Got my copy of R.E.M.‘s “new” double CD, Unplugged 1991/2001, this week. It helps confirm why R.E.M. were America’s greatest group, ever. Indeed, one of the big regrets of my gig-going life is having to give up my ticket for the group’s 1991 MTV invite-only performance, though at least my future wife got to attend in my absence. The band were at the absolute peak of their creativity at this point, as evidenced by the fact that the song featured below, ‘Fretless,’ didn’t even make it onto that year’s “breakthrough” album, Out Of Time. In fact, for most everyone, I believe, this performance would have been the first time they had heard ‘Fretless.’ It is staggeringly beautiful.
And while I would posit that R.E.M. were just about at their nadir a decade later, in 2001, when they returned to MTV to promote the album Reveal, this later Unplugged performance thankfully takes in all manner of back catalogue, and highlights several songs from Reveal’s grossly under-rated predecessor Up. My R.E.M. collection is becoming dangerously crowded with official live CDs, not all of which merited the expense; this Unplugged double-pack takes pride of place.