R.E.M. hitting the studio with U2 producer Lee

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NEW YORK - Freshly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, R.E.M. is preparing to record the follow-up to its 2004 disappointment "Around the Sun."

The trio will work on its 14th studio album this spring with Irish producer Jacknife Lee, best known for his work on U2's album of the year Grammy winner "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" and Snow Patrol's "Final Straw." The project is expected before the end of the year via Warner Bros.

"Around the Sun" was afforded a chilly critical reception and has sold just 232,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. R.E.M. produced it with Pat McCarthy.

"I like 'Around the Sun,' but I think, honestly, it turned out a little slower than we intended for it to, just in terms of the overall speed of songs," bassist Mike Mills told Billboard.com last fall.

During Monday's induction in New York, R.E.M. performed with former drummer Bill Berry, who retired from the band in 1997. First up was "Begin the Begin," followed by "Gardening at Night" (which singer Michael Stipe dedicated to his father) and "Man on the Moon." Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who inducted R.E.M., helped out on the latter tune.

The original quartet recorded a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream" for an upcoming Darfur charity album, but Stipe and Mills doubted Berry would return to regular duties.

"We've been fortunate enough to play with him several times in the past few years. Maybe we'll do it again. He can't wait to get back to his farm," Mills told reporters Monday. "As a matter of fact, he's already left," Stipe chimed in.
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