||From the Vault...
"Dead Letter Office"
© I.R.S. Inc. Records
Year of Release: 1987
There She Goes Again
Voice Of Harold
Toys In The Attic
Ages Of You
Pale Blue Eyes
King Of The Road
Gardening At Night
Carnival Of Sorts
R.E.M. related sites:
"Dead Letter Office"
Throughout the course of music history, many artists and groups record
many songs for an album. And in most cases, some songs are shelved, not making
a major release, due so that they didn't fit, or just didn't sound right.
(Bruce Springsteen is famous for this; recording many songs but only some make
it on a release.) R.E.M's 1987 release, Dead Letter Office are songs
recorded that were not on major albums, instead, they are B-side singles and
outtakes that were unavailable on any R.E.M. release, prior to 1987.
"Crazy" and "Burning Down" have the early R.E.M. sound,
and the notes on each song are quite interesting... "Burning Down" ...
This is another early song that we just got tired of. (I can relate to
this; being in a band some years ago... Being in a band, you play certain
songs that are exceptional, you play them over and over, and it does get tiring.)
"Voice Of Harold" (an outtake from their album Reckoning) has
the R.E.M. sound, yet it is a bit different for vocalist Michael Stipe's
voice -- it's a bit lower, and is more of a narrative song, that such bands
as U2 have recorded.
Having a much harder rock edge, "Burning Hell" was an outtake from
Fables of the Reconstruction, and even though you can tell its R.E.M.,
this song's sound has a more hard rock sound, with more edge and grit.
Hmmm, "White Tornado" is quite an interesting instrumental, as it
has a somewhat punk rock sound that meets surf music. You can vaguely hear
the guitar riff from The Chantays' "Pipeline", as this song was recorded
at the time around their first album, Murmur.
"Windout" has a somewhat sound that many 1960s psychedelic bands
recorded. It was meant for their second album Reckoning, yet according
to their notes on this song, I think that it would fit on Reckoning very
well, but at the time we decided not to include it.
If you like R.E.M.'s song "Radio Free Europe," then you'll enjoy
"Ages Of You." As you hear this song, you can't help but wait to hear
the familiar verses and chorus to "Radio Free Europe," where this song
could be a nice medley. Like "Burning Down," this was a song that R.E.M.
was tired of.
Now "Rotary Ten" is ultimately different -- another instrumental,
it's jazzy, and could easily be a great movie soundtrack song for a James Bond
film. R.E.M.'s notes on this one: A movie theme without a movie. Outtake
from Life's Rich Pageant. "Bandwagon" is another outtake from
Fables of the Reconstruction, yet it could of fit Reckoning, or
a future album, Document. "Walters Theme" is a jumpy instrumental,
having the familiar guitar sounds heard only on R.E.M. songs (courtesy of
guitarist Peter Buck).
Another great topic to discuss is how a band would record their own versions
by other well-known artists before them. The Velvet Underground's "There
She Goes Again" is featured here by R.E.M., and it is a great cover version
of Lou Reed's band. Another cover of Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, "Pale
Blue Eyes" is a ballad, and features some very nice electric guitar, easy
going style, and easily matches the 1960s style. "Femme Fatale" is
another Velvet Underground cover, and is as sweet as their cover of "Pale
Blue Eyes." Aerosmith's "Toys In The Attic" is also featured, and
is another good cover tune. It seems that the tapes were rolling when R.E.M.
were playing Roger Miller's King Of The Road." There are interrupted
instrument warm-ups at the beginning, and as the notes say for this cover
version, Supposing that they had any shame they would have never allowed
this little gem see the light of the day. The band was probably having
some fun (during a very end of a long alcohol soaked day) and was
experimenting with other well-known music.
"Wolves Lower" sounds like a song that could of fit R.E.M.'s first
album, as it has the sound similar to "Radio Free Europe." "Gardening
At Night" is another good early R.E.M. song, and could have easily fit any
of the albums past released, likewise "Carnival Of Sorts (Box Cars),"
and "Stumble." "1,000,000." sounds like a song from the
time of their first album, and could of easily fit on Murmur.
Listening to songs that were shelved for major release albums is always a
treat. Some of these songs are considered a "no-fit" for an album, therefore
some songs are either shelved or released as B-sides for hit singles. This
album, according to the notes, is not a record to be taken too seriously,
it's not an album release, it's a series of outtakes and B-sides gathered
throughout R.E.M.'s first four albums. Given a chance, some of these songs
could of been regular favorites. These songs are given a second turnaround,
as Dead Letter Office proves once again, that the music of R.E.M. is not
to be ignored; R.E.M. is one of the best bands to come out of the late 1980s.
Treat this album as an "major" release or not, it's still a great album
for the common to die-hard fan of R.E.M.
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