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In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003

In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003

4.1 9
by R.E.M.

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As retrospectives go, this seminal band's second trip back in time is every bit as charming as the first -- although considerably different in tenor than the 1988 collection, Eponymous. That's not surprising, given the restlessness that gripped R.E.M. in the early and middle periods of their arena-filling years. Taking in both the


As retrospectives go, this seminal band's second trip back in time is every bit as charming as the first -- although considerably different in tenor than the 1988 collection, Eponymous. That's not surprising, given the restlessness that gripped R.E.M. in the early and middle periods of their arena-filling years. Taking in both the group's most pop-savvy moments ("Losing My Religion" and "Stand") and its purposefully obscure forays ("What's the Frequency, Kenneth" and "E-Bow the Letter," to name two), the disc is something of a crazy quilt, but one that makes a terrific wrap. In Time also does a fine job of redirecting attention to tunes -- like "Nightswimming" -- that have become concert staples for the band, despite the fact that they didn't set the charts ablaze. The disc contains a pair of new songs, each representing a facet of R.E.M.'s schizoid personality. "Bad Day," with its stream-of-consciousness lyric and careening melody, evokes memories of "It's the End of the World as We Know It," while "Animal," on the other hand, emphasizes brawn over brains, stomping with surprisingly single-minded intensity. It's a trip back In Time that holds much promise for the future -- even as the band dives headlong into its third decade.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
R.E.M. began their Warner contract in 1988 as the biggest band to emerge from the college-radio-fueled American underground. Fifteen years later, they released In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, the first overview of their long stint at Warner Records. During that decade and a half, R.E.M. had a turbulent journey. At the outset, their legend and influence as one of the key -- if not the key -- bands of the American underground was firmly in place, but their success kept growing, culminating in a breakthrough to international stardom in 1991 thanks to "Losing My Religion" and Out of Time. For a few years there, they were one of the biggest bands in the world, standing as role models and godfathers for the alt-rock explosion of the '90s; even as grunge ruled the U.S. and U.K., R.E.M. were having their biggest hits with the brooding Automatic for the People (1992) and the guitar-heavy return-to-rock Monster (1994). Then, midway through the decade, the road got a little bumpy. The Monster tour was plagued with problems, the most noteworthy being drummer Bill Berry's on-stage aneurysm in 1995. He left the band the next year, not long after the band parted ways with Jefferson Holt, their longtime manager who was immortalized in their 1984 song "Little America." Singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and Mike Mills struggled to find their footing as a trio as they tackled more ambitious projects that found an ever more selective audience. Truth be told, this transition started on the final Berry album, 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which found R.E.M. expanding their sonic template to acclaim from critics and hardcore fans, even if they started to see the audience they won over the previous decade start to shrink. All this means the Warner era for R.E.M. doesn't represent one particular phase of their career -- during their time at Warner, they went through two phases, with the first half being the culmination of their rise and the second being their awkward return to cult status. This divide is clear and fairly easy to pinpoint. In his track-by-track liner notes (neatly mirroring his notes for the 1987 rarities comp Dead Letter Office), Buck claims that dividing line is pre- and post-"Losing My Religion," which is true at least as far as stardom goes, but it could be argued that the classic period ended with Automatic, since that follow-up to Out of Time showed that R.E.M. could not only live with the fame, but flourish within it. Everything that followed Automatic came from a different narrative and derived from a different starting point, one that was removed from the jangle pop that lay at the heart of their first ten years as recording artists. Related, yes, but quite different -- more self-conscious, heavily produced, and deliberate, occasionally reaping great results but just as often sounding labored. It was a great contrast to early R.E.M., where the music seemed to flow naturally and easily. Though it has no early IRS material, In Time paints this contrast effectively, not only through the Green and Automatic material, but even through more recent material -- the new song "Bad Day" and the 2001 revamp of "All the Right Friends" (contrary to Buck's claim in the liners that the band did cut this for IRS; it even appeared as a bonus track to a European reissue of Dead Letter Office). Both are built on a swirling, jangling folk-rock guitar line, propulsive rhythms, intertwined vocal harmonies, and urgent vocals from Stipe. In other words, they sound like classic R.E.M., and they should -- they date from the '80s and bear co-writing credits with Berry. Unfortunately, they sound much fresher than the other new song, the overly fussy "Animal," which is the problem with In Time in a nutshell: the two phases of R.E.M.'s career don't sit well together, but here, they're given close to equal space. R.E.M. the quartet does get more time than R.E.M. the trio, and the latter did produce some really nice tracks, which are chronicled here: "The Great Beyond" is a minor masterpiece, "All the Way to Reno" is the best of their faux-lounge phase, and "Imitation of Life" and "Daysleeper" are good classicist R.E.M. Still, the immaculate production of Pat McCarthy's work with Buck, Mills, and Stipe has a denser, heavier, more laborious feel than Scott Litt's work with Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe, and the two not only don't fit together, the oddity of the pairing points out that there are a number of missing singles -- a full 17, if international releases and radio-only hits are counted (and, given the nature of '90s rock, they do count). And these aren't minor songs, either; they're modern rock radio staples: "Pop Song 89," "Texarkana," "Drive," "Ignoreland," "Bang and Blame," "Strange Currencies," "Crush With Eyeliner," "Bittersweet Me," and "Shiny Happy People," the latter of which is roundly hated by the band yet nevertheless should be on a hits compilation for the sake of completeness. Of course, not all the songs could fit on a mere 18-track compilation -- and if they went for a double-disc set, they'd be better off with a career-spanning set -- but the song selection leaves something to be desired, even if it does present a reasonably accurate portrait of R.E.M. the adult alternative pop band, and it certainly does point out the inconsistencies of the band's Warner work. So, in that sense, In Time is an effective collection, but it also remains a little disappointing since it not only could have been done better, but by its very nature, this compilation can't help but point out the creative cul-de-sac R.E.M. found themselves in at the end of their Warner career. It's not the fate that anyone would have predicted in 1988. [Initial pressings of In Time carried a misprint on their spines that billed the collection as the best of 1998-2003, which could be seen as a revealing Freudian slip, in a way.]
Rolling Stone - Parke Puterbaugh
This eighteen-track retrospective shows that R.E.M. stuck to their principles and kept on their path.
Blender - James Hunter
R.E.M. made enduring songs of their nutty persuasions.

Product Details

Release Date:
Warner Bros / Wea


  1. Man on the Moon
  2. The Great Beyond
  3. Bad Day
  4. What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
  5. All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)
  6. Losing My Religion
  7. E-Bow The Letter
  8. Orange Crush
  9. Imitation of Life
  10. Daysleeper
  11. Animal
  12. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
  13. Stand
  14. Electrolite
  15. All The Right Friends
  16. Everybody Hurts
  17. At My Most Beautiful
  18. Nightswimming

Album Credits

Performance Credits

R.E.M.   Primary Artist
Scott McCaughey   Musician
Peter Buck   Group Member
Mike Mills   Group Member
Bill Rieflin   Musician
Hahn Rowe   Musician
Patti Smith   Guest Appearance
Michael Stipe   Group Member
Bill Berry   Group Member
Billy Berry   Group Member

Technical Credits

Peter Buck   Composer,Liner Notes
John Keane   Engineer
Scott Litt   Producer
Patrick McCarthy   Producer
Mike Mills   Composer
R.E.M.   Producer
Michael Stipe   Composer,Packaging
Bill Berry   Composer
Bertis Downs   Advisor
Jamie Candiloro   Engineer
Chris Bilheimer   Packaging
Todd Ploharski   Archival Assistant

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In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Kathcope More than 1 year ago
I don't think this is the best of REM. It was a gift - but I never would have bought it. The best songs on it are all from "Out of Time." It's the later years - but I'd rather buy just one CD that has the best of REM from the beginning. In whose mind is "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" the best of anything? "South Central Rain (I'm sorry) should've been the first song. The best of REM doesn't require 2 CDs. (Buying CDs is on the way out, anyway, downloading what YOU think is the best of REM IS now and the future.)
glauver More than 1 year ago
The Byrds fan in me likes the folk-rock sound of REM. Many fans will tell you the first era (1980-88) was the best period for this group. I disagree. Michael Stipe's vocals make little sense much of the time but their clarity on these songs does add something. My view is that REM is a group that like obscurity in their songs, somewhat like Steely Dan. To sum up, they sound great but I do think the rock critics overrated them in their heyday. I suspect the group's sound will be more enduring than its lyrics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The whole album sways like a lullabye with Michael Stipe's voice saying "sleep." The climax hits with "Nightswimmer" arguably their best song.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The beauty of this isn't only the range of songs -- some, like "Everybody Hurts", "Nightswimming", and "At My Most Beautiful", are sweet and quiet, while songs like "Orange Crush" and "Animal" are loud, forceful, and quite amazing in general -- but also the way it flows. The boys at R.E.M. didn't put it chronologically -- that wouldn't have made sense. Instead, they set it in stages: a mellow beginning, faster-paced from 3-4, a bit of difference for 5 and 7, "Losing My Religion" as number six -- what's to be said about that? -- fast again for 8, and then a short span of pop from 9-10. "Animal" and "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" take 11 and 12, while "Stand" lets in some more pop. From "Electrolite" (#14) to "Nightswimming" (#18), R.E.M.'s softer side is shown, with the influence of the Beach Boys peeking in during "At My Most Beautiful". All that said, there are some songs that probably should have been included; for example, "Shiny Happy People" and "Drive". Nevertheless, this is quite a good collection that does a pretty good job of representing R.E.M.'s history from '88 to the present.
slimikin More than 1 year ago
I've known for quite some time that I enjoy REM's music, but mostly my reason for knowing that came from the songs I'd heard and liked on the radio. And while they have quite a few hits floating around on the airwaves, it's hard to get a feel for a band just by their radio plays. So it wasn't until I listened to this album that I realized how much I love REM's sound. As a newcomer to the full range of their music, I discovered quite a few songs I'd never heard before, and there wasn't one song on this album that I disliked. In fact, I found many, many songs I could hear over and over and over again, which has only encouraged me to seek out more of their music.
Guest More than 1 year ago
R.E.M was very smart to release this album. At first I wasn't to sure about it, but now it's almost all that I listen to now. I'm only 12 and very opinionated about what kind of music I listen to.R.E.M is my favorite band now! Get this Cd!
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