The Best of R.E.M. At The BBC Shines With Band’s Strongest British Broadcasting Performances (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Although we may be well removed from R.E.M.’s final offering either on stage or in the studio, it’s obvious that these four indie rock icons are still an indelible influence on today’s alternative ethos. What better reminder could come along then a collection of the band’s best performances on the BBC, recorded live at various times throughout the ‘90s and at selected intervals in the 2000s up to the time of their break-up.

Like most BBC compilations, the sound quality is uniformly excellent regardless of whether the performances were recorded in the studio or at some outdoor festival event like Glastonbury in particular. The compilers deserve credit keeping the source sets grouped together rather than scattering the recordings haphazardly throughout the discs as is often seems the case. As a result, the listener gets a general sense of the feel and the flow. Likewise, where the BBC recordings often seem to be more replications of the original recordings.

That said, the songs one would expect to hear are here — “Fall On Me,” “The One I Love,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Losing My Religion, “Man on the Moon,” and “Its the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” chief among them — but what’s especially surprising is the fact that these live renditions sound so much more effusive and energetic than the original recordings. That’s no small accomplishment, but it also makes this more than simply another rote best of. It also ought to spur interest from the collector, the completist and even the newcomer, regardless of whether one chooses the two-disc set or the more expensive multi-disc box.

Gone but not forgotten, R.E.M. get a new opportunity for renewed appreciation on what undoubtedly ranks as one of their best compilations to date. and one well worth acquiring as well.

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