Pearl Jam’s “Ten” (1991, 2009 Remix Deluxe Edition) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-03-28 20:15:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  5 / 5 stars

If I were to post a one-sentence review of this album, it would read something like this:

“Pearl Jam’s Ten is the Pet Sounds of the grunge rock genre.”

I do not take such a comparison lightly, so let me begin by explaining my reasoning in detail.  In both cases, the general public took some time to warm up to the songs, but they have both ended up making regular appearances on “Best Albums” lists, both of the decade and of all-time.  In both cases, the songs and the image projected via artwork and touring would define the band for years to come.  Finally, in both cases, the album stands out as head and shoulders above and beyond other similar work being released at the same time from the same genres.

While Pet Sounds was the Beach Boys’ eleventh release and arguably more of a Brian Wilson solo album, Ten was Pearl Jam’s debut album, their very first studio release, and as much of a group effort as any rock album ever recorded.  Of course, the former came at a turning point — it perhaps caused or at least contributed to that turning point — for rock/pop music in the sixties.  Virtually every album that came after can be traced in some way back to that foundation.

In that sense, I do not mean to overstate Ten‘s importance by comparison.

Still, though its influence cannot compare, Pearl Jam somehow managed — and in their debut, no less — to compose and record as strong a set of songs as any being released during the early nineties and certainly from the grunge scene.  From fade in to fade out, Ten demonstrates a simultaneous command of subtlety, beauty, and gripping lyrical content, while also delving into raw, reckless abandon in a manner that is not sloppy yet not too controlled.

Almost two decades later, it is one of the cornerstone albums of the nineties and of rock music as a whole.

Pearl Jam's "Ten" (1991, 2009 remix)

Pearl Jam's "Ten" (1991, 2009 remix)

As the cover suggests, Pearl Jam decided from the very beginning to be an “all for one, one for all” sort of group.  Outside of their revolving door of a drummer’s seat in the first decade, they have followed through on the promise implicit in that pose.

And this is what makes the individual tracks so strong for a first release.  As the various band members have stated in interviews over the years, many of these songs began life as Stone Gossard/Jeff Ament band jams, riffs and solos that were worked on and written, refined, and improved over a period of time.  When Eddie Vedder was brought in, he carried with him a new sense of lyricism and a unique voice that brought these instrumentals to life.  To this day, the issues and emotions expressed on Ten make for very compelling listening.

Critical opinions on Ten vary widely, though that difference has most often been the distance between five and four stars, or an A and a B-.  Most reviews have been positive, at least to some extent, but I find it difficult to understand any rating that falls short of recognizing the outstanding fusion of classic and modern rock, energetic performances and purposeful recording studio techniques, standout songs and an overall cohesive sound and voice that define this album.

Pearl Jam's "Ten" (1991)

Pearl Jam's "Ten" (1991)

Any great tale should begin with “Once upon a time…,” and Ten does.  It’s clear from the opening that this is no fairy tale, and “Once” sets the tone for the other songs to follow.  (Taken in a different context, “Once” has also been situated as the second in a three track series known as Mamasan, or Momma-son.  This three song cycle follows the story of “Alive” into the murderous “Once” and concludes with what has been read as an execution in “Footsteps.”)

“Even Flow” and “Alive” follow on Ten, unfolding one powerful, catchy riff after another, all driven by Vedder’s vocals.  These are the songs that you wish you could play along to, and the songs that you try to sing to.

Even the by-comparison mediocre tracks shine, like “Why Go” with its driving beat, shouted chorus, and manic guitar solo.

It’s forgotten, though, by the time the next track unfolds.  “Black” is a true masterpiece: put your headphones on for this one and listen for the way the instruments all play an intricate part, and yet how all the components gel around Vedder’s magnificent lead, made most impressive by what can only be called his vocal solo on the outro.

Next comes “Jeremy,” based on the true story of a boy who was bullied to the point of desperation, bringing a gun to school one day to shoot himself in front of his classmates.  The refrain “Jeremy spoke in class today” gains more poignancy as the song continues.

The second half of the album nicely mixes the tempo and tenor of tracks.  There are the slower, more melancholy tracks like “Oceans” and “Release.”  There is the declaration of independence and survival that is “Garden.”  Then there the rockers like “Deep” and its even more well-constructed, entertaining counterpart, the Vedder-penned “Porch.”

The outtakes from this period and the Ten recording sessions are nothing short of phenomenal.  Ament reportedly considered leaving the band when Gossard grew tired of “Brother,” a gem that went unreleased until 2009’s remix.  Even better is the live standard “Yellow Ledbetter,” a masterpiece in its own right.  While I understand the decision to leave “State of Love and Trust,” “Wash,” and the aforementioned “Footsteps” off the record, I am thrilled to have them as outtakes.  These are all songs that I look forward to, and they certainly transcend the typically forgettable bonus track fare.

From front to back, Ten is not only the strongest album in Pearl Jam’s considerable catalog — and this is saying something — but it is one of the best rock albums of all time.  The balance that was struck here between interesting musical compositions and engaging vocal performances set a bar few albums since have been able to rise to.  This is an album that deserved a reissue, and the deluxe edition (2 CD/1 DVD combo) was no doubt the best, most affordable deal of the four options.  The packaging included a hard case with a scrapbook style booklet, a disc with the album as originally mixed, a second disc with the remixed tracks and six bonus tracks, and a DVD of the MTV Unplugged concert that Pearl Jam performed in 1992.  This performance alone was worth the price of the album, and seeing Vedder, Ament, Gossard, Mike McCready, and Dave Abbruzzese was a clear reminder that these were different times: the grunge look has since gone out of style, but viewing this DVD provides an opportunity to see them in their early prime, each band member smiling at various moments in different songs, celebrating the outstanding music that they had written in brand-new acoustic arrangements.

(On this, the nineteen anniversary since the recording sessions began, the Weekend Review tips its hat to Ten and encourages you to squeeze in a listen very soon!)

“Bathtub Gin” (Phish Cover)

Originally posted 2010-03-26 12:30:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeremy Hammond:

I recently had to take my acoustic/electric into the shop to get it looked at, since the “electric” half of it wasn’t working, and a Made in the U.S.A. Fender Strat was hanging on the wall.  I couldn’t resist.  I took it home (yes, I paid for it first).  It feels great and has great tone and sustain, even out of my tiny little amp.  So here’s “Bathtub Gin” by Phish.  I laid down the rhythm and vocals first (single take), and then laid the solo over that track.  This is a fun tune and I love the solo melody, particularly when played on my new ax.

** EDITOR’S NOTE: **

Our favorite perennial format bending, Phish-covering Guest Sessions contributor is back, and this time, he’s brought a new guitar purchase to his cover song music video.  We hope that your Friday may be a little brighter for this great, groovy rendition of a Phish deep track, originally recorded for their 1990 album Lawn Boy.

“Back on the Train” (Phish Cover)

Originally posted 2009-12-18 06:39:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeremy Hammond:

My acoustic cover of “Back on the Train” by Phish, from the Farmhouse album. I intend to go back and overlay another track for the solos, but here’s the “single take” version with just rhythm and vocals.

** EDITOR’S NOTE: **

For Jeremy’s third Guest Session contribution, he has brought yet another new band to the Laptop Sessions cover song music video blog.  Somehow, Phish have slipped by these past couple years without ever being acknowledged by the Laptop Sessions crew.

No longer!

As per usual, this is a great video of an upbeat performance — Jeremy’s vocals are beautifully authentic to Trey Anastasio’s original lead.  And, of course, the chords sound quirky and, again, perfectly authentic to the Farmhouse track.  Farmhouse was their final record before they announced a hiatus, even if they have gone on to release new discs at a steady pace since then, including this year’s most recent Phish album, Joy.

“Mother” (Pink Floyd Cover)

Do YOU record acoustic cover songs?  Submit your YouTube link and a blog post about your performance, why you chose the song, etc. to the “Fridays: The Guest Sessions” link in the weekly calendar above!

By Jeremy Hammond:

This is my cover of “Mother” by Pink Floyd from the album The Wall. I first recorded the rhythm and vocals, then overlaid another track for the guitar solo.

I had two versions of this up previously. On the first, a commenter suggested I add the solo, so I did. But then watching that second one, and then going back and listening to the original for the first time in ages, I realized I had the timing wrong in two parts. So I redid it yet again. This, my third “Mother” effort for YouTube, is one I am finally happy with.


** EDITOR’S NOTE: **

Jeremy’s session technically breaks the golden rule of “one live take” established since the first Laptop Session over two years ago.  That being said, his version of “Mother” is an excellent performance, and as he explained above, the solo was overdubbed and handled nicely in the video with a fade in and out.  We simply couldn’t deny you the opportunity to hear and see this great version.

Now if only he could clone himself, that would make for quite the duo…

Laptop Sessions contributor Jeff Copperthite first recorded this song in August 2008, and it quickly became one of his most popular and highest rated performances.  Click HERE to watch his version.

Thanks again, Jeremy, for contributing to the Guest Sessions!