R.E.M.
Murmur (Deluxe Edition) 2CD - I.R.S. / Universal Music Group

Music fans have grown accustomed to the reissue abuse in recent years perpetrated by so many record companies and even artists themselves, but certainly not all labels and artists taking the re-release path are guilty of greed or exploitation. While some reissues are not worth purchasing (e.g. Elvis Costello's 1977-1986 catalog on Hip-O), others actually warrant acquisition (e.g. Ramones on Rhino). Obviously, the main attraction with this "deluxe edition" of Murmur is the inclusion of unreleased material, which is provided via the second of the two discs here. This debut album by R.E.M. was originally released in 1983, shortly after their Chronic Town EP (1982). The first disc here features the original 12-track album, completely remastered - an upgrade that is much appreciated, considering that the audio quality of previous digital versions suffered considerably. If there is one gripe to be had about this release, however, especially when taking the $30 price tag into consideration, is that R.E.M. and I.R.S./Universal easily could have included the Chronic Town EP as well as the Hib-Tone single of "Radio Free Europe" (1981) on the first disc. Instead, the bonus material offered here, apart from some liner notes in the booklet, consists entirely of a previously unreleased concert recording from July 1983 at Larry's Hideaway in Toronto, Canada. The live material alone is sure to get the longtime R.E.M. faithful to shell out deflated U.S. dollars, despite buying Murmur for the 13th time. Indeed, the commercial release of this concert material gives fans a chance to hear R.E.M. perform live in their earliest days. The set showcases the band in their most honest, pure form - raw, adventurous, and loose. The band performs all but three tracks from Murmur, as well as four tracks from Dead Letter Office, two tracks off Reckoning, and one track from Life's Rich Pageant. Heck, the only thing missing is "Wendell Gee" off Fables of the Reconstruction. Note: Reckoning is next in line for the "deluxe edition" treatment; it is due out this June, featuring an unreleased 1984 Chicago concert. (Justin Kyer)
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