(Don't Go Back To) Rockville**Previously Unreleased
Reckoning "confirms R.E.M. as one of the most beautifully exciting groups on the planet." wrote NME in 1984. R.E.M.'s second full-length album also prompted The Washington Post to proclaim that "there isn't an American ban... more »d worth following more than R.E.M." Twenty-five years later, Reckoning remains a fan favorite for capturing R.E.M. during the youthful freshness of a new, fiercely independent American music scene. The two-CD Reckoning - Deluxe Edition features the original album remastered plus a bonus disc of a previously unreleased concert recorded during the band's Little America tour at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984 and broadcast on WXRT. On the Deluxe Edition's bonus disc, the group not only performs eight of Reckoning's ten songs, "Gardening At Night" from 1982's Chronic Town EP and "Radio Free Europe," "9-9" and "Sitting Still" from Murmur but also new songs that had yet to make it onto tape: "Driver 8" would later debut on R.E.M.'s third album and "Hyena" on its fourth.« less
Reckoning "confirms R.E.M. as one of the most beautifully exciting groups on the planet." wrote NME in 1984. R.E.M.'s second full-length album also prompted The Washington Post to proclaim that "there isn't an American band worth following more than R.E.M." Twenty-five years later, Reckoning remains a fan favorite for capturing R.E.M. during the youthful freshness of a new, fiercely independent American music scene. The two-CD Reckoning - Deluxe Edition features the original album remastered plus a bonus disc of a previously unreleased concert recorded during the band's Little America tour at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984 and broadcast on WXRT. On the Deluxe Edition's bonus disc, the group not only performs eight of Reckoning's ten songs, "Gardening At Night" from 1982's Chronic Town EP and "Radio Free Europe," "9-9" and "Sitting Still" from Murmur but also new songs that had yet to make it onto tape: "Driver 8" would later debut on R.E.M.'s third album and "Hyena" on its fourth.
American rock at the crossroads
Garbageman | the other side of California | 06/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A couple of universal arguments before considering this release:
1. The entire IRS catalog of REM albums including the "Chronic Town" EP, with the exception of only a handful of songs buried on later albums, is pretty much untouchable in the pantheon of American independent rock. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either 14 or younger, or was listening exclusively to Spandau Ballet and Visage at the time.
2. "Dead Letter Office" exists for a reason, and I'm happy it does. Maybe it'll be beefed up and reissued later, maybe not; but REM decided not to clutter their original albums in re-released form with supplementary distractions, and it was a good decision. I don't want to hear "White Tornado" after "Little America", nor do I need it on a second CD for chronological or historical reasons.
3. The live REM show attached to this reissue is astounding. It's even more powerful than the stellar show attached to "Murmur". Had it stood alone as its own release I would have considered it one of their best releases ever. I've had this classic show for a long time on cassette, and we used to tease it was a punk band playing an REM set. It's so brutal and powerful and direct and honest, you'd think this was a band with 10 confident years under their belt.
So if you buy those general arguments about the package, then you might also share my outlook on the content: "Reckoning" is the most REM of REM albums. It contains some of their most profound moments: "Rockville"'s elegantly Southern piano, the accents of bells, chimes, and found objects in "Camera" and "Time After Time" (thanks, Mitch & Don), "7 Chinese Brothers"' byzantine clang, the chorus in "Letter Never Sent", and the insane urgency of "Pretty Persuasion", where Michael's lyrics disintegrate into total chaos because they have nowhere to go. It also contains what might be their very best single song (next to "Fall On Me", personally): "So. Central Rain", which has no equal in the "dark REM song" category and would preview an even darker album to follow. There's a general vibe of anything-goes on "Reckoning", a way of seeing that seldom works with bands who don't have a clue what they're doing other than what they already know. In REM's case by this time, they were defining who they were, and came out with a picture-perfect set which laid the foundation for blah blah blah. This is easily one of the most essential albums of the 80's, and if it isn't their finest hour, it's certainly their most confident. That such confidence came so quickly, and was so bright and passionate and intense that it started a revolution, is evidence of its excellence. "
I reckon this reissue is worthwhile to pick up since we have
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 07/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Elvis Costello once suggested that much of the music of the 1980's was a wasteland. One band and album I'm sure he wasn't referring to was REM and "Reckoning".
I'm not sure if "Reckoning" is REM's finest moment but it certainly is ONE of their finest albums. The band's second album (not counting their EP "Chronic Town")found them expanding on the sound from their "Chronic Town" EP and "Murmur" album giving us more with less--the arrangements are more direct and the performances even more energetic than their debut album. Veering towards Americana and all of its variety in the sounds on the album, "Reckoning" marked a major step forward for one of America's most important bands to come out of the 80's.
Greg Calbi's mastering improves on the original CD in some ways but isn't quite as strong as the limited edition Gold CD that Mobile Fidelity put out a decade ago. Detail is clearer but the album is noticeably louder than previous editions diminishing both the dynamic range and occasionally the power of some songs. That said, "Reckoning" sounds extremely good even if it was compromised somewhat during the mastering process (Calbi tried to keep as much dynamics as possible but keep in mind he was a hired hand and had to do what his bosses asked him to do). Michael Stipe's lyrics are as cryptic as ever but also a bit clearer. Mike Mills' ("Don't Go Back)To Rockville" (a song that Mills wrote for a girlfriend at while still in college)got reworked for the album at a more leisurely time signature creating a hit when it appeared on college radio in 1984.
The real gem here though is the second disc of a live performance. Although it is missing a couple of the tracks that have appeared on bootlegs that have circulated for years, it's a very good concert performance with the band on fire with energetic readings of material from their first, second and even one track each from what would be their third and fourth albums. Opening with The Velvet Underground "Femme Fatale" the band then jumps into their first single "Radio Free Europe" and finally closes with a powerful reading of ("Don't Go Back)To Rockville)"
EDIT: Just a note on Michael Stipe's singing. A couple of people have complained that he's off-key here on a number of tracks. Yep. This is a warts and all concert. The performance of the band itself is electrifying but the purpose of including this concert was to show how the band WAS during this tour and we get an accurate picture of that. They could have cleaned up the vocal using Pro-Tools and let Michael redub his signing. Instead, the band chose to let it stand warts and all. That's what I love about R.E.M.--like The Band they never apologize for their mistakes just present the music as it is/was and let the fans decide if its worthwhile to pick up their music. Personally, I kind of find it charming as this was only their second album and second major tour (not counting the "Chronic Town" EP of course).
END OF EDIT:
My only complaint is that the original album was short enough to allow the inclusion of the some of the singles included on the import version released a couple of years ago. That edition included "Windout", "Moon River", another version of "Pretty Persuasion" recorded live in the studio and "Tighten Up" the classic song originally recorded by Archie Bell and the Drells. It would have made this collection a bit more complete. Yes, I realize that many of these songs appeared on the collection "And I Feel Fine" but the mastering there by David McEowen was less than ideal.
The packaging is typical for these "Deluxe Editions" where the CD packaging fits inside a slipcase. There is also a fold out "booklet" that includes an essay on the recording of the album and a full color album sized poster of the original album cover on the flip side. Overall, this is a fine set with a nice remaster done by Calbi and if you factor in the concert I reckon you'll probably want to pick up this classic album again."
Take A Left Turn To Little America
PHILIP S WOLF | SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA. USA | 06/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"By 1984, the path of popular music was an eight lane toll road of synthesizers and drum machines. Angry drivers, were not even paying attention to where they were going. There was no soul or any answers at the end of this highway....To be outta control and speeding to the beat, meant you were in the center of nothing. In all this emptiness, you at last, were surrounded by everyone else, blind to the beautiful view all around them, as if they were machines from a science fiction movie....1984.
From a back country path deep in the South, along comes R.E.M. This band of light and energy crossed the highway so quickly and headed back into the woods, that hardly anyone payed them any attention. I was lucky to have seen them cross the interstate, and I went exploring in the woods, searching for answers.
Deep into a green forest, I found guitars and drums and words that became strange shapes and forms. Everything else was on the outside of the woods, nothing else was as important as this. I abandoned the eighties, as something better was to be found in this forest....Here, I found hope.
"Reckoning" is my favorite album from R.E.M. This record, rocks as much as it talks. "Pretty Persuation" "Harborcoat" "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" "7 Chinese Brothers" "Second Guessing" & "So. Central Rain" are enough music to fill a Greatest Hits record, from any other band. The surprise here is that this is only a second full album of songs from a band that had been touring the South, in a station wagon playing crazy gigs anywhere that would have them.
The sound has improved to the original record, and that in itself is a big deal. But at last the Chicago show that was broadcast in July 1984 (and bootlegged to death) gives us a listen to R.E.M's part of that night from the Aragon Ballroom. Opening act, The Dream Syndicate, released their set in 1984 as: "This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album...Live!" Everything, that Reckoning was on vinyl, all but erupts in concert. Early R.E.M. was a touring band of faith-healers looking for converts in every town in their path. The entire show is not on this disc, but enough is here to prove to the world, what a few already knew...R.E.M. were young and spiky, but seasoned and professional, all at the same time.
As R.E.M. was the bridge from the 1960's into the 1980's, this band effected the music that would blast forth from Seattle in the early 1990's. This record, is as important as it is fun to experience. "Reckoning" is best album of the eighties. FIVE STARS!!!"
Reckoning - The Deluxe Off-Key Edition
Joao Nunes | Portugal | 06/29/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With this second chapter of R.E.M. Deluxe Editions, a pattern seems to be established: each album is going to be backed by a concert cd. Fair enough. R.E.M. have always been a strong live act. This choice, however debatable (read my Murmur Deluxe Ed. review to see my point of view), may turn out quite interesting.
But first things first. Reckoning may not be as special as Murmur, but it is an equally strong album. The songwriting is not very different but while Murmur was more textured and dreamy, Reckoning is rawer and more down-to-earth. It has more of a live feel to it.
I never got much into the exquisite Harbour Coat but after that it's a 5 star album all the way. The beautiful So. Central Rain is arguably the album's finest song but I think that it is a couple of fast rocking tracks that best represent the core of Reckoning, namely Pretty Persuasion and Little America (or even Second Guessing) - there is an urgency and energy on them that you cannot find in Murmur.
This edition sounds better than my old copy but the improvement is not as big as the one achieved on Murmur. Though this is something that should be expected, after all Murmur has a lot more subtleties to bring to life on a remaster. As a bonus this first cd recovers the little instrumental jam at the end of Little America that was on the original vinyl and which I had forgotten about.
The live cd features another fiery performance by the band that will satisfy most die hard fans - after all, these Deluxe Editions are aimed at them. And I am a big R.E.M. fan but now I have to take a step back. If the concert that backed Murmur had a few flaws here and there, this one has a bigger problem. Michael Stipe is sooooo off-key on too many songs that it is painful to listen to them. Pretty Persuasion, the beginning of So. Central Rain... these are just not up to the minimum standards you should expect on a Deluxe Edition. I could bear it on a bootleg, I would even buy the bootleg, but this is a Deluxe Edition. I mean, my wife and children complained about this, they begged me to turn it off. How can I defend this? There is no possible argument.
I've got several live bootlegs by R.E.M. and I know they are a great live band, but if we are going to have the rest of the IRS catalogue backed by "full concert" live recordings, the people responsible for choosing the material must start having some quality criteria. Sometimes it's better to leave a couple of songs out of the list because these recordings don't do any good to R.E.M. reputation."