R.E.M. - In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 
Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio
Written by Brian Kahn   
Monday, 24 November 2003


In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003
format: DVD-Audio
label: Warner Bros.
release year: 2003
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Brian Kahn

This DVD-Audio disc from R.E.M. is a definite must for any R.E.M. fan, providing high-resolution versions of many of the band’s hits from the time they first made it big to the present day. The disc’s features go beyond the 18 hit tracks to include photographs, a behind-the-scenes video of recording “Bad Day” and that track’s finished video. The journey begins even before the disc is played. Upon opening the jewel box, the R.E.M. fan will find interesting and entertaining liner notes prepared by Peter Buck.

While the tracks may not be in chronological order, they do chronicle the life of the band, and are evidence that they stayed true to their form as they went from an Athens, Georgia band to worldwide stardom. The satisfying mix of tracks includes four songs from R.E.M.’s incredibly successful Automatic for the People album and a mix from several other albums that demonstrates the band’s commitment to creating idiosyncratic music for the alternative rock crowd. In addition to the well-known hits from the band’s past are two new tracks, “Bad Day” and “Animal.”

My notes were all taken while listening to 5.1 DVD-Audio. Other audio tracks on the disc include extended resolution stereo, and 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS. While I also listened to the disc in extended resolution stereo, I generally preferred the surround mix unless I was sitting in the sweet spot and not moving around. The disc opens up with the fairly recent hit “Man On The Moon,” which immediately reveals that the rendition on this album is a step beyond the CD version. Michael Stipe’s voice is rendered with great detail, capturing every inflection with clarity. The instrumentals sound solid and tonally accurate, the strings are detailed and the drum’s bass line is solid in both position and tone without any float or bloat. The overall soundstage is not large, but it is rather intimate and well-anchored, as I would picture this song being recorded. I thankfully noted that the surrounds are used judiciously to create only ambience rather than ping-pong sound effects.

Some of the tracks crank it up a bit, such as ”What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” and “Orange Crush.” These tracks have a larger soundstage and dynamic range. “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” opens with a good gritty guitar riff. The higher level of energy is easily transmitted. Despite the larger soundstage, the surrounds are not overdone, mainly adding ambience. “Orange Crush” brought me back to high school, when I first heard the song. This high-energy track retains the clarity of the other tracks with its dancehall bass line and more liberal use of the surrounds. The mixers use an almost helicopter-like surround effect that is a bit distracting, but makes up for it with the use of background vocals in surrounds, which sound quite good.

This album also contains other great tracks like “Losing My Religion,” “Everybody Hurts” and “Stand.” Even if you have all these songs on CD, and you probably do, this DVD-Audio breathes new life into these old favorites with high-resolution surround mixes, which, along with the two new tracks, makes this disc a must-buy, even for the casual R.E.M. fan.

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