Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: R.E.M. “Automatic for the people”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: R.E.M.
Album Title: Automatic for the people
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: 25th anniversary, 180 gram vinyl

The skinny: Unlike the focus of last week’s ‘Vinyl love’ post in this mini R.E.M. series, there was no hesitation in pulling the pre-order trigger when the 25th anniversary vinyl reissue of the band’s eighth studio album was announced. Much like the other two we’ve seen thus far, it was pressed to 180 gram vinyl and remastered, this time from the original analog masters, and man, does it sound great. “Automatic for the people” was recorded by the band while its predecessor was still climbing the pop charts and further making the band a household name. This one also did very well critically and commercially but it’s noticeably darker and in my mind, more cohesive. “Automatic” is, without comparison, my favourite R.E.M. album. Each side is perfectly balanced. I love every tune. There are no weak links. I have spun it countless times since I received it in the post almost five years ago and I imagine it will forever remain the record by this band that will hit my turntable the most.

Standout track: “Nightswimming”

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #51 The Wonder Stuff with Vic Reeves “Dizzy”

<< #52    |    #50 >>

I probably don’t need to say it again but I will anyways.

Back when I was in high school, right up to my first couple of years of university, I was a veritable Wonder Stuff nut. I loved everything they released and got super excited any time I ever heard them on alternative radio or when one of their videos popped up on MuchMusic’s “CityLimits” or “The Wedge” alternative video shows.

So when I read one day at some point in 1992 or 1993 that they were going to be featured on that same channel’s “Spotlight” show, I made sure to be ready and waiting with a blank videocassette tape and my VCR. The idea of a whole half hour of my favourite band’s music videos had me salivating in anticipation.

It was here that I got music video copies of pretty much all of The Wonder Stuff’s singles but the real treat for me was the final video. It was a cover of Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy”, a song I knew well from various road trips in my parents’ car. Of course, being from a small town in Canada, I had never heard tell of British comedian, Vic Reeves, nor his frequent collaborator, Bob Mortimer, so I did wonder at the jaunty gentleman taking on the lion’s share of the vocal duties in place of my erstwhile hero, Miles Hunt. The video had the band performing in front of stacks of washing machines while Hunt and Reeves played a little Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner antics while vying for turns at the microphone. Needless to say, this was the portion of the cassette tape that I rewound and replayed the most. I would later procure another way to play and replay this song and give this videocassette a rest when I went and bought a CD copy of “If the Beatles had read Hunter”, the singles collection released a few months after the group had called it quits.

Roe’s 1969 original was a huge hit in both Europe and North America and has been covered a number of times over the years. As I mentioned above, I was already quite familiar with it because my father always had the radio tuned to the ‘oldies’ station in the car and I’m reasonably sure the song was on one of the TimeLife compilations my mother had on cassette. What I didn’t know when I was younger was that Roe had enlisted the help of the infamous session group, The Wrecking Crew, to provide the backing orchestration and Jimmie Haskell to do the string arrangements that the Stuffies’ fiddler Martin Bell would later kick up a notch and make his own. Indeed, I was surprised when after years of listening to the Vic Reeves and The Wonder Stuff cover, at how laid back and mellow the original was. In my mind, it was more upbeat, much like this punchy cover.

It may not surprise you at which version I’m going to go with here. The original to me just seems too crisp and clinical to these ears now. The cover is messier and dirtier, Gilks’s drumming is just that much funkier, and Reeves’ growl matches Hunt’s typical snarl, and it all just spells a heck of a lot of fun.

Cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: R.E.M. “Monster”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: R.E.M.
Album Title: Monster
Year released: 1994
Year reissued: 2019
Details: 25th anniversary, 180 gram vinyl

The skinny: Working backwards chronologically through my collection of R.E.M.’s records from last week’s post, we arrive with a jarring rip and roar at their 9th studio album. It’s yet another 25th anniversary reissue and it won’t be the last as we make our way in reverse. As I recall, I purchased this record online through Amazon, back when I still trusted them to ship me vinyl in one piece and back when it was still possible to purchase records for under $25. To be honest, I almost didn’t buy this one when the reissue was first announced and can’t remember now what changed my mind. But I am glad I did. It is remastered and pressed to 180 gram vinyl and sounds way better than I remember it sounding when I first played the CD copy I purchased back in university. “Monster” was an obvious shift for the Athens, Georgia quartet to a more harder rock sound and got them dusting off the cobwebs and heading out on the road for their first tour in five years. I personally didn’t see them on that particular tour but listening to these songs yet again, I can only imagine how on fire they must’ve been.
Standout track: “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”