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    R.E.M. Back in the Studio

    Talk about the passion.

    Hot off an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a shiny, happy, if temporary reunion with ex-drummer Bill Berry, R.E.M.'s remaining trio of Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills has announced plans to head back into the studio this spring to begin work on a 14th studio album.

    The new set will be the Athens, Georgia-based alterna-rockers' first collection of new material since 2004's Around the Sun, which was given a lukewarm reception from critics and fans alike. Not only did that album fail to spawn any memorable hits, most surprisingly, it sold just 232,000 copies stateside, according to Nielsen SoundScan—a low-point in R.E.M.'s 27-year career.

    Feeling fine and looking to strike out in new musical directions, the rockers have tapped Irish producer Garrett "Jacknife" Lee, who shared two Grammy Awards for his work on U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

    "We are psyched to work with Jacknife Lee," Mills said in a statement. "We've got a great batch of songs and can't wait to put them down."

    Lee, a former guitarist for the punk band Compulsion, has also produced records for Snow Patrol, Kasabian and Bloc Party.

    "R.E.M. are consistently one of the great bands, if not the greatest," Lee said. "The new songs they've written are some of their most exciting and visceral yet. They're a beacon for any band wishing to remain honest and challenging."

    Stipe & Co. first broached the subject of a new album following their induction into the Rock Hall on Monday.

    During the ceremony, taking place at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, R.E.M. provided one of the evening's highlights when they welcomed Berry back to the fold to perform three songs—"Begin the Begin," "Gardening at Night" and "Man on the Moon," the last of which featured guest singer Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who also had the honor of introducing them.

    Nearly a decade ago, the drummer amicably exited the band to lead a quiet life working on his Georgia farm after suffering a near-fatal brain aneurysm.

    R.E.M. soldiered on as a trio, utilizing both drum machines and side musicians in the studio and on the road. Berry has stayed in the loop, however, turning up at the occasional gig.

    Last September, he joined Stipe, Mills and Buck onstage for R.E.M.'s induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. While rehearsing for that ceremony, Berry also took part in recording a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream" for a charity album titled Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur.

    The track was released to radio stations around the country on Monday and made available for download the following day on iTunes and other online outlets. The album, which also includes Lennon covers by Green Day, Snow Patrol, the Postal Service, Corrine Bailey Ray, Jack Johnson and Christina Aguilera, among others, hits stores June 12. Proceeds will benefit an Amnesty International campaign to end the genocide in the African nation.

    Berry says has no plans to get behind the kit on a permanent basis and that he won't likely play on the upcoming album, which Warner Music plans to issue sometime next winter.

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