1966 was a most illogical time for anyone to try forming a new big band but Buddy Rich beat the odds. This CD reissues the first album by the Buddy Rich Orchestra, augmenting the original Lp program with nine previously unissued performances from the same sessions. The arrangements (eight by Oliver Nelson along with charts by Bill Holman, Phil Wilson, Jay Corre, Don Rader and others) swing, put the emphasis on the ensembles and primarily feature Corre's tenor although trumpeter Bobby Shew, altoist Pete Yellin, pianist John Bunch and guitarist Barry Zweig are also heard from.
Fables of the Reconstruction was intentionally murky, and Lifes Rich Pageant was constructed as its polar opposite. Teaming with producer Don Gehman, who previously worked with John Mellencamp, R.E.M. developed their most forceful record to date. Where previous records kept the rhythm section in the background, Pageant emphasizes the beat, and the band turns in its hardest rockers to date, including the anthemic "Begin the Begin" and the punky "Just a Touch." But the cleaner production also benefits the ballads and the mid-tempo janglers, particularly since it helps reveal Michael Stipe's growing political obsessions, especially on the environmental anthems "Fall on Me" and "Cuyahoga." The group hasn't entirely left myths behind – witness the Civil War ballad "Swan Swan H" – but the band sound more contemporary both musically and lyrically than they did on either Fables or Murmur, which helps give the record an extra kick. And even with excellent songs like "I Believe," "Flowers of Guatemala," "These Days," and "What if We Give It Away," it's ironic that the most memorable moment comes from the garage rock obscurity "Superman," which is sung with glee by Mike Mills.