Craft Recordings Announces Deluxe 25th Anniversary Reissues of R.E.M.’s Monster

On September 4th, Craft Recordings (Concord’s reissue subsidiary) announced a series of 25th anniversary reissues of R.E.M.’s 1994 album Monster. Digitally remastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, a host of physical and digital releases are set to come out November 1.

Here are the configurations:
A 1LP set with the original album (no lacquer cutting information yet) almost certainly cut from the digital remaster will retail for $22. For $35, however, there will be a deluxe 2LP set with new artwork from original album cover designer Chris Bilheimer, featuring the original album as well as a new 25th anniversary remix supervised by Monster producer Scott Litt. The remix of “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” dropped as the reissue’s lead single, and so far it’s okay. The song’s (and the whole album, for that matter) original mix is very bass-shy, an issue fixed here; however, the tremolo guitar in the chorus is unfortunately removed. Overall, the remix sounds a lot fuller than the original (despite the chorus’ emptiness caused by the tremolo guitar’s removal), albeit too compressed (but I expect the vinyl to be far more dynamic).

CD and digital editions will also be released: For $25, there will be a 2CD box set with postcards and a poster with the same audio material as the 2LP. Those who want to splurge can also purchase an $80 “super deluxe” 5CD/1 Blu-Ray box set with the remastered album, the remix, a disc of demos, the 2CD Live In Chicago 6/3/95 concert, and a Blu-Ray with a 5.1 surround mix (no Dolby Atmos mix unlike the 2017 Automatic For The People box set), the hi-res stereo remaster, music videos, and a tour documentary. That configuration comes packaged in a CD-sized hardcover book with new liner notes and pictures. A hi-res (88.2kHz/24bit) digital super deluxe with the same material as the CDs will also appear.

Often hailed by fans and critics as one of, if not R.E.M.’s best album, I personally haven’t been able to get into it. I’ve tried for two years, and nothing. While the lyrical ideas are interesting, the guitar sound remains the same throughout the entire LP, most of the songs are midtempo, and Mike Mills’ bass isn’t present enough (although the new remix appears to have fixed the latter). Apparently most buyers at the time didn’t like the album much either; Monster sold 4 million copies in the US upon release, but soon after, record stores began filling up with used CD copies of the album to the point where they wouldn’t buy it anymore. In fact, a PopMatters staff writer spent seven years trying to sell his CD copy of Monster after countless record store owners rejected it like the plague. I don’t think Monster is anywhere near bad enough for people to have dumped their copies en masse, but it’s nowhere near as good as Automatic For The People (which is among my top 50 favorite albums of all time).

Several delays plagued the nearly two-year recording process for Monster, most notably a few illnesses in the band along with the deaths of Michael Stipe’s friends, actor Rivers Phoenix and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. Cobain’s death loomed heavily over the last month of the recording process, with the song “Let Me In” being dedicated to him.

In 1995, R.E.M. embarked on their first tour in several years (they didn’t tour Out Of Time nor Automatic For The People), plagued by even more illnesses. Due to their popularity at the time, the shows took place at large arenas with Stipe sometimes wearing a hat or strange sunglasses (presumably to play a character; he never wore anything for the entire show). The Live In Chicago 6/3/95 album in the super deluxe reissue stems from this tour, although a few other full concerts from it can be found in low quality (but good enough to get a sense of what’s happening) on Youtube. 8-track recordings captured most of, if not all of the tour and new song ideas performed live eventually evolved into R.E.M.’s next album (and their last with drummer Bill Berry), New Adventures In Hi-Fi.

The Automatic For The People reissues in 2017 were quite decent. I haven’t heard that record’s LP reissue (cut from the file by Chris Bellman) but the digital was okay overall, with more limiting than the original CD or the 48/24 download from a few years ago (the 2017 remaster became a bit fatiguing at times but not terribly so). I’ll be buying Monster’s 2LP set and will report back upon release. Hopefully it will be decent!!

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor and the newest host of AnalogPlanet Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MalachiLui and SoundCloud: Malachi Lui.)

Cello High End Audio's picture

Has there been a really good sounding Craft Recordings yet?

MalachiLui's picture

their Thelonious Monk and Coltrane 3LP set (now OOP) was fantastic even though cut from digital. also I reviewed their Albert King “Born Under A Bad Sign” mono RSD reissue on here and that was really good. but overall, Craft is a mixed bag.

Michael Fremer's picture
Many! Cut from analog tape and done 100% correctly. Reviewed on this website.
MalachiLui's picture

Oftentimes their stuff is from digital but when they do an AAA reissue, it’s always great.

AnalogJ's picture

This is a GREAT listen, and although transferred from the analog tapes to digital for mastering, it still sounds really good. And the music is GREAT!!! Yeoman work went into unearthing and reproducing these LPs, previously thought to be lost forever.

tparker14's picture

When "#1 Record" and "Radio City" were announced, the blurb stated that the first album was all-analog. That blurb has since been changed. Does anyone know if these are digital cuts, newly-recut from tape, or just re-using metal work from the Classic reissues?

MalachiLui's picture

But I really hope they’re done from tape one way or another. The only reason I don’t have these two albums is because the 4 Men With Beards pressings were unfortunately the only ones available for years.

Luke's picture

It would just be nice to have all the REM albums cut from the original tape and released AAA (where possible, some of them were probably originally recorded digital) It's just a shame their back catalogue doesn't get the love and respect it deserves. With the exception of the MoFi Life's Rich Pageant and Document, which both sound superb, as one would expect.

Audionut Music's picture

Just steer clear of Steve marcussen's Out of Time remaster, nasty as hell, compressed to death, I trust Sterling Sound will do a better job ( it's hard to d worse )

stevedollar's picture

I think if anything Monster suffers a bit in critical estimation vs. the R.E.M. albums that most often wind up on writers' "best" lists .... Murmur and Automatic for the People seem to be recurring favorites. Sad to hear that the tremelo was wiped from the chorus of "Kenneth": that effect was one of the album's signatures, and featured prominently in the '95 tour. (I had a ball following the band across Spain on that tour, before everything took a drastic turn). It was great to hear them cutting lose and grunging/glamming out a bit. The songs were all written with the stage in mind.

Glotz's picture

Removing the tremelo?? Changing one of the coolest effects on the album??

The tour shows were fantastic during that year and openers were epic!

Radiohead Bends tour with "Homesick Alien" and other 'OK Computer' gems being played well before their time!

I was an HUGE REM fan for years, met the band a few times and when Radiohead got off the stage... I was so utterly blown away... I was like R.E... Who?? Silliness to take anything away from one of the most prolific bands in rock, but Radiohead just took my legs out from under me!

Glotz's picture

This band mixed up their styles so many times, there is NO band more diverse in their product... extant.

fjoggedelic's picture

I own both MFSL REM re-issues/mastered, and agree that they really sounds pretty good. I have the original Monster LP, and cannot imagine it to be any better, only in the low end freq.? The original Out Of Time, is also good "enough", and my set-up is not cheap ;-) There are a few misses in my collection, when it comes to REM, and i am really looking forward to the re-issue of "New Adventures In HIFI", as i think the CD version itself (original) sounds amazing (Yes, even on CD) ;-) If u go for the MFSL re-issues, you will get what you paid for, in terms of the extra money u pay. So pick those us, if you get the chance? For the Monster album on it`s way, i think i wait to see what others think, regarding too sonic character and other stuff to be concerned of?