Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part VI: Green (1988)

Green is R.E.M.’s first album with Warner Bros, as they had severed ties with IRS. The band was much different now. The album made it to #12 in the US and #27 in the UK. It had four singles, and was their second with Scott Lit.

The Tracks:

  1. “Pop Song 89”: This is a great satire of how stale pop songs can be. The video for the song featured Stipe and three female dancers, all of whom were topless, and MTV wanted it censored. Stipe even censored his chest to mock the demands. It’s a fun song.
  2. “Get Up”: The comedy continues with this song poking fun at Mills’ constant oversleeping. It’s not as good as “Pop Song”, but I don’t hate it.
  3. “You Are the Everything”: A nice ballad that doesn’t feel out of place.
  4. “Stand”: This is another song that’s meant to be an ironic pop somg. It was parodied by Weird Al on his UHF soundtrack, with the song “Spam”.
  5. “World Leader Pretend”: When I listen to this, I like to picture Lex Luthor finally defeating Superman, but he can’t even enjoy his victory because the world is now a smoldering cinder.
  6. “The Wrong Child”: This has a good bassline to it.
  7. “Orange Crush”: Stipe’s father was a Vietnam soldier, and this song references Agent Orange. The video won R.E.M. their first VMA, back when those awards were actually something people cared about.
  8. “Turn You Inside Out”: This has a cool hard edge to it.
  9. “Hairshirt”: This song is just beautiful and melancholy.
  10. “I Remember California”: This is a great somber tune.
  11. “Untitled”: I can almost forgive this song for not having a proper title because I like the percussion.

Final Verdict: All the irony on this album may be out of character, but I still think it’s an excellent album.

Grade: A


Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part V: Document (1987)

Document was the first album produced by Scott Litt, marking a huge change in their sound. The sound was now much harder. The album became their highest-charting album at that point, entering right at #10 with 3 singles.

The Tracks:

  1. “Finest Worksong”: This hits hard right out the gate with some good guitar work.
  2. “Welcome to the Occupation”: This is probably my #1 favorite song on the album. It has a cool minor key sound. It’s a great deep cut.
  3. “Exhuming McCarthy”: This song references the censorship and witch hunt that Joseph McCarthy used to “out” people he thought were communists.
  4. “Disturbance at the Heron House”: This was R.E.M.’s first time attacking right-wing politics. Heron House is a reference to the legislative body in Austria and Prussia, seeming to compare them to Reagan, who Buck considered a moron.
  5. “Strange”: This is a cover of one of the quick-riff songs Wire recorded on their celebrated album Pink Flag. I call it that because Wire’s m.o. seemed to be getting a quick riff and then ending the song.
  6. “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” This song has often been mocked for Stipe’s rapid-fire stream of consciousness. Buck has said the song was inspired by “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. In 2001, it was one of many songs Clear Channel tried to pull off the radio as a result of 9/11.
  7. “The One I Love”: I hear people actually think this is a good song for weddings. Have you listened to the lyrics? At all? All kidding aside, this is a great song.
  8. “Fireplace”: I saw somewhere that this song is about acceptance and burning down the old ways. There’s a nice sax in it too.
  9. “Lightnin’ Hopkins”: This song has nothing to do with the legendary blues singer it’s named after. Buck just happened to have one of Hopkins’ records.
  10. “King of Birds”: Peter Buck plays a soft dulcimer on this. Not exactly something you’d normally hear in a rock song.
  11. “Oddfellows Local 151”: This song is about homeless people who lurk around an abandoned firehouse.

Final Verdict: R.E.M. started their peak with this album, and the world was finally noticing. 

Grade: A+

Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part IV: Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)

Lifes Rich Pageant was R.E.M.’s final album on the IRS label. The album was produced by Don Gehman, who had previously worked with John Mellancamp. The album marked a transition into a more “accessible” sound. It had two singles, and charted at #21 in the US and #43 in the UK.

The Tracks:

  1. “Begin the Begin”: the album starts with this aptly-named song. Although it was not a single, it became a concert staple and was even featured on the sets for their inductions into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Rock Hall of Fame. This song has good political themes about racism.
  2. “These Days”: This song has good drumming in it. It’s a good song about struggling underneath capitalism.
  3. “Fall On Me”: This song was my introduction to R.E.M., and they didn’t even appear in the video. This is one of two environmentally-themed songs on the album.
  4. “Cuyahoga”: This is about the pollution of the titular Ohio river and the plight of the Native American tribes. It’s my favorite song on the album., with some good harmonies.
  5. “Hyena”: This has a good piano intro.
  6. “Underneath the Bunker”: this is one of two hidden tracks, and is mostly just a guitar track with some filtered vocals from Stipe. I’m glad it’s short.
  7. “The Flowers of Guatemala”: This is a beautiful song that feels like it would fit in on Murmur at first, with soft vocals and some pretty guitar melodies.
  8. “I Believe”: A quick banjo starts things off before we get a good jangling tempo.
  9. “What If We Give It Away”: This was a song that was rewritten from an earlier album. I like the harmonies on this from Stipe and Buck.
  10. “Just a Touch”: This has a nice fast rhythm from Berry.
  11. “Swan Swan H”: I like the minor melody of this one. It has a feel like a folk ballad to me.
  12. “Superman”: Stipe didn’t want to record this song, which may explain why he’s not singing lead, and why it’s a hidden track. It’s actually a cover of an obscure band called The Clique. I don’t much care for the vocals, but I like the melody.

Final Verdict: This album is very underrated, almost feeling like it gets lost in the shadow of the next album. But it’s still worth checking out.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part I: Murmur

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album Murmur, I’ll be ranking R.E.M.’s discography. (Since I don’t normally include EP’s, I’m skipping Chronic Town.)

R.E.M. was formed in 1980 when the four members were students at the University of Georgia. Peter Buck met Michael Stipe in Wuxtry Records, where Buck worked. They discovered they had similar tastes in music, and met Mike Mills through a mutual friend. After their first gig, they brainstormed such names as Cans of Piss and Twisted Kites, before Stipe suggested R.E.M. after a dictionary search. After dropping out of school, they eventually recorded Chronic Town, their debut EP, with Mitch Easter. They signed a deal with I.R.S. Records, and then began work on the full-length debut.

Murmur has received several accolades. It’s in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and it’s on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list, at #165. Rolling Stone also listed it at #18 on their Best Debut Albums of All Time list. It had two singles.


Michael Stipe: vocals

Peter Buck: guitars

Mike Mills: bass, backing vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, vibraphone

Bill Berry: drums, backing vocals, percussion, bass guitar, piano

The Tracks:

  1. “Radio Free Europe”: Stipe has admitted that this song was intended not to be understood, and the title was purely selected for its appeal. It’s taken a long time to grow on me.
  2. “Pilgrimage”: I like the vibraphone and bass on this track. The rhythm is nice.
  3. “Laughing”: the guitars and vocals are good on this.
  4. “Talk About the Passion”: this song is about the plight of homelessness. The bass and backing vocals are great.
  5. “Moral Kiosk”: This is one of the few songs that don’t work for me.
  6. “Perfect Circle”: this song was written by Berry and has some great instruments. I like the longing sense of the lyrics.
  7. “Catapult”: I like the bouncy feel of this track.
  8. “Sitting Still”: This has a more traditional feel to it, with a very good mix of folk and punk.
  9. “9-9”: I’ve never been able to get this song.
  10. “Shaking Through “: This has some good energy to it.
  11. “We Walk”: This has a good rhythm to it.
  12. “West of the Fields”: This has a good fast pace.

Final Verdict: When I first listened to this album, it didn’t grab me. Several years later with repeated listens, I’ve come to accept its charm. It’s not an accessible album at first, but give it a listen. It does deserve its many accolades.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XIX: Fly From Here (2011)

Fly From Here was the first album without Jon Anderson since Drama. It instead features Benoît David on vocals, and Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver Wakeman. (This is their only album with Yes). David was previously in a band called Mystery, and was also a member of a Yes tribute band called Gaia (later renamed Close to the Edge). Jon Anderson was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure. Squire had seen videos of Close to the Edge on YouTube, and saw how closely David resembled Anderson’s vocals. Rick Wakeman was unable to participate, so he recommended his son instead. Trevor Horn, who had produced for Yes during the 80’s, gave David guide vocals to follow. Halfway through the recording, Oliver was replaced by Geoff Downes. Wakeman left with his tracks, which he included on his album Cultural Vandals. David also had respiratory issues of his own. Squire was unsympathetic towards him, and he was replaced by Jon Davison, who would eventually become a permanent vocalist.

In 2016, a new version of Fly From Here was released, called Fly From Here–Return Trip, this time featuring Trevor Horn on vocals. The original version of the album is no longer available for streaming, however I was able to find it on YouTube. Although I listened to both, I prefer David’s vocals to Horn’s, so I’ll be reviewing the original instead.


Benoît David: vocals

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”

Geoff Downes: keyboards

Oliver Wakeman: additional keyboards on both versions of “We Can Fly”, “Hour of Need”, and “Into the Storm”

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Fly From Here: Overture”: The opening to the 6-part suite starts with some very sharp pianos and crunchy guitars and some pumped drumming.
  2. “Fly From Here, Part I: We Can Fly”: This is where we first hear David’s vocals, and they sound somewhat similar to Anderson. The overall sound reminds me of Drama.
  3. “Fly From Here, Part II: Sad Night at the Airfield”: The song shifts to a somber tone. I like the piano and chorus, but the guitar feels wrong, as if it doesn’t match the production.
  4. “Fly From Here, Part III: Madman at the Screens”: The melody from the overture resumes, and I kinda like how the band mixes the sounds.
  5. “Fly From Here, Part IV: Bumpy Ride”: Bumpy is a good name for this interlude. It’s got kind of a messy feel.
  6. “Fly From Here, Part V: We Can Fly (Reprise)”: The reprise has a faster tempo with the piano and drums. I wanted to like this suite because I like Yes’s suites a lot. But the song was all over in the place, especially in the middle sections.
  7. “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”: This has some good melodies on the guitar, but feels kind of simplistic compared to the suite.
  8. “Life on a Film Set”: This song goes back and forth, particularly in the middle. This was one of the best songs.
  9. “Hour of Need”: The album continues to show some late improvement, with some good variation on rhythms from the bass and keyboards.
  10. “Solitaire”: Howe flies solo on this and shows off some nice solos, providing a good interlude before we get to the closer.
  11. “Into the Storm”: The closing song has a steady beat, ending the album on a high note.

Final Verdict: This album was all over the place, and not in a good way. There isn’t much synergy, and as much as I tried, I felt this album was overall average. I do feel that David was done dirty because his version is much better than Horn’s, and you won’t find that version on Spotify.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XIV: Talk (1994)

In 1992, Phil Carson, had established a new independent record label called Victory Music, asked Yes to record an album for them. This would be the final album recorded by the “YesWest” iteration of the band, with Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye leaving the band after the tour. Rabin would go on to compose movie scores before becoming a soloist. Two singles were released.


Jon Anderson: vocals

Trevor Rabin: guitars, keyboards, vocals, programming

Chris Squire: bass, vocals

Tony Kaye: Hammond organ

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “The Calling”: The album’s highest charting single has some excellent guitar work from Rabin. I love the harmonies.
  2. “I Am Waiting”: Another excellent song from Rabin, with a good bass line and drumming.
  3. “Real Love”: Love the bass and heaviness of this one.
  4. “State of Play”: Some more good guitar and organs here. It has a nice groove to it.
  5. “Walls”: I don’t like this single as much as ” The Calling”, but it’s still good.
  6. “Where Will You Be”: Rabin intended this to be a song on an Australian movie. I love the vocals on this.
  7. “Endless Dream”: Yes, we finally get a long suite, for the first time since the 70’s! It starts with a beautiful piano intro before moving into a great 15/8 section. This song is amazing, and this sounds more like the Yes I know and love. It’s no ” Close to the Edge ” or “Gates of Delirium”, but I love it!

Final Verdict: Why did Spotify take so long to add this to their database? This isn’t the 70’s lineup for Yes, but it’s the closest YesWest has come to that sound while still having a more mainstream approach. It’s YesWest’s best album. Don’t let the terrible logo drive you away.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XIII: Union

Union was recorded by an amalgamation of Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford, and Howe, and Yes. It’s the only album recorded by more than 5 members. (And the first appearance of Billy Sherwood, who would replace Chris Squire after his death) The album had two singles, and reached #7 in the UK and #15 in the US.


Jon Anderson: vocals on all tracks except 3 and 13, production

Steve Howe: Guitar on 1, 3, 8, 12, and 15, production on track 3

Trevor Rabin: lead and backing vocals, guitar on 4, 6, 7, and 9

Chris Squire: harmony and backing vocals (1, 2, 4-7, 9 and 11) bass on tracks 4, 6, and 7

Tony Kaye: Hammond B-3 organ, piano (4, 6, 7, and 9)

Rick Wakeman: Keyboards (1, 2, 5, 8, 10-12, 14)

Bill Bruford: acoustic and electric drums, percussion (1, 2, 5, 8, 11-14)

Alan White: acoustic drums and percussion (4, 6, 7, and 9)

The Tracks:

  1. “I Would Have Waited Forever”: Howe has a great riff on this song.
  2. “Shock to the System “: Although Howe wrote the opening riff for this song, it was re-recorded by Jimmy Huan with no parts from Howe. It’s one of two tracks featuring bassist Tony Levin (best known for his work with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, and Liquid Tension Experiment).
  3. “Masquerade”: A brief guitar solo from Howe.
  4. “Lift Me Up”: This is one of my favorite songs. It’s about a homeless man pleading for help. I like the harmony and guitars on it.
  5. “Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day”: This features some great keyboards from Wakeman.
  6. “Saving My Heart”: Rabin felt this song was unsuitable for Yes, but Anderson convinced him to include it on the album. It’s not bad, but not great either.
  7. “Miracle of Life”: Rabin wrote this as a protest of the slaughtering of dolphins off the coast of Denmark. Squire has a good bass line here.
  8. “Silent Talking “: Howe originally recorded this son, but Anderson came in too soon on the second half. Haun was brought in to fix the discrepancies. The song feels messy.
  9. “The More We Live –Let Go”: This is Billy Sherwood’s first appearance on a Yes album, alongside Chris Squire. He and Sherwood would continue writing together from this point. Kaye sounds good here.
  10. “Angkor Wat”: This song is named after the Cambodian temple and features some beautiful keyboards.
  11. “Dangerous (Look in the Light of What You’re Searching For)” : I’m not a fan of this one.
  12. “Holding On”: Howe’s guitar is great.
  13. “Evensong”: This is the second track to feature Levin, who also plays a Chapman Stick. Bruford sounds great here.
  14. “Take the Water to the Mountain”: This has some good keyboards form Wakeman.

Final Verdict: This album could’ve been such a mess with so many people involved. But the result is much better than expected. I think this is a great album.

Grade: B

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XI: Big Generator (1987)

Big Generator marked the end of Trevor Horn’s tenure with Yes as producer. The album continued their trend of the more Pope oriented sound of the previous albums. It had two singles, and reached #17 on the UK charts and #15 on the US chart. During their tour, Trevor Rabin collapsed backstage due to exhaustion from the flu. After appearing at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary, Jon Anderson left the group to form a supergroup with former Yes members Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, and Bill Bruford.


Jon Anderson: Vocals

Trevor Rabin: vocals, guitar, keyboards, string arrangements

Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals

Tony Kaye: piano, organ

Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Rhythm of Love”: this is an excellent opener, with some great keyboards and drums.
  2. “Big Generator”: The keyboards on this are pretty good. This sounds more like a song Duran Duran would have done, though.
  3. “Shoot High, Aim Low”: One of my favorite songs. I like the reverb on the vocals, and the keyboards sound eerie.
  4. “Almost Like Love”: This song doesn’t really work for me. It’s too poppy.
  5. “Love Will Find a Way”: I like this one a lot. The strings are nice. It almost became a duet with Stevie Nicks, but White convinced Rabin otherwise.
  6. “Final Eyes”: I like the acoustic guitar, but this isn’t Yes.
  7. “I’m Running”: This feels more like arena rock than Yes.
  8. “Holy Lamb (Song For Harmonic Convergence)”: This song is all right, but it wasn’t good.

Final Verdict: I like this album, but I’d like to see Yes go back to what was working for them, not trying to sound like they’re imitating New Wave. By this time, New Wave was waning in popularity, so Yes should’ve stopped being something they weren’t.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part VII: Relayer (1974)

Prior to recording Relayer, Yes auditioned eight keyboardists to replace Rick Wakeman (including composer Vangelis, a frequent collaborator with Jon Anderson). They finally settled on Patrick Moraz, who was previously a member of Refugee (a prog rock band that only recorded one album). The album reached #4 in the UK and #5 in the US. This would become Moraz’s only studio album with Yes, although he did record 3 live albums with them. The album was produced by Eddie Offord.


Jon Anderson: vocals, acoustic guitar, piccolo, percussion

Steve Howe: acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, electric sitar, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass guitar, backing vocals

Patrick Moraz: piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, Minimoog, mellotron

Alan White: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “The Gates of Delirium”: This suite was inspired by Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The final part of the suite, “Soon”, was released as a single. I love the rise and fall of this song. White’s drumming is excellent in the While each part was recorded separately, it still feels cohesive. The finale is my favorite part of the song, with quiet ripples from Howe.
  2. “Sound Chaser”: This song brings in Moraz’s jazz and fusion influences, creating a song that feels very chaotic. He and Howe work well together.
  3. “To Be Over”: The final track has wonderful improvisation from Moraz.

Final Verdict: This is another classic, with some great input from Moraz. It feels chaotic at times, but it all works.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part II: Time and a Word (1970)

Time and a Word was the last album to feature Peter Banks, as he was fired by the band due to increased tension because he was against adding an orchestra. (He was replaced by Steve Howe during the tour, and Howe is on the cover despite not being involved in recording). It was produced by. Tony Colton. It reached #45 on the UK charts.


Jon Anderson: lead vocals, percussion

Peter Banks: guitar, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals

Tony Kaye: organ, piano

Bill Bruford: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”: The opener starts with a lush orchestral theme taken from The Big Country, and is one of two covers. It feels chaotic at the start.
  2. “Then”: Bruford does some great drumming on this.
  3. “Everydays”: This is a Stephen Stills cover, and features some good orchestra work.
  4. “Sweet Dreams”: One of the best songs on the album, with some good. bass work. This is one of two songs featuring additional vocals from David Foster.
  5. “The Prophet”: This song borrows from Gustav Holst’s The Planets suite, and sounds nice.
  6. “Clear Days”: This one is okay.
  7. “Astral Traveller”: Another one of my favorite songs, with some cool instrumentation.
  8. “Time and a Word”: Not a bad closer, this has good percussion and guitar.

Final Verdict: This is slightly better than its predecessor, but it’s still not there yet.

Grade: C