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R.E.M. (9 re-issues)
Monster (reviewed)
Warner Bros. Records
www.REMhq.com


The Records: Green, Out Of Time, Automatic For The People, Monster, New Adventures In Hi-Fi, Up, Reveal, Around The Sun, In Time: The Best Of R.E.M.

The Gist: Warner Bros. Records has just gone through the nine most recent R.E.M. albums and re-released them in multi-format 2 disc sets. With each record you receive not only a CD format stereo disc of the album as it was originally released, but you also receive a DVD-A version of the record with some cool bonus features. The DVDs have been re-mastered by surround genius Elliot Scheiner into dazzling 5.1 mixes that make the music sparkle in a way that it never has before.

The Extras: Each 2-disc set includes an expanded booklet of liner notes that includes some archival and previously rare photographs, as well as extended liner notes. Each of the DVDs includes extra video footage: sometimes live concert excerpts, sometimes previously unreleased studio footage, and even some alternate edits/takes of videos that were released.

The Monster: Maybe it's just me, but when I put the CD version of this record into my player, and then my old CD of the same record, this new release sounds much more open and lively. Perhaps there was a bit of remastering for the CD re-releases as well. The guitars on "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" have never been so cleanly vibrant, and the orchestration on "Strange Currencies" never so crystal clear and effervescent. The delays on "Bang And Blame" seem more resonant and longer lasting in their decays, and "Star 69" is full of more impact than ever previously imagined. The DVD remaster makes an even larger aural difference, and on a good stereo you may hear things in the recording that you'd never before imagined. This 5.1 format creates an almost entirely new album from the familiar tracks - so much space and depth to the music. Monster's DVD disc includes extras such as interviews with the band and unreleased live performances of "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?," "Let Me In," and "I Don't Sleep, I Dream." The liner notes by Gil Kaufman offer an interesting perspective on the record that alienated so many fans, yet remains to this day, one of the most visceral and unique of R.E.M.'s projects.

The Wrap-up: Are you a fan of R.E.M.? Did you think you had just about everything that they'd ever done, and need stop looking? Well, the jig is up. Here's a ton of new stuff for those fanatical R.E.M. heads, as well as a nice presentation for those making the move to the higher resolution DVD-Audio format. I came for the extras, but I stayed for the excellent sound quality and choice of formats.

-Embo Blake


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