At first I thought this was a despicable release, but then I remembered that I was a collecting freak with little else to do to occupy my time back in high school, and that someone who hadn’t lived my previous life might actually find much of value here. But I still sort of doubt it.
This is a collection of rarities from the band’s early years, as their first label, IRS (documented briefly in the last review) scrambled to find as many ways to make money off their rich former band. Some of these are genuinely rare versions of songs, and a bunch of them are widely available and could only possibly serve to pad out the tracklist without having to dig too far into the barrel of sheeny pickles (as Francie from A Tree Grows In Brooklyn put it in a painfully well-written passage early in the book). Particularly galling is the proportion of songs here that are also on the label’s very last R.E.M. release or on the compilation Eponymous, which stings painfully of moneygrubbing fansploitation.
Here’s what going on here, in track-by-track form:
1. The “Other Mix” of “Finest Worksong” (the one with the shitty but luckily sparse horn section!) that’s available on Eponymous as well as Singles Collected.
2. A live version of “Driver 8” that’s available only on a re-release. Good song, meaningless version, also recording in 1984 which is not at all from 1985-1989 you lying liars.
3. The “Different Vocal Mix” of “Gardening At Night” that’s widely available, for example on Eponymous. For what it’s worth, this is a superior version of an already great song.
4. 5. and 6. Are live acoustic versions of “Swan Swan H,” “Disturbance at the Heron House,” and “Maps and Legends.” The last two come across particularly well (“Swan Swan H” was already pretty acoustic), but “Maps and Legends” was on Singles Collected.
7. “Tired Of Singing Trouble,” a one-minute blues mumble that’s pretty great, though I already had dat shizz on a re-release.
8. “Just A Touch” Live in Studio, which is totally unnecessary because it is not a special song.
9. “Toys in the Attic,” a B-side available in about five other places.
10. A cover of “Dream (All I Have To Do)” that you might enjoy if you didn’t have the re-release it’s on, like I do.
11. A cracking live acoustic version of “The One I Love” from the same show as the three other live acoustic songs, which isn’t widely available (even though I had it because I’m pathetic).
12. The widely available B-side “Crazy”.
13. The Radio Edit of “Can’t Get There From Here,” which is only something you need if you don’t have Singles Collected and you really, really need to have CGTFH with half of the first verse cut out.
14. The widely available B-side “Last Date.”
15. The excellent live medley “Time After Time Etc.” that really gives you a nice eight minutes of joy, and is available on freakin’ Singles Collected.
So! A bunch of nice songs, but a muy unneeded release. Get it if you want to hear some sweet acoustic versions, but that’s all you’ll get here that you didn’t already have unless this is your first wade into early R.E.M. rarities, in which case you should buy Singles Collected, in which case you’ll have almost half of this album already.
7 / 10