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Two solid Unplugged performances
on 19 May 2014
When R.E.M. recorded the first of their two MTV Unplugged sessions, in 1991, they were well on their way to becoming the biggest band in the world, helped by the success of that year's album, Out of Time, and the single "Losing My Religion". And with the group deciding not to tour the album, this MTV performance, along with a few low scale gigs, did the job for them.
Fast forward ten years, and the first cracks were beginning to show. Although their popularity in the US was declining, they were still a headline act in Europe and that years album, Reveal, gained pretty decent reviews. But it was a fairly downward curve from there on, ending with the three surviving members calling it a day in 2011.
Rewinding back, the 1991 session is understandably heavily dominated by Out of Time. Since it had a very acoustic feel, the songs need few adjustments to adapt them to the Unplugged format. Also scattered throughout the set are some older favourites, such as "Perfect Circle", "Fall on Me" and the Troggs' "Love Is All Around".
The 2001 session draws on a generous selection from Reveal, but there's also a good number of older songs. "Country Feedback" from Out of Time, a strange omission from the 1991 session, is a particular highlight here and it's also interesting to see that this isn't a particularly hit-packed play-list. Some of the more familiar songs from the R.E.M. back catalogue, such as "Man on the Moon" and "Everybody Hurts", are omitted - in favour of more obscure fare, such as "Cuyahoga" from the 1986 album Lifes Rich Pageant.
Although far from an essential release, R.E.M. Unplugged is a decent snapshot of the band at two very different times in their career. A third disc, with the MTV performances on DVD, is a surprising omission - but this double CD is still well worth a listen.