Wednesday, July 11, 2012

R.E.M. 16: And I Feel Fine

It’s not clear why it happened when it did, but another R.E.M. collection appeared in 2006. With the bulky title And I Feel Fine… The Best Of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987, it appeared to be something of a part one to the Warner-era set from 2003. Like that set, it was available two ways. The single-disc version is basically an expansion of Eponymous, adding some deep cuts to the standard versions of all the tracks (and dropping “Romance”).
Naturally, the fans had to spring for the double-disc version, heavy on rarities, with a few genuine outtakes and live versions. Alternates of “Gardening At Night”, “Just A Touch”, “Hyena” and “Swan Swan H” had already floated in and out of circulation, while vintage takes of “Bad Day” and “All The Right Friends” appear to contrast the later Berry-less recordings on the Warner set. “Mystery To Me” was likely never finished due to its resemblance to both “Radio Free Europe” and The Jam’s “All Mod Cons”. Both sides of the original “Radio Free Europe”/“Sitting Still” single add additional perspective. Each of the boys also chose a personal favorite from their catalog: “Pilgrimage” (Mike), “These Days” (Bill), “Disturbance At The Heron House” (Peter) and “Time After Time” (Stipe), plus “King Of Birds”, apparently a strong contender for disc one. Each is annotated with liner notes by all four original band members, and much more enlightening than the gushy paragraphs contributed by “legendary” critic Anthony DeCurtis.
And I Feel Fine appeared on Capitol Records, but this wasn’t their first stab at an R.E.M. compilation. Back in 1997, after they acquired the rights to the I.R.S. catalog, the label put out a series of odd digipack artist collections to celebrate EMI’s centennial. In The Attic was incorrectly subtitled “Alternative Recordings 1985-1989”, and served up a smattering of B-sides and sundry. Two had already appeared on Dead Letter Office, and another two were on Eponymous; the rest were live versions, the pointless “radio edit” of “Cant Get There From Here”, a true rarity in “Tired Of Singing Trouble” and a wonderful “medley” of “Time After Time” and “So. Central Rain”, with a few lines from Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain”. As many of these were not included on And I Feel Fine, the R.E.M. catalog begins to get a tad unwieldy. An expanded Dead Letter Office would be an excellent place to stash these, but that’s not likely to happen.

R.E.M. And I Feel Fine… The Best Of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 (2006)—4

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