complete Unplugged 1991 And 2001 Sessions." R.E.M. is the only band to headline the "Unplugged" show twice. This release was first featured as a an eight-sided vinyl set, released on Record Store Day through the Rhino Records label. Then it was followed by a 2CD set a month later. The album debuted at #21 on the Billboard Album chart upon its release.

The first disc captures R.E.M.'s first appearance on MTV's "Unplugged" show just as the wave of success was beginning to peak. The unplugged session was recorded just one month after the release of their multi-platinum selling album "Out Of Time." Five of the seventeen songs recorded were not featured during the 1991 broadcast.  Songs were culled from the band's previous five studio releases, relying heavily on their latest release. Right from the beginning of "Half A World Away," you notice that singer Michael Stipe's voice perfectly fits this quieter setting, while the rest of the band support his words with the perfect melody. The highlight of the set is a gentle cover of The Troggs' "Love Is All Around Me" sung by Mike Mills.

The second disc features their 2001 performance in support of their latest album at the time, ("Revel") which was the not as well received as their previous releases. Six of the sixteen songs recorded were not feature during the broadcast, including classics like "The One I Love" and "Sad Professor," which were stored away until this release. R.E.M. do a better job mixing newer hits like "All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)" with earlier classics like "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)." But knowing they have done this earlier in their career gives the band a sense that they have mastered the gentle acoustic setting.

Bassist Mike Mills has been quoted as saying "We have a lot of stuff in the vaults, a fair amount of stuff that’s never been released. We just want to put them out in a way that makes them as special as possible." R.E.M. also recently released a 131-track batch of B-sides, non-album tracks and live cuts from their Warner Bros. period and this might only be the beginning. So, R.E.M. fans, don't lose hope that someday your favorite concert or rarity may one time see the light of day.

To find out more about this latest release from R.E.M., please visit

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