It’s been seven years since R.E.M. officially walked away, but thankfully folks are still digging into their vaults to pull out some remarkable, unreleased music. The MTV Unplugged series last year was a nice surprise, but this latest from the BBBC is an even more impressive find.
Out on both vinyl and CD, thanks to Craft Recordings, the songs here span close to a quarter of a century. The massive 8-CD/single DVD box set boasts way too many tracks to get into here, but the much more manageable, double set (on either 2 LPs or 2 CDs) serves as a beautiful mix of both a “greatest hits” compilation and “live” set. All of the tracks here were recorded on or by various shows at the BBC between 1984 and 2008 – some with an audience – including the massive Glastonbury festival – and many just in studio with the host(s). Among the earliest tracks on the “Best of” set are powerful rendition of “Driver 8” and “Radio Free Europe” (still an amazing song almost a generation later).
It’s also impressive to hear the Athens, GA trio recreate live a track like “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?,” a song that relied on a bit of studio manipulation for the record, but one that comes off brilliantly here before a rapturous crowd in 1995.
Many of these songs have never been released before now. This comprehensive set is an obvious must-have for even casual R.E.M. fans and is the perfect balm to sooth an R.E.M.-less world until someone unearths some more rare material from the band.
R.E.M. – The Best of R.E.M. at the BBC/2 Vinyl LPs/Craft Recordings/2018