Music Review: Pearl Jam’s “Backspacer”

Originally posted 2009-09-21 22:41:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

This most recent Pearl Jam release is aptly titled; in many ways, Backspacer is closer in focus and energy to Ten than any of their more recent efforts.

Most reviews have wasted little time in pointing out that this album holds the band’s record for brevity — 37 minutes from the first guitar strum to the final vocal fade.  This can, of course, be interpreted in one of two ways, the worst case scenario being that the album was hurriedly prepared and produced.

This could not be further from the truth.

Backspacer is a strong, purposeful album comprised of eleven very upbeat, very direct tracks that leave little room for the listener to catch his breath over the record’s half hour span.  For the most part, these tight, three minute tracks are energizing and satisfying, catchier and cooler than anything Eddie Vedder and company have turned out in a long time.

This is, of course, a mixed bag.  After all, short, to-the-point pop rock is fun when done properly — which, by the way, it certainly is here.  Still, the electric soundscapes of 2000’s Binaural and the distortion-drenched protest of 2002’s Riot Act were excellent installments in the Pearl Jam catalog, even if their respective values have been minimized by critics who seemed more concerned with comparing them to early releases like Ten and Vs.

It should be noted that 2006’s Pearl Jam lacked cohesiveness as an album, although several songs on that release are among the best of their career (“World Wide Suicide” or “Marker in the Sand,” anyone?).  This eponymous release is an album of wild energy and abandon, which works particularly well in the first half of the track listing.  That being said, Vedder rips his vocal chords to shreds in his effort to sing without holding any emotion or effort in reserve.  This works well in some places, and yet crackles to pieces in others.

Pearl Jam's "Backspacer" (2009)

On Backspacer, Vedder has somehow been able to amp up his emotions and energy, and yet his vocals stand out as some of the best of any Pearl Jam recording to date.  Some songs, like the opener “Gonna See My Friend,” harken back to the roughly shouted vocals of Pearl Jam.  Most, however, feature Vedder at his best.

The opening track is also notable for a strumming pattern that is evocative of some mid-1950s Chuck Berry-esque riffing — with a decidedly grunge rock twist to it, of course.  “Gonna See My Friend” is a catchy track but certainly does not stand out among the other excellent album starters of their career.

From the first millisecond of “Got Some,” there is suddenly evidence that this might be an excellent album.  Jeff Ament’s collaboration with Vedder is a nice addition to the other outstanding Ament contributions — think: “God’s Dice,” “Ghost,” and “Low Light;”  if you’re really kind, forget “Pilate.”  The best part of “Got Some” is that, by the time it has finished, you haven’t even heard the single yet.

“The Fixer” comes next, a tour-de-force taken on very convincingly by Vedder.  I have vacillated about three or four times a day since I picked up the album on Sunday, and I’m still not certain whether I like “Got Some” or “The Fixer” better.  I suppose I’ll just have to keep listening…

As the album continues, there are other rockers performed at breakneck speed (“Johnny Guitar,” “Supersonic”), as well as considerably slower, more instrospective numbers (“Just Breathe,” “The End”).  These latter tracks were clearly influenced by Vedder’s recent solo project, writing and recording the soundtrack for the Sean Penn film Into the Wild.  The fingerpicking patterns that open these songs are reminiscent of his solo tracks, yet these songs clearly show the progress Vedder has made in such a short time, particularly in terms of structure.

For once, I am forced to agree with Rolling Stone‘s assessment of this album.  Their four star rating is a simple means of stating that Backspacer is an excellent album, but not a masterpiece.  From track 6 to “The End,” the album takes some repeated listening to really be appreciated.  At first, I felt that some of these tracks were too tight and traditional to ever truly stand out.  As I’ve listened, more and more of these songs have stood out, like the soaring “Amongst the Waves” and the excellent “Speed of Sound” (listen to Vedder’s vocals in the first few lines as he momentarily invokes Leonard Cohen).

Backspacer may not be the next Ten, but it is silly to even entertain that desire.  (If you read music reviews in the major magazines, you wouldn’t know it though!)  What this release does offer is an energetic, cohesive Pearl Jam album — and that, for me, has always been more than enough.

The Best of the Bob Dylan Covers – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-11-20 12:40:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

With some sources placing Bob Dylan as the #2 most covered artist (behind the Beatles, of course), there are some excellent performances of his songs.

Predominantly, though, there are hundreds and hundreds of inferior versions of his work, ranging from mediocre all the way down to openly offensive.

As a Dylan fan now for over a decade, I have accumulated quite a number of covers.  Folk?  I have it.  Bluesgrass?  Regrettably, yes.  Gospel?  You betcha!  Reggae?  For reals.

Suffice it to say, there’s some utter crap.

I’ve been thinking for weeks now about putting together a playlist of my favorite Dylan covers.  Finally, after coming across a Jimi Hendrix recording of “Tears of Rage” on iTunes today, I sorted through the archives and pieced together eighteen of my favorite recordings.  For those who don’t know me, you should understand that I’m often the guy who will remind you that, “This song was actually written by…” or ask you, “Have you ever heard the original?”  So, for me to say I love these songs means that they’ve truly made the cut for me.

And I hope you’ll enjoy them as well!

The artists are as wide ranging as George Harrison and Beck.  They go back as far as the sixties, with a sampling of classics by the original masters of the Dylan cover the Byrds, and are as recent as the Dead Weather, that super-ish-group co-fronted by Jack White.  In the case of the former, I love the Dylan versions about as much as Roger McGuinn and company’s, but in the case of the latter, a forgettable Street Legal track was revived and successfully reimagined.

There are some that you absolutely must listen to the originals – “Simple Twist of Fate” for one, and “Born in Time” for another (that is, if you find the Bootleg Series version).  There are some that are, frankly, better as covers – I’m thinking of “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” here.

So, go explore.  Visit Amazon and iTunes.  Expand your Dylan horizons.  And, most of all, remember why Bob Dylan was, is, and forever shall be the freakin’ man.

1)  “Mr. Tambourine Man” – The Byrds

2)  “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” – Beck

3)  “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

4)  “If Not for You” – George Harrison

5)  “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind / A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” – Jack Johnson

6)  “Masters of War” – Pearl Jam

7)  “New Pony” – The Dead Weather

8)  “Simple Twist of Fate” – Jeff Tweedy

9)  “My Back Pages” – The Byrds

10)  “Absolutely Sweet Marie” – George Harrison

11)  “Tears of Rage” – Jimi Hendrix

12)  “I Shall Be Released” – The Band

13)  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Eric Clapton

14)  “Mississippi” – Sheryl Crow

15)  “John Wesley Harding” – Wilco

16)  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – The Byrds

17)  “Born in Time” – Eric Clapton

18)  “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Warren Zevon

“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Originally posted 2008-02-11 19:45:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to Monday’s Laptop Session, and I’m back with another Pearl Jam song, this time going back to their 2nd album “Vs.”

This song also earns the title “Longest Song Title ever”, as I couldn’t even fit it into the Title field on YouTube (however, here it’s fine).

The song is “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”, and is a song that Scott & I have played for a long time. Usually, we’ll swap instruments and he’ll play the bass to it while I do my half-ass guitar part (well, compared to him. He is the guitarist in the band after all).

This song is very sweet and easy to listen too. I hope you enjoy it.

Stay tuned for Jim’s new session tomorrow, and see what Chris brings out of the woodwork for Original Wednesday.

Oh, and I’m ever so close to the 3,000 view mark! Thank you everybody for making the Laptop Sessions such a success.

Please visit http://laptopsessions.com/ for a new session per day in 2008. Also, remember my new EP “Greenlight” will debut on February 24th.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

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