R.E.M.’s five years on indie label I.R.S. were perhaps the most important half-decade of the alt-rock pioneers career, a period that saw them graduate from playing 300-person clubs to headlining college arenas, thanks to seminal albums like 1983’s Murmur and 1985’s Fables of the Reconstruction.
In an effort to honor the retired band’s early legacy (and to get people to buy these records again, of course), Capitol Records (the owner of the I.R.S. catalogue) has recently been reissuing 25th Anniversary Deluxe Editions of all five albums R.E.M. recorded for the label. The final addition to this collection was made Tuesday with the re-release of 1987’s Document, which packages the original LP, best known for hits like “The One I Love” “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” with a bonus live disc and several other goodies.
Like the reissues of Fables and 1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant, Document comes in a square box that lifts up to reveal each disc enclosed in its own slipcase, a set of expanded liner notes, four postcards (featuring promo shots of each band member) and a fold-out poster (destined for my future man cave). Simply put, it’s a remarkable packaging job.
However, the Document deluxe edition trades an extra disc of album demos and previously-unheard songs (included with the previous two releases) for a professional recording of the band’s September 1987 show in Utrecht, Holland. Considering that we won’t be getting any new R.E.M. material for a long time, if ever again, I was initially disappointed that the new reissue didn’t feature any recently-unearthed studio gems. That feeling was gone once I clicked “play” on disc two, which captures the band just two weeks after the release of Document and features live renditions of most of the album’s best cuts and stellar versions of other R.E.M. staples.
Bassist Mike Mills has previously noted that neither the 1987 rarities collection Dead Letter Office nor 1988 best-of album Eponymous will get the deluxe treatment (although this blog has their own ideas). Warner has already re-released eight of the 10 albums R.E.M. recorded for them as deluxe editions, and since a career-spanning best-of package just came out last fall, it might be awhile before there’s another official R.E.M. release.
When the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers signed with major label Warner Brothers following the release Document, old fans began to yearn for the bygone era where Mills, singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and drummer Bill Berry would crisscross the country by van, not bus and plane. I wouldn’t be born for another two years, but I kind of know the feeling now that I no longer have these deluxe reissues to look forward to every summer.
Peter Buck, your solo album can’t come soon enough.