At first blush, this might appear to be a quickie live album from a veteran band, keeping the fans happy with a little product while they figure out what to do next. But digging a little deeper yields an interesting story. Their output in the 2000's was seen as a series of diminishing returns. So in preparation for their latest studio album, Accelerate, they did five concerts to preview the material and work out the kinks. Having fresh material which was at a very high level and a chip on their shoulder to prove that they were still relevant made for some excellent live performances captured here on a two-cd set. The band sounds more raw and feisty than they had in quite some time, blasting out some of the highlights that would anchor the then forthcoming LP "Living Well's the Best Revenge," "Horse to Water" and "I'm Gonna DJ." Longtime R.E.M. fans will no doubt be excited about the material from their lengthy career that is interspersed amongst the new songs. Long loved songs like "So. Central Rain" and "Disturbance at the Heron House" get dusted off and taken for a spin. There is no radical remaking of the music from their familiar studio versions, but the music is played with such a robust energy that they are revelatory in their own right. Far from a band that was playing out the string, these performances and the ensuing Accelerate LP shows that R.E.M. are not going to go quietly.
Live At The Olympia - amazon.com
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JASS - self titled (Yolk Records, 2014) *****
4 hours ago