Search - R.E.M. :: Fables Of The Reconstruction 25th Anniversary

Fables Of The Reconstruction 25th Anniversary
Fables Of The Reconstruction 25th Anniversary
Genres: Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2

Originally released in 1985, R.E.M.'s 3rd album, Fables of The Reconstruction peaked at #28 on the Billboard charts and spawned two hit singles, Can t Get There From here and Driver 8. Breaking with their tradition of reco...  more »


Larger Image

CD Details

All Artists: R.E.M.
Title: Fables Of The Reconstruction 25th Anniversary
Members Wishing: 7
Total Copies: 0
Label: EMI
Original Release Date: 1/1/1985
Re-Release Date: 7/13/2010
Album Type: Box set, Extra tracks, Original recording remastered
Genres: Pop, Rock
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 5099964607122


Product Description
Originally released in 1985, R.E.M.'s 3rd album, Fables of The Reconstruction peaked at #28 on the Billboard charts and spawned two hit singles, Can t Get There From here and Driver 8. Breaking with their tradition of recording in Athens GA, the band recorded in England with producer Joe Boyd.

This 25th Anniversary Edition features the classic album digitally remastered. The bonus disc is a complete run thorugh of the album done in studio in Athens, before the band left for London for the actual recording sessions. These demos have never before been released and feature three additional tracks, not on the final album, including "Throw Those Trolls Away, " a song the band has never released.

The albums are packaged in a lift top box and include a poster and 4 postcards, as well as the CD booklet.

CD Reviews

American Gothic
Garbageman | the other side of California | 07/13/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The mid-80s, as the cool documentary "American Hardcore" points out, was a weird time of hopeless "what now?" attitude in American underground music. Punk had died, heck even some were nostalgic for it, and "alternative rock" was its replacement, mass acceptance and MTV buzz-bin hipness on the horizon. Minor Threat spoke of "Salad Days". The stuff you prided yourself in "discovering" was showing up a month later in John Hughes flicks. To be labeled a "sellout" was the ultimate insult, meaning the most extreme loss of integrity, something that you just always knew a band like REM wasn't interested in. When REM released their 3rd, there were word-of-mouth stories of how the album almost broke them, about how they recorded it in London yet it turned out to be as Southern as Georgia clay, and how it was still strange enough that you needn't worry about their pictures being plastered on your younger sister's bedroom wall alongside Wham! and Duran Duran. We were safe in their weird eccentricity - despite a hit single.

In many ways, "Fables Of The Reconstruction" is not just the quintessential REM album, it's the last REM album. Their final weird, spooky take on Southern Americana before big drums and global fist-clenching, they move thoughtfully here, even when the songs are frantic. Michael Stipe is at his lyrical and stylistic peak: he became a cryptic storyteller, bending his harmonies, screaming, whispering - he's all over the place. Buck takes charge, making noises and sounds that legions of college-aged kids would replicate in years to come. The band itself plays with clear precision, interesting for an album that has a rep as a jangly mess. A good word is "immersed": you feel, at any time, that these songs are beneath, or that you are beneath them. It is Southern, then: stifling, immovable, and earthy, the minor chords throughout mirroring a dark place where the pastoral South meets the fear and violence at its core. At the time, I recall trying to decipher lyrics in "Kohoutek" and "Auctioneer" and just giving up; in an age when all other music seemed validated by clarity, this album, even compared to their first two, was troubling and anxious, ambiguous and manic. But it wasn't so remote that it was off-putting, which is its charm. Consider "Old Man Kensey", the album's centerpiece: a sweltering dirge whose verses gain enough steam, only to have the chorus seemingly SLOW DOWN and drain all the song's momentum, exploding into a chromatic mess of a bridge whose lyrics, chords, and chimey ambience become a singular mass, almost bringing relief from the tensions built up in the verses - pure REM and unlike anything anyone dared try back then. Dare I say it, it's kinda punk rock.

In epic remastered and boxed form, the album becomes even easier to like. Traditionally, I have always sided with the criticism of Bill Berry's drums as way too buried, too plastic; here, they aren't necessarily in the front, but you can at least hear what he's doing. I used to suspect that the mix was always after some sort of fake mono, as though the sounds were all deliberately coming from one small place. The remastering turns the album inside out, giving a unique weariness that accentuates the forlorn folksy quality of stuff like "Maps and Legends" and "Good Advices", two of their very best songs. The album of demos is even more raw and energetic, sounding like a late-night church-hall broadcast of the standard new set with the band doing its best to stay alive amid a creeping sensual lethargy. There's no album out there in American music like "Fables", creepy and five-dimensional, but completely friendly all the same. Listening to this in a new package brings a comfortable closure, like something finally got its due. It's enough to make you buy one for your younger sister.

REM's Lost Americana
D. A. Rich | Boston, MA | 07/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It seems so long ago, but in the early 1980s, REM was such a breath of musical fresh air. The punk era had morphed into new wave, new wave had morphed into the new romantics, but what of American rock n' roll? These four college kids from Athens, Georgia toured the U.S. extensively, playing small clubs, lodging at the homes of college disc jockeys, and playing what was, for that time, unique sounding folk influenced rock music featuring Peter Buck's "jangly" guitar lines, Michael Stipe's deep voiced but mostly incomprehensible lyrics, Mike Mills' melodic bass playing and harmony vocals and Bill Berry's solid drums. REM inspired countless college bands and came to be synonymous with the concepts "alternative" and "indie" rock. During their "early" period they recorded a terrific EP, Chronic Town, an incredible debut album, Murmur (Rolling Stone's 1983 album of the year), an equally strong sophomore effort, Reckoning, and this dark, atmospheric third album, Fables of The Reconstruction. It was their last album before they began altering their sound on the way to superstardom.

When it was released, Fables was an absolute knock-out album, and with two MTV/radio friendly singles, "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8," was for many, including this reviewer, their first real introduction to REM. I fondly remember traveling up and down the California coast in the summer of 1985 listening to this album over and over on the car stereo.

Over the years, however, Fables has been viewed as a lesser REM album. There is a general perception that the band members do not like it, and I do recall reading one interview with the band that supported this perception. In the very brief, but fine, liner notes for this reissue, Peter Buck acknowledges, but disputes, this perception, and gives some insight into the difficult circumstances under which the album was made.

If I was asked to name REM's finest album, I'd probably say either Automatic For The People or Murmur. Reckoning and Out Of Time would also be up there. But as for my favorite REM album, it's Fables -- hands down.

Why is Fables so special? Fables has a special feel, it transports you to the rural south, at least the rural south of an era ago as conjured by the band, tells tales of the characters that live there (to the extent one can decipher the lyrics), and conveys a murky, dark, gothic feel, one that pervades the album. Moreover, the band experiments here with all sorts of instruments and sounds, including horns, strings and banjo. Peter Buck's playing may be simple, but it is simply majestic. Most importantly, the songwriting is absolutely first rate. You might not hear them on any greatest hits compilations, but "Maps and Legends," "Good Advices" and "Wendell Gee" are amongst the finest tunes the band has written. "Green Grow The Rushes," "Life and How To Live It" and "Kohoutek" are also terrific. Contrary to what has been written elsewhere, this is one REM album that is great to listen to from start to finish.

So what about this reissue? It's a two disc set, one disc featuring a remastered version of the original album and a second disc containing demos of album tracks and three bonus tracks recorded in Athens before the band left for England to record the album with producer Joe Boyd. The disc containing the original album is housed in a solid cardboard replica of the original album jacket and the second disc is housed in a similar, but black and white, sleeve. Also included is an actual full-sized (not kidding) poster for the album, several postcard type pictures of the band members from the original album and a somewhat sparse booklet that includes the original album sleeve text, pictures and the aforementioned liner notes authored by Peter Buck. The whole package is housed in a very, very solid box (good tactile feel), the top and bottom of which feature the front and back, respectively, of the original album. Although more extensive liner notes would have been welcome, cosmetically this is one damn nice deluxe edition.

Of course, packaging is nice, but what about the sound? I'm happy to report that with this remaster, Fables has never sounded better, however, it is much louder than the initial release of Fables on CD, likely the product of sound compression. Having said that, the music seems to just burst from the speakers. The sound has been cleaned up and you can actually decipher many of the lyrics now. While some of the murkiness has been lifted, the mood of the album is still there. Just throw this CD on, crank it up and you will be transported.

The second disc of demos is primarily of interest for fans only. It offers an interesting glimpse of the band's rough final run through of the album's tunes. Without the layers of sound later added, the lyrics and instrumentation are much clearer. Many of the performances are terrific. The three bonus tracks, "Bandwagon" (a very good tune), "Hyena" (later to appear on the band's fourth album, Life's Rich Pageant) and "Throw Those Trolls Away" (not available elsewhere), are a nice addition. While some might have preferred a concert recording, as was included in the Murmur and Reckoning deluxe reissues, I can report that the one 1985 show I attended was not a strong one, and perhaps these studio recordings made for a better option.

In sum -- price aside -- this is one of my favorite reissues, and is by far my favorite REM CD release. Musically, sonically (subject, however, to the above caveat about loudness) and cosmetically, this is terrific."
Good remastering of a great album. So-so bonus disc & cumbe
P. J. Owen | Atlanta GA USA | 07/17/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"For many REM fans who were on-board in the 80's, nothing that came later compares to their early stuff, especially the first four full-length albums. For them, the collective Murmur, Reckoning, Fables, and Pageant, IS REM. These albums represent REM in its most artistically vibrant state, when Peter's Southern jangle was still fresh and Michael's lyrics were still puzzles even after (IF) you figured out the words.

I am one of these fans. I love each of those albums with an intensity that is unmatched, even by any album of U2's, my other favorite band. But for all that, Fables of the Reconstruction is my favorite.

I discovered Fables when I was twenty and going through an existential crisis of a sort, and it made an emotional connection to me over all the others that I cannot ignore. I read later that Michael was going through the same thing when writing and recording it, so perhaps that is why this album resonated so much with me. Or maybe it was just timing: I discovered it just as I was looking for something to connect to. Regardless, it's filled with great songs: `Driver 8', `Life and How to Live It', `Green Grow the Rushes', `Kahoutek'. But `Good Advices' is my favorite. To me, they are Michael's best lyrics, combining his usual riddles (When you greet a stranger/ Look at their shoes/ Keep your money in your shoes) with what seems to me to be his most personal words to that point "At the end of the day/ I'll forget your name/ I'd like it here if I could leave/ And see you from a long way away." That's a poignant lyric for a shy young man to hear, and even now, it still has an impact on me.

Musically, as has been pointed out since 1985, it is uneven. Half the songs sound as if they were recorded at the bottom of a murky lake, as if they were played normal speed and then slowed down. (`Maps and Legends', `Old Man Kensey', `Green Grow the Rushes', `Kohoutek', and `Good Advices') The other half sound as if they were recorded in real time and then sped up. (`Driver 8', `Life and How to Live It', `Can't Get There From Here', and `Auctioneer') The album is restrained and disconnected in a way, with songs that seem to be searching for an identity. But there is a barely obscured emotional intensity that ties all the songs together, making the album work as a whole. Only once does the intensity came up from the depths, on `Feeling Gravity's Pull', my least favorite song on the album, but one that fits at the head of this album perfectly, almost as a warning of what is to come.

The album itself is five stars, but this review is for the 25th anniversary package. If you're reading this, I assume you probably already own and love Fables.

First, the re-mastering is excellent. The songs now sparkle, they have more punch. And it may be my imagination, but we may even be able to hear Michael's lyrics better. So the re-mastering is four stars.

What about the extras and total package? Is it worth the $25 you'll shell out for it?

Unlike the Murmur and Reckoning anniversary additions, this one doesn't come with a live album but instead has a demo CD. This is the demo tape the band prepared before flying to London to record Fables. As demo tapes go, this is excellent material. The band was obviously well-prepared for the coming recording sessions. All the songs from Fables are here in a tight form but with a rawer sound, almost as if they were playing in your garage. Most songs are presented fundamentally the same as they would on the final product, with just a few exceptions, like "Gravity", which showcases a martial drumbeat here. In addition, we get "Bandwagon", which ended up on Dead Letter Office, "Hyena", which ended up on "Pageant", and "Throw Those Trolls Away", which is previously unreleased but sounds (lyrically anyway) like an early version of "I Believe". So even though the quality was quite good (or perhaps because of it), this demo tape is basically like listening to the album a second time, in a different order. It was cool to listen to it twice, but I can't imagine myself listening to it much again. Whereas I listen to the live discs that came with Murmur and Reckoning all the time. So I must say I preferred the live bonus discs on the previous two anniversary additions to this demo CD.

The packaging is different from those other packages as well. Murmur and Reckoning came in a fold out package from which you could easily remove the CDs. This edition comes in a lift-top box, not unlike the recent U2 anniversary packages, in which there are inner sleeves for each disc and bonus material. Here, we get brief but informative liner notes from Peter Buck, postcards of each band member, and a HUGE poster. Again, I preferred the packaging on the previous anniversary editions, which came without the postcards and poster- extras I'll never touch again- but with signifcantly more liner notes.

So overall, I'm afraid I have to give it three stars. I'm not sure this was worth $25. I was pleased with the Murmur and Reckoning anniversary editions, and felt I got my money's worth. Not so this time. If you're someone who enjoys demos tapes and have a deep interest in hearing what the songs sounded like in draft form, you might find this package worth your while. Or, if you're such a huge fan that dropping $25 for anything relating to REM is worth it, you might as well. Still, for my part I hope they go back to the live disc for next year's "Pageant" edition.