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!)

“Thin Air” by Pearl Jam – Chords, Tabs, and How to Play

Originally posted 2009-02-28 20:57:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Thin Air”
Pearl Jam

Intro: E

E                                          C                  E
There’s a light… when my baby’s in my arms;
There’s a light… when the window shades are drawn.
Hesitate… when I feel I may do harm to her…
[Wash it off…] ’cause this feeling we can share.

E       C                                      D – A             E
And I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.

Byzantine… is reflected in our pond;
There’s a cloud… but the water remains calm.
Reaching in… the sun’s fingers clutch the dawn to pass;
Even out… it’s a precious thing to bear…

And I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.
Yes, I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.

E   F             C              G
It’s not in my past to presume…
G             D                            A
Love can keep on moving, in both directions.
F               C               G
How to be happy and true…
G       D                           A
Is the quest we’re taking on together…

E
Taking on… on, on, on…
Taking on… on, on, on on, on.

There’s a light… when my baby’s in my arms…

And I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.
And I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.
Yes, I know she’s reached my heart… in thin air.

E        C                                               A – E
Yes, I know she’s reached my heart…

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

A Weekend Review Special Edition – Pearl Jam Live in Concert: Sat., May 15, 2010 at the XL Center

Originally posted 2010-05-16 13:50:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Click HERE to view the set list!

By Chris Moore:

It is far too easy to sit down the day after a concert experience and glorify the memory of the past night.

What follows is, to the best of my ability, devoid of exaggeration.

Band of Horses opened the night with a solid forty-five minute set.  I enjoyed listening to their songs; it was all Band-style rock and vocals, if a little less rough-shod than Robertson, Helm, and company would have preferred.  Ben Bridwell and his band sufficiently caught my interest for their new album, Infinite Arms, which will be released this coming Tuesday.

This all being acknowledged, they are no Pearl Jam.

The majority of ticket-holders apparently agreed, as more than three quarters of the seats went unfilled until about ten minutes before the headliners came onstage.  By the time Matt Cameron, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder took the stage, nearly every seat in the house was filled, including the majority of seats to the side of and behind the stage.

And when a band can fill seats with people willing to stare at their backs for most of the concert, that’s saying something.

Even from my vantage point at Vedder’s nine o’clock high up in the second to last row of the XL (nee Civic) Center in Hartford, CT, the show was a phenomenal experience, although it didn’t begin that way.  For some reason, the sound was softer and muddier than it should have been for the first several songs.

I had a nightmarish vision of having to listen to thousands of half-drunken Pearl Jam fans sing the hits while one of the greatest rock bands of all time labored away below me, in my vision but outside my hearing.  For the first four songs or so, this fear was realized as I had to struggle to hear Vedder’s baritone amidst shouting fans who clearly knew the words every bit as well as he did — and wanted to lend their vocals.  Even McCready and Gossard’s guitar work was buried, only Ament’s bass and Cameron’s stellar drumming standing out clearly the entire evening.  In between songs, Vedder sounded like he was speaking into a drive-thru speaker in a foreign language.

Then, like someone flipped a switch, Vedder’s voice suddenly came through loud and clear and the instruments all fell into place into the mix.  From this point on, the concert was pure energy and utter perfection.

This was a concert to compete with the best concert experiences of my lifetime (and admittedly limited experience).  There was all the instrumental prowess of Bob Dylan’s band with an ability to translate studio tracks to live performances that rivals — and perhaps surpasses — that of bands like America and Wilco.  The set list was among the most well-balanced I’ve seen, up there with Brian Wilson’s recent concerts which regularly and beautifully draw from throughout his storied career.  My only complaint concerning the set list — and I am most certainly going to be alone on this one — is its dismissal of Binaural (2000) and Riot Act (2002), which boast some of my favorite tracks in their catalog.

In the course of more than two hours of pure rock fury, the band played the first seven tracks of last year’s Backspacer, folding these new songs into their repetoire like they’ve been playing them for a decade.  I’m at a loss to name just one that stood out — I think “Got Some” first because I love it, but “The Fixer” was heart-pounding, catchy madness, and by the time “Johnny Guitar” rolled out, it was like Vedder and company had been unleashed.  In the first encore, they played a breath-taking version of the ninth track, “Speed of Sound,” noting that they hadn’t really played it before, at least not to their liking.  Gossard’s acoustic work was just right, and I can honestly assert that this was better than the album version.

This is not to say that the veteran Pearl Jam fans went unappeased, as Ten (1991), Vs. (1993), and Vitalogy (1994) were all well-represented.  Hits like “Even Flow,” “Alive,” and “Jeremy” were received as full-audience sing-a-longs, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear my favorite deep track on Ten, “Porch,” in all its angry glory.  “Daughter” and, less predictably, “Dissident” were played, but it wasn’t until their transcendent take on “Indifference” that I was blown away.  This was their second to last performance of the evening, with the lights up and the audience clapping for the entire song.  I’m proud to say I was one of the few that didn’t taper off in the middle, and even though I questioned if I was supposed to stop and my arms were screaming for me to relax, I wouldn’t have for the world.

Although Vitalogy is among my least favorite albums in the Pearl Jam catalog, it certainly has some of the best material they have ever released.  When they kicked off “Corduroy,” the crowd responded with the same sort of energetic approval I’ve rarely seen, the same as when Dylan finally reaches for a harmonica these days.  I was again pleasantly surprised to hear them roll into my favorite Vitalogy deep track, “Satan’s Bed.”  There’s something poignant about the in-your-face defiance of typical American indicators of success and image in this song, heard most clearly in the vocals and instrumental stop on the line “I’ll never suck Satan’s dick.”  Before “Nothingman,” Vedder dedicated the song to a young couple holding hands that he had seen on a street corner before the show, noting how profound that sort of affection is, as though it’s all they need in the world for all their days to come.  He referred to “Nothingman” as a cautionary tale to those who would forgo or forget the importance of love.

Another of my favorites, Yield (1998) alum “Do the Evolution,” was played, but it was admittedly overshadowed by their beautiful delivery of “Low Light,” one of my girlfriend Nicole’s favorites (her night was complete, as she had been hoping for “Johnny Guitar” and this one).

The night all wrapped up with a second encore closing cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” a la Hendrix, a song and an arrangement that Dylan uses often in his own encores to this day.

The music was brilliantly performed, the energy in the filled-to-capacity XL Center was unsurpassed, and even from the nosebleeds, it was clear that this was a concert that I will always remember as one of the best I’ve ever seen.  That I almost considered saving the money and not going to see Pearl Jam is beyond embarrassing; two decades later, they are one of the most impressive live bands going, most likely due the the fact that they are truly a band.  As much as Vedder’s personality and stage presence drives their image, each member of the band contributes to the writing of the songs and has an integral part of their sound.

As if to remind us of the fact that he prefers to share the spotlight, Vedder rode out the instrumental portion of “Porch” by using the reflection from his electric guitar, held above his head, to shine a beacon on each and every portion of the stadium, momentarily blinding each fan with brilliance — a literal gesture, and a fitting metaphor for the evening.

Pearl Jam Set List – May 15, 2010 – Live at the XL Center, Hartford, CT

Originally posted 2010-05-16 00:44:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Click HERE for the complete concert review!

By Chris Moore:

PHENOMENAL show.  The link to the full review is above — enjoy!

Pearl Jam Set List: Saturday, 5/15/2010

1. Unthought Known
2. Corduroy
3. Do the Evolution
4. Got Some
5. Severed Hand
6. Dissident
7. Low Light
8. Amongst the Waves
9. Even Flow
10. Nothingman
11. Johnny Guitar
12. I Got Id
13. Jeremy
14. Daughter
15. Satan’s Bed
16. Lukin’
17. Gonna See My Friend

18. Just Breathe
19. Speed of Sound
20. State of Love Trust
21. Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love
22. Porch

23. The Fixer
24. Crazy Mary
25. Alive
26. Indifference
27. All Along the Watchtower