Mellow Music Makes Massive Money

Some statistician observed that whenever the music becomes depressing the nation is headed for a recession. As the nation creeps out of a recession a look at the top ten picks will verify his observation. At the top of the list is REM's Out of Time, the most mellow, toned-down REM album to date.

With Out of Time, REM continues the break away from the standard four- man band that they started with Green. It opens with "Radio Song", a typical REM 'complaint' song, in which they bring on a rapper (Boogie Down Productions' KRS-One), a guest vocalist (The B-52's Kate Pierson), along with an entire string section.

After receiving widespread public recognition for Life's Rich Pageant, and especially Document, REM has been looking to new grounds to grow. On Green, they achieved pop-status with "Stand" (their least favorite song), while also experimenting with instrumentation, such as cello, on other songs. Finally, on Out of Time, they have achieved success with their style blending. Almost every song is accentuated by the string section which add somberness (on "Low") or joviality (on "Shiny Happy People").

Michael Stipe's lyrics explore new grounds on Out of Time, leaving the political realm for a more personal appeal. From the self-descriptive "Low" to the upbeat "Shiny Happy People". Stipe shares the singing responsibilities, letting bassist Mike Mills take on "Near Wild Heaven", one of the best, 'catchy' tunes on Out of Time. He also remains wordless on the quasi-instrumental "Endgame", and the musical poetry reading, "Belong". Kate Pierson also remains on board for much of the album, dueting with Stipe on such songs as "Me and Honey" and "Shiny Happy People".

REM will probably never be the same band they used to be. As their second song opens, "life gets bigger/bigger than you and you are not me". In Out of Time, REM explores new type of sound in one of their best, if not most different, albums to date.

Scott Litt (REM's producer) has another hit on his hands, The Replacements. Differing heavily from the refined sound of REM, The Replacements are just out to have a good time. All Shook Down is Paul Westerberg's show. He wrote all the songs, originally looking for a solo job, but decided to team back up with the group to record them. This song shows a much slower, mellow sound than the previous albums, but a has a relieving 'fresh from the garage' sound.

Sting's cathartic "Soul Cages" continues the "thinking rocker"'s string of hits. Recorded using the new Q-Sound technology, this is one of stings most impressive works since his he broke away from the Police. It continues with the jazz influence that has been seen in all of his work. The songs range from the deep guitar strains of "Soul Cages" to the light mandolin on the instrumental, "Saint Agnes And The Burning Train". Most of the songs echo Stings disillusionment of his father's death. Both "Island of Souls" and "Soul Cages" end with "He dreamed of the ship on the sea/It would carry his father and he/To a place they could never be found.../They would sail to the island of souls." Musically, Soul Cages does have does bright moments, such as the drumming that ushers in "All This Time", but comes nowhere near the brightness of his last album, ...Nothing Like the Sun. Instead, it seems he took the most melancholy songs from it, and went from their to produce "Soul Cages".