Plenty of classic albums receive the “reissue” treatment, but few are as worthy as the early R.E.M. catalogue. Sounding brighter than ever, the band released its Murmur Deluxe Edition last year followed now by the Reckoning Deluxe Edition, a one-two punch that invented alternative rock and thrust the Athens, Georgia quartet to the scene’s forefront.
When released 25 years ago, Reckoning met mixed reviews; however, it was reflective of a growing depth in the band’s songwriting. The themes that play out across the 10 tracks are marked by more mature – often gloomy – subject matter, evidenced in “Camera” about a friend of the band who was killed in a car accident. Like Murmur, Reckoning had its share of hits, including the defining tracks "Pretty Persuasion" and "(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville." Interestingly, the album remains incredibly relevant, and is as poignant today as it was upon its release in 1984, the song craft an undeniable force in this still-young band.
The R.E.M. Deluxe Editions – both Murmur and Reckoning – succeed beyond polished versions of the original albums, due to sound and the accompanying live show taken from the period of each release. In the case of Reckoning, the band includes a show from the Little America Tour, recorded July 7, 1984 at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. The band crashes through the majority of the album, while touching on compositions from past (“Gardening at Night,” “9-9”) and future (“Hyena,” “Driver 8”) albums.The group sounds tight, offering well-executed readings before an audibly receptive crowd.
R.E.M. is setting a stellar precedence with its Deluxe Edition series. Reckoning offers a celebration of one of rock and rolls great albums, while spotlighting a band growing into its skin both in the studio and on the stage. This is more than a welcome visit to an old friend; this is a study of a band on the cusp of superstardom.
Reckoning Deluxe Edition is out now on IRS/A&M/UMe.