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Xfm 25: R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant

Ian Camfield presents a look back at the band's fourth album and their first steps into the political arena.

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'Lifes Rich Pageant' was R.E.M.’s fourth album – and marked the transition point between their indie-college roots and the international success that lay ahead. It was also the album that saw Michael Stipe’s voice and lyrics pushed to the forefront of the band’s sound. In this edition of 25 we look back at the emergence of R.E.M’s political voice and examine the recording process behind this landmark album.

Contributors include R.E.M’s bass player / backing singer Mike Mills, the producer of “Lifes Rich Pageant” Don Gehman and Clint Boon from Inspiral Carpets and Xfm Manchester.

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The Baseball Project performing "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" at the North Star Bar in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 6, 2011 with Mike Mills of R.E.M. on vocals:

Edited by Jahfin
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  • 4 weeks later...

From The Guardian:

R.E.M. Lifes Rich Pageant – review

Whether or not their later stuff really is that bad,

R.E.M. were once unbeatable, says Alexis Petridis

REM-band-007.jpg

On the cusp of mainstream fame … vintage R.E.M.

By Alexis Petridis

A month or so ago, the comedian Stewart Lee gave a fascinating interview to the online magazine the Quietus about his favourite albums, during which talk turned to R.E.M. "I don't think there's anyone whose career trajectory has been so disappointing," he opined, "starting so brilliantly and ending up so dreadful. They're just awful."

On the one hand, you look at the rest of the interview – there's much talk of the wonders of European free improv, "jazz without the tunes" and various other things that suggest he's probably not that big on solemnly waving his lighter to Everybody Hurts – and think: well, he would say that, wouldn't he? On the other, there's the sense that Lee's is far from a lone voice when it comes to R.E.M. For years, the overwhelming emotion provoked by their ongoing career seems to have been disappointment. R.E.M. buffs can argue the night away about when the decline began, but even the most devoted start to look a bit stoical when 2004's Around the Sun gets mentioned. In some cases, the sheer strength of feeling – which has led more than one reviewer to bluntly suggest they split up – can be a bit hard to fathom: it's not like their latterday albums are genuinely bad records. In fact, as the latest deluxe reissue of their 80s oeuvre proves, the problem lies not with what R.E.M. are doing now, but what they were doing then.

To read the rest of the review click here.

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From Spin.com:

EXCLUSIVE ALBUM: R.E.M.'s 'Lifes Rich Pageant'

By Kevin O'Donnell

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R.E.M. in 1986 / Photo by Sandra Lee Phipps

R.E.M. had already established themselves as kings of D.I.Y. college rock with the release of groundbreaking albums like 1983's Murmur, 1984's Reckoning, and 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction. But the Athens, GA-based rockers hit new heights in 1986 with Lifes Rich Pageant, the band's most successful and highest charting album to that point. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, R.E.M. and Capitol/I.R.S. Records teamed up for an expanded, digitally remastered reissue, which is stacked with rarities. SPIN has a premiere of the set ahead of its July 12 release, which you can stream in the player below.

The highlight of the reissue is a second disc dubbed The Athens Demos, which culls 19 previously unreleased recordings that were recorded in March 1986. Cuts like "Fall on Me" and "These Days" sound remarkably polished compared to the final album versions, while early versions of "I Believe" feature eye-opening alternative arrangements (it's a blast to hear a humming Michael Stipe working out the song's final vocal melody).

Also included: early drafts of tunes like "March Song (King of Birds)" — which would later appear on 1987's Document — and "Bad Day," which wouldn't get a proper release until 2003's rarities set In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. (Diehards will notice that track's remarkable similarity to 1987's classic "It's the End of the World as We Know It.") The hard-charging rocker "Wait," meanwhile, has only circulated on bootlegs until now.

To listen to the stream, click here.

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From RollingStone.com:

R.E.M. Begin Work on New Album

Band may self-release follow-up to 'Collapse Into Now'

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R.E.M.

Anton Corbijn

By MATTHEW PERPETUA

Michael Stipe has announced in a message posted to xoJane.com that he is at an Athens, Georgia recording studio working on a new R.E.M. album. Stipe, who is friends with site founder Jane Pratt – the woman behind the late, lamented Sassy magazine – has been sending real-time updates to her phone that have been shared on the site.

As of yet, no details have been released regarding R.E.M.'s latest project. The group released their most recent album, Collapse Into Now, back in March. That set happened to be the last record of their contract with Warner Bros. Records, the label that has put out all of their albums since Green in 1988. The band could be planning to self-release an album like their peers in Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Wilco, or they may end up going in the direction of Sonic Youth, who found a new home at Matador Records following a long term major label contract with Geffen. "We have the option of doing anything we want — and no pressure to do anything," bassist Mike Mills told Rolling Stone earlier this year.

R.E.M.'s decision to jump into the studio so soon after the release of Collapse Into Now may shed some light on why the group chose not to tour for the record. "We don't tour to prop up records — that's not why we play live music," Mills said. "That's the thing about R.E.M. If we don't feel it, we don't go." This certainly wouldn't be the first time the group have opted to keep writing and recording rather than hit the road. Back in the Nineties, they declined to tour for Out of Time and Automatic For the People, two of their most commercially successful albums.

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Like I posted in that eras thread, 1980's REM to me was as good as it got for a long stretch of time. I played all of their LP's to death, this one probably most of all. Lifes Rich Pageant was a great great album.

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Like I posted in that eras thread, 1980's REM to me was as good as it got for a long stretch of time. I played all of their LP's to death, this one probably most of all. Lifes Rich Pageant was a great great album.

Looking forward to picking up the 25th anniversary edition tomorrow.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well having purchased Life's Rich Pageant and the Deluxe version of Fables of the Reconstruction (never got around to buying that one until now) I think it's safe to say both remain classic recordings and I'm finding I enjoy the demo tracks for both a lot more than I ever thought I would. I'm not a huge fan of demo recordings, but these are all very good and quite illuminating.

One thing though, both of the original albums suffer badly from the modern 'loudness war' remastering madness. Pageant not so much but Fables is brually remastered loud. The IPod generation and Apple have destroyed modern fidelity in music, I swear.

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Well having purchased Life's Rich Pageant and the Deluxe version of Fables of the Reconstruction (never got around to buying that one until now) I think it's safe to say both remain classic recordings and I'm finding I enjoy the demo tracks for both a lot more than I ever thought I would. I'm not a huge fan of demo recordings, but these are all very good and quite illuminating.

Not sure if you picked up the 25th Anniversary editions of Murmur and Reckoning (which both included live shows from those respective eras) but my only complaint about those would be that they aren't the entire concerts. Then again, some of the tunes left off were covers so that may have something to do with it, at least from a licensing standpoint. Fables is my favorite R.E.M. record but since purchasing the 25th Anniversary edition of it last summer, I haven't exactly found myself going back to revisit the demos from it very often (if at all). Maybe that's because they aren't markedly different from what made the finished album, at least not from a lyrical and musical structure perspective. However, the demos for Pageant offer just enough differences in those two departments that I feel like I will be listening to them more. In fact, like the demos on the Fables reissue, they are the first thing I listened to before giving the remastered version of the album itself a spin. One of the first things that struck me about the Pageant demos is the glimpse into the future they offer via the early versions of "King of Birds" (labeled as "March" here) and "Bad Day" (which would be reconfigured as "It's the End of the World As We Know It [And I Feel Fine]") which portend the more discordant and crunchy sounds that would characterize much of Document.

One thing though, both of the original albums suffer badly from the modern 'loudness war' remastering madness. Pageant not so much but Fables is brually remastered loud. The IPod generation and Apple have destroyed modern fidelity in music, I swear.

Since I haven't listened to either on high end audio equipment and I've never exactly been an audiophile, I can't say I've ever really noticed the compression thing but I've heard similar complaints about Accelerate. That, I can sort of notice but it's never really bothered me, at least not as much as it's bothered other people. In regards to the "Loudness Wars", I just posted a new article on that very topic to the The Loudness Wars thread in the Ramble On section of the board that you may enjoy reading.

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Die Zeche, Bochum, Germany, 10/2/85

1. “Feeling Gravitys Pull”

2. “Harborcoat”

3. “Sitting Still”

4. “Maps And Legends”

5. “Fall On Me”

6. “Green Grow The Rushes”

7. “Driver 8″

8. “Hyena”

9. “So. Central Rain”

10. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

11. “Can’t Get There From Here”

12. “King Of The Road”

13. “Seven Chinese Brothers”

14. “Auctioneer (Another Engine)”

15. “Old Man Kensey”

16. “Little America”

17. “Pretty Persuasion”

18. “Theme From Two Steps Onward”

19. “Toys In The Attic”

20. “See No Evil”

21. “Second Guessing”

22. “Ghost Riders In The Sky”

23. “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville”

24. “We Walk/Falling In Love Again/Behind Closed Doors”

25. “Paint It, Black”

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  • 1 month later...

From REMhq.com:

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.

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From RollingStone.com:

R.E.M. Break Up After Three Decades

Legendary rock band have 'called it a day'

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Michael Stipe of REM performs during the Voodoo Experience Festival in New Orleans.

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

By MATTHEW PERPETUA

SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 1:25 PM ET

R.E.M. have announced that they have broken up after 31 years together. "As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band," the band said in a statement on their official website today. "We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished."

In just over three decades as a band, R.E.M. released 15 albums including landmark works such as Murmur, Reckoning, Document, Out of Time and Automatic For the People. The band's final album, Collapse Into Now, was released in March of this year. There were reports over the summer that the band had spent some time in an Athens studio, but it is unclear whether anything will come of that session.

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I was wishing for a goodbye tour, never got the chance to see them live

There's always the possibility of a reunion tour with Bill Berry in tow but you never know, R.E.M. have always been very strident in their beliefs, even if they didn't always stick to them. I always admired Johnny Carson approach to retirement. When he retired from The Tonight Show, he really retired. Probably the only celebrity that has ever stayed true to their word when they said they were going to retire.

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Since added to the story at HQ:

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now.

MIKE

"During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."

MICHAEL

"A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."

PETER

"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."

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Don Dixon on the demise of R.E.M., from Scholars & Rogues:

Former REM producer comments on the band’s break-up

Don Dixon and Mitch Easter co-produced REM’s first two (and arguably best) albums, Murmur and Reckoning. S&R contacted Dixon earlier today to ask if he had any thoughts on the band’s break-up. Here’s what he had to say.

I’ll miss R.E.M. but I completely understand why they’re calling it quits. I haven’t spoken with anyone in the band yet but I believe they’re sincere when they speak of this as a group decision and point to their mutual respect. I think each of them want to move on to other things and not end up hanging around too long like some bands we know.

One must remember when these guys came of age. They took the threads of several styles and wove together a sound that was fresh, original and exciting. R.E.M. was a huge influence on young musicians while still a cult act but then they went on to have unbelievable success here in the U.S. and all over the world without compromising the basic tenets they held from the start.

Hit records by their own rules…what could be a better epitaph?

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