Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. While you were sleeping, two of the best gifts of the Christmas 2009 season arrived in stores and I've already pulled both. To everyone who has me on their Christmas list, feel free to send cash instead because you will be hard pressed to find anything I want more than what I added to my music collection this week.
Live at The Olympia
This set follows almost none of my "rules" for what a live album should be and yet it's one of the best live albums ever, and this is coming from a guy who loves and buys live albums. Yes, it's that good. Yes, you need it.
Live at The Olympia is taken from the band's five-night stand in Dublin, road-testing new material for the album that would become Accelerate. In addition to road-testing the new, they played some rarities that haven't been played in a decade or more. More than once, lead singer Michael Stipe reminds the audience "This is not a show." He's right. It's not. This is not a conventional tour souvenir live record. This is a care package to longtime fans of the band. If you discovered R.E.M. in the '80s and got off somewhere in the '90s, I have two words for you: "Wolves, Lower." This is your invitation to return to the fold. Run, don't walk. Buy this one now!
The Unforgettable Fire (Super Deluxe Edition)
Oh, glory! Be once again bathed in the majesty of U2's first grand experiment, the first record they would make with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. The Unforgettable Fire is being re-released in four packages: a single CD including only the remastered album, 2 CD, including the remastered album and a disc of remastered rarities, B-sides, and remixes, a Super Deluxe box set 2 CD/1DVD package that includes both CDs and a DVD of documentaries and live footage from the UnFire era, and a vinyl LP re-issue. I went with the Super Deluxe. I've listened carefully to both CDs and will be sitting down with the DVD this weekend.