A brief return, essentially to clear the decks. This was originally going to be the fourth and final part of my collaborative series with JC last August, but it kind of came at a bad time for us as we'd pretty much burned ourselves out by the time it came around. I'd already written my first section of it, but it sat amongst my drafts unfinished while I cobbled together a couple replacements that I found more interesting. So now I'm reviving it as a solo effort, re-written in places, but essentially offering the same thoughts and ideas as my original.
The choice of album in question may well come as a surprise to many. Why fuck around with an album that has sold millions - that's MILLIONS, like nearly 20 of 'em - and is widely renowned as a masterpiece, a Holy Grail kind of record? Well, let's not pretend for one moment it's R.E.M.'s best album. Nor is it even their best album of the 90s. It's just the one that sold the most, and that's rarely an indication of quality. But it could be pretty close to perfect if it didn't have a couple of songs on it that I skip each time. You probably know what they are, but there's perhaps a little more to it than that, which is a good thing as this would be a terribly boring read otherwise. So here's my stab at improving AftP:
2. Try Not To Breathe
3. Man On The Moon
4. Everybody Hurts
5. Monty Got A Raw Deal
8. Sweetness Follows
9. Star Me Kitten
10. Find The River
Out go (unsurprisingly) The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 and (and this is the talking point) Ignoreland. The latter was one of my Imaginary 7"s so you know I like it, but it just feels so out of place on this record, both in its sound and lyrical subject matter. The band themselves had reservations about including it in the first place, so I think taking it out might well be the best decision. I'm replacing it with Photograph, a track they demoed during the sessions for 'Automatic' and then brought in the divine Natalie Merchant to sing on it for a charity album. The only thing it's lacking is some of the production the finished album received. I can imagine it with some lovely strings just giving it that added lushness to make it fit more snugly among these songs. If you imagine them too while it's playing, you'll see what I mean.
So side one kicks off as normal. Drive really is a strange opening song, but in an interview in the months leading up to release, Michael Stipe described the album as sounding "pretty fucking weird" and as such, this track really does set the tone for that. To lift things, I've gone for Man On The Moon as track three. The dreaded Sidewinder is just ridiculous whereas this one does a better job at lifting the mood. I'd stick the slightly shorter single edit on though, not that you'd notice the difference, but for vinyl running time it helps.
Side two opens with Photograph and Nightswimming, the two most different-sounding tracks on the record, then we go deep with the two darkest songs of the set before finishing with Find The River, an undoubted highlight of their career. It has to finish the REiMagined version of the album like it does the original - it just has to.
Automatic For The People [REiMagined]
There's one final REiMagined album coming soon, but for now let's finish with the video for Find The River, felt by many as being one of the band's best ever songs. Here's what I wrote about it over at The (new) Vinyl Villain in November 2020.
 At the age of 51, you'd think I'd learned a bit about myself by now... After I wrote that paragraph about Photograph, I got thinking to myself: "Why don't I try a remix and add some strings and maybe a bit of piano." I mulled it over quite a bit and thought maybe I could find some kind of online synth with a half-decent strings sound I could perhaps create a part for and mix it with the song. And I did. And it was rubbish. More to do with me than anything else, to be fair. "Maybe I'm more suited to a conventional keyboard," I thought. TheDoopster plays piano and has an electric piano in her room. It's got a nice strings sound on it. If I could rig up a cheap method of recording from it, I could do it that way. So I did. And it was rubbish. I used to play piano when I was a kid and wasn't too bad at it, but by the time I got to 16, I jacked it in and decided I wanted to be a guitar legend instead. So the fact I hadn't played any kind of keyboard properly for 35 years just might have had something to do with how bad my attempts were to add strings to Photograph.
But I wasn't done yet, oh no! If the keyboards/strings didn't work out, perhaps I could fill the sound out with a bit of acoustic guitar and who knows, a bit of mandolin as well. So I took my trusty old acoustic out of the cupboard and gave it a go. And it was rubbish. You see, just because I have a guitar, doesn't mean I play it much. I haven't played any guitar properly since I quit the band I was in some 25 years ago. Sure, I have a little strum now and again when I get an urge, but the fact I no longer have the calluses of a proper guitar player means my fingers bloody hurt after less than an hour.
So finally, at the age of 51, I've finally learned that while I never pretended to be a musician, I know for a fact I really never will be. And that I should practice playing before I attempt to play anything, even if just for a bit of fun. I also learned to keep the mandolin in the cupboard to save myself the indignity of making yet another instrument sound rubbish. And not to have stupid ideas about thinking I can make an R.E.M. song sound better!