R.E.M.’s Reckoning re-issued; Basement Jaxx say “play with it”

“Conventional wisdom has it that second albums pose a problem, especially for those acts whose debut releases have enjoyed unanticipated success. But R.E.M. were never much concerned with following convention, and Reckoning, their 1984 follow-up to Murmur, served both to reinforce that record’s remarkable sense of promise and to confound expectations.”

Today, June 23rd, sees the release of the Deluxe Edition of R.E.M.’s superb 1984, second studio album, Reckoning. It would appear, then, to be a good day for me to alert readers to the fact that I wrote the sleeve notes for this re-issue. It was an honor to be hired for the task, and I had a lot of fun doing them. I’m not entirely convinced that R.E.M. devotees will glean anything new from them, but I trust that both the casual and committed fan will at least glean the context within which the album was recorded, and perhaps something more. The Reckoning deluxe edition comes with “a bonus disc of a previously unreleased concert recorded during the band’s Little America tour at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984.”

And both Reckoning and R.E.M.’s 1983 debut Murmur are being re-issued today in “180 Gram audiophile vinyl and original packaging.” This is, apparently, “the first time these two albums have been available on vinyl in decades” – unless,of course, you got a copy first time round, in which case they’ve been available whenever you felt like playing them. (You did keep your turntables, right?) On a less frivolous note, Reckoning has been re-mastered, as was Murmur last year for its own Deluxe Edition CD, and though the effect is not as dramatic as in that case, the sound is still notably improved from the previous set of CD masters. More about R.E.M. at iJamming! here.

R.E.M.’s Reckoning re-issued in Deluxe Edition today. More info at R.E.M. HQ

And if today is June 23rd, that means that yesterday, June 22nd, Basement Jaxx released their new single “Raindrops” – in the UK (only) – and promptly made the entire remix package available online as an embedable player that I have included at the bottom of this post. The stream-it-now-hope-people-buy-it-later concept seems to be especially common in dance music right now (you can stream the new Freeland album via iJamming! here; Moby’s new album Wait For Me is available for advance airing at NPR’s First Listen, and so on), but what I especially like about the Jaxx embedded player is the “play-with-it” option. Click that button and the various remixes come at you in Cubase/ProTools/regular software style fashion, and you can jump from one to the other with a click of the button; the software does an excellent job of smoothing over any unseemly transitions. I’ve fallen out of touch with the Jaxx over the years, which may be a reflection on my own life(style), or their own musical output, or simply the fact that their most recent records have not been seeing American release. It’s nice to remake their acquaintance… And while you can hear “Raindrops” for free, here and now, until you get sick of it, the purchase price – £5 for CD, 12″ and bonus download mix – seems more than fair. I love the new paradigm.

(Fond memories of Basement Jaxx as post 9/11 uplift here.)

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