• Ten, Vs., Vitalogy, And Lightning Bolt

    In 1990 I was listening to Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Poison sing about decadence, drugs, and debauchery. The glamorous lifestyles portrayed on MTV and in Circus magazine were enough to make any fifteen year old dream of living the "good life". Stadiums and tour busses full of girls preoccupied my drifting mind rather than chemistry and history. On August 27, 1991 Pearl Jam's debut album Ten was released. The album was a musical shot of adrenaline that changed my life forever. One spin of the CD through my Sony Discman, connected via cassette adapter to the stereo in my Mom's red 1989 Chevy Beretta, and I was hooked. Nursing an injured arm that day I watched my baseball team's game from the parking lot rather than the dugout. This enabled me to keep listening to Ten during the game. The album instantly turned my previous rock star heroes into has-been zeros. Singing about backstage parties was suddenly uncool and my previously favorite bands were immediately irrelevant. Rock and Roll about real world problems and performances with incredible energy made the hair metal bands, who float around the stage with synchronized smiles and pink guitars, simply stupid.






    One year and one day after the release of Ten I saw Pearl Jam for the first time at Lollapalooza on Harriet Island in St. Paul, MN. The 1992 Lollapalooza lineup featured bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam, Lush, Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Ice T & Body Count, Luscious Jackson, and L7. It's hard to imagine half of those bands were performing on the second stage. Pearl Jam was the second band to take the main stage after Lush. The performance was unforgettable. Stage dives and scaffolding climbs were an every day occurrence for Eddie Vedder and this concert was no exception. An example of Eddie's craziness can be seen in the video below during the Lollapalooza stop at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin the very next day. Bands that took the stage after Pearl Jam only fell short of the energetic PJ show. Headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who'd recently replaced guitarist John Frusciante with Arik Marshall, couldn't match Pearl Jam's performance. Since my first Pearl Jam concert in 1992 I've seen them play several times including the PJ20 twentieth anniversary weekend at Alpine Valley and the unforgettable show at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL July 19, 2013.






    The First Three Albums and a Lightning Bolt

    Ten

    Pearl Jam's debut release Ten has sold over 13 million copies since it's release in 1991. It was the album launched the band and helped launch the Grunge era. The track Alive features one of the most memorable guitar openings in recent music history. Alive was played on radio stations from Alternative to Adult Contemporary to bubble gum Pop. Even though Pop stations cut the 5:40 track short by excluding the guitar solo, Alive was still a hit with nearly everyone. It was impossible to get the hook, "Oh I, oh, I'm still alive, Hey, I, oh, I'm still alive, Hey I, oh, I'm still alive" out of one's head. The track Jeremy garnered the most attention from the mainstream media because of the lyrical content (the MTV VMA award winning video didn't hurt either). What media outlet could ignore a true story about a child committing suicide in front of a classroom? I'm willing to bet most non-Pearl Jam fans who liked the song had no idea what the song was about when singing along in the car to, "Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke in, Jeremy spoke in class today." My favorite PJ track of all time is Black. In September 1992 the band refused Sony CEO Tommy Mottola's insistence that the song be released as a single. Black crossed even more boundaries than previous singles even though it was never officially released as a single. Radio stations around the world took it upon themselves to play the track anyway. Black is a Pearl Jam favorite for dedicated fan club members and casual listeners alike.

    Ten was reissued March 24, 2009. The reissue included a remastered version of the original album and a remix called Ten Redux. Both the remaster and the remix have less dynamic range than the original CD release, but feature some sonic qualities not heard on the original release.

    Tracks to check out: Evenflow, Alive, Black, Jeremy, Porch, Release

    HDtracks 24 bit / 88.2 remastered download (unaffiliated) Link





    Vs.

    Pearl Jam's sophomore release titled Vs. was the fastest selling album in history as it sold 950,378 copies in its first week of release. This was more than all the other top ten Billboard records combined. This record stood until a controversial combination of a new counting method and Garth Brooks album release coincidentally took place on the same week (Link ). Needless to say I was at Cheapo Records in Minnetonka, MN at midnight October 19, 1993 to purchase the new album. Back then it was impossible to hear a leaked version of any album before the Internet was popular. In addition, I didn't have a turntable that would have enabled me to purchase and listen to the Vs. vinyl edition released one week prior to the CD release. I listened to Vs. the night of its release until I fell asleep with my Discman still spinning on repeat. This album became the soundtrack to my Senior year in high school. The first two tracks, Go and Animal, feature the band's instruments much further in front of Eddie's vocals compared to the previous release Ten. These two tracks absolutely rock. The third track Daughter features a great combination of acoustic guitar, vocals, and great cymbal work at the beginning. The audiophile in me always listens closer around 23 seconds into the track when a cymbal can be heard in the right channel rather than the center mix between channels. It's just a neat little detail that I'm sure most people couldn't care less about, but it's one that I've enjoyed for years. Another interesting item can be heard at the end of Rearviewmirror. This track features very enjoyable drum work and finishes with a flurry sure enough to cause carpal tunnel. At the very end of the track, roughly 4:33, one can hear drums sticks hit a hard surfaced wall. According to author Kim Neely's book Five Against One drummer Dave Abbruzzese threw his sticks because Producer Brendan O'Brien has put too much pressure on his during this track. In addition to throwing his sticks Dave punched a hole in his snare drum and threw it off the side of a cliff. The album was recorded at The Site in Marin County, CA. Based on the location of the studio and topography of the land I can easily visualize the snare flying through the air and landing in the thick vegetation (old school video ). A much softer track is Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town. This track brings back a flood of memories. I can't count the times my friends and I would sing along with this song at parties after graduation and sing along with a friend playing his acoustic guitar. It's a great track regardless of its sentimental value to me. It was covered by Charlotte Martin on her album Reproductions (Link ). The closing track on the original Vs. release was called Indifference. It's a wonderfully spooky track that can put the listener in anther world when listening with the lights off. Eddie's baritone vocal is stunning on this track. Listener can also hear the snare drum vibrating when Jeff Ament's bass hits the deepest notes. It's a raw track that never gets tiring.

    March 29, 2011 Pearl Jam reissued both the Vs. album and the Vitalogy album. Like the Ten remaster Vs. has less dynamic range than the original CD release, but features some sonic qualities not heard on the original CD. More important is the inclusion of Pearl Jam's cover of Victoria Williams' Crazy Mary. This track is the last song on the reissue / remastered version available at HDtrack in 24 bit / 96 kHz high resolution. Victoria's backing vocals and acoustic guitar can be heard on the track.

    Tracks to check out: Go, Animal, Daughter, Reviewmirror, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Indifference, Crazy Mary

    HDtracks 24 bit / 96 remastered download (unaffiliated) Link





    Vitalogy

    Released on CD December 6, 1994, two weeks after its release on vinyl, Vitalogy became the second fastest selling album in history by with 877,000 discs sold in the first week. At that time Pearl Jam had the number one and two positions for fastest selling albums ever. As a Freshman in college Votalogy's darker tone fit perfectly with the greater stresses college created, as opposed to high school. The long cold Minnesota winter in which the album was released was apropos as well. The entire album, with the exception of Better Man, is pretty dark. Recorded during a dark time in Pearl Jam's history likely had a major effect on the record. The opening track Last Exit kicks into gear with a stellar drum beat followed by an equally great guitar riff. It's a great track to turn up and enjoy 2:54 of rock and roll. The band created an ode to vinyl with the track Spin The Black Circle. Pearl Jam received its only Grammy award ever for this track winning the Best Hard Rock Performance category. Two undeniably awesome songs from Vitalogy are Corduroy and Better Man. In fact these two tracks rank among my favorites from any of Pearl Jam's ten releases. The slow guitar build up in Corduroy followed by the main guitar riff that explodes into the rest of the track is enough to energize music lover. Similarly, Better Man begins with a slow intro followed by a little guitar, vocal, and keyboard. Upon first listen one could be fooled into thinking Better Man is a ballad. However, at 1:55 a slow drum build up occurs followed by the guitar and the track takes off. It's catchy chorus and guitar riff have propelled Better Man to one of Pearl Jam's most famous tracks. It's hard to believe Eddie Vedder wrote the track in high school and the band refused to put in on the Vs. album because it was too "accessible". Better Man has become one of the neatest racks to hear live because of the crowd's participation. At the Target Center in Minneapolis on June 30, 1998 the band started playing Better Man to a sold out crowd. Eddie Vedder started singing the first verse and let the crowd take over. In a comical concert moment the crowd launched into what everyone thought were the right lyrics. Eddie stopped playing and said, "That's good but see that's the second verse." "Gotcha." It's a concert moment I'll never forget (Link ).

    March 29, 2011 the Vitalogy remaster was released with the Vs. remaster. Like the Ten and Vs. remasters Vitalogy less dynamic range than the original CD release, but features some sonic qualities not heard on the original CD. The bonus tracks on the Vitalogy remaster will likely please Pearl Jam fans but may not interest casual listeners. I like the bonus version of Better Man with guitar and organ only and the alternate take of Corduroy, but others may pass over these for the official versions.

    Tracks to check out: Last Exit, Spin The Black Circle, Not For You, Nothingman, Corduroy, Better Man, Immortality

    HDtracks 24 bit / 96 remastered download (unaffiliated) Link





    Lightning Bolt

    October 15, 2013 Pearl Jam released its newest album Lightning Bolt. The first two singles couldn't be further apart musically. Mind Your Manners is as close to Punk as PJ has come over the years. I had to listen more than a few times to like this track. Now I can't live without it. Sirens was the second single released. It has a Pop sound to it that many less-than-diehard PJ fans really like. It's a good song nonetheless. I really like opening tracks Getaway, Swallowed Whole, Sleeping By Myself, and Future Days. The track Sleeping By Myself is a PJ cover from the mellow Eddie Vedder solo project Ukulele Songs while Getaway leads into Mind Your Manners beautifully with its slight Pop / Punk mix. I heard a few of these tracks at the Wrigley Field show over the Summer but at the time I was lukewarm about them as they were too new. Based on my first ten times through Lightning Bolt it's better than the last few PJ albums. The album has been out for two days so I've yet to crate any lasting memories with the next soundtrack of my life.

    Tracks to check out: Getaway, Mind Your Manners, Sirens, Swallowed Whole, Sleeping By Myself (PJ), Sleeping By Myself (EV), Future Days

    The album is available in vinyl and its downloadable directly from Pearl jam in MP3, ALAC, FLAC, and WAV. All files are 16 bit / 44.1 kHz (unaffiliated) Link .





    Wrap Up

    As soon as I saw the first three Pearl Jam albums released in high resolution on HDtracks I knew I had to write an article. There was just no way I could write about other releases such as the entire early Van Halen catalog in high resolution and skip this monumental PJ occasion. My love for Pearl Jam's music is something I try to spread whenever I can. Considering the band's huge popularity in the 1990's and continued success today I'm always surprised when CA readers haven't heard a single track by the band. I hope this article introduces Pearl Jam to readers who missed the band back in the day and reintroduces the band to those whose interest in PJ's music may have diminished over the years.


    In addition to Pearl Jam's music I highly recommend the Cameron Crowe Directed documentary Pearl Jam Twenty.











    Comments 27 Comments
    1. goldendarko's Avatar
      goldendarko -
      Great article, I'm a huge PJ fan too, the newest album is not bad, pretty similar to the last one to me
    1. jtk's Avatar
      jtk -
      Wow, memories!

      I saw them at Lollapalooza in 92 at Alpine Valley (Aug 29; still have my ticket stub) although I admit that at the time I was more interested in RHCP and Soundgarden. And then I was at Sight & Sound in Macomb IL at midnight to buy "Vs".

      I admit they lost me a bit after Vitalogy, but I'm going to check out Lightning Bolt.

      Nice article!
    1. Vic Damone's Avatar
      Vic Damone -
      Not exactly a shinning moment for the Chillies. Frusciante's body of work is not easily covered. Even today there is a difficult to describe sort of finesse that is absent.

      I highly recommend you pull out all the stops and try to make it to the next Eddie Vedder appearance at Patty and Neil Young's October Bridge School Benefits. Eddie and Neil are quite the duo. I caught Vedder out in the water longboarding at 38th Ave. in Santa Cruz a few years back.
    1. Jud's Avatar
      Jud -
      Fun reading, Chris - the "changed my life" moments remind me of the first time I heard Springsteen, and even further back, the first times I heard the Beatles. (I say times, because the very first time I heard the Beatles - in a '53 pink Packard Imperial with my mom driving and an older girl cousin who went slightly crazy when they came on - they were so different from anything that had been on the radio before that I really couldn't even say whether I liked them or not. But within days, it seemed, they were everywhere - top five of the top 40 at one point that year - and they (sorry for the hackneyed phrase, but it's true) became the soundtrack for my generation growing up.)
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jud View Post
      Fun reading, Chris - the "changed my life" moments remind me of the first time I heard Springsteen, and even further back, the first times I heard the Beatles. (I say times, because the very first time I heard the Beatles - in a '53 pink Packard Imperial with my mom driving and an older girl cousin who went slightly crazy when they came on - they were so different from anything that had been on the radio before that I really couldn't even say whether I liked them or not. But within days, it seemed, they were everywhere - top five of the top 40 at one point that year - and they (sorry for the hackneyed phrase, but it's true) became the soundtrack for my generation growing up.)
      I really enjoy reading stories like that Jud. It's cool that many of us have music that changed our lives.
    1. Vic Damone's Avatar
      Vic Damone -
      If your like most of the children of those days you didn't hear the Beatles live. Hearing and seeing McCartney live made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

      The next best thing and maybe even more fun because of their song selection is a Fab Faux performance. Their instruments and amplifiers are almost identical to the Beatles. Only the vocals are just the slightest bit different. Musically, they cover the very complicated later studio tracks with the help of modern keyboards impeccably and in some performances with String and Brass backup.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vic Damone View Post
      Not exactly a shinning moment for the Chillies. Frusciante's body of work is not easily covered. Even today there is a difficult to describe sort of finesse that is absent.

      I highly recommend you pull out all the stops and try to make it to the next Eddie Vedder appearance at Patty and Neil Young's October Bridge School Benefits. Eddie and Neil are quite the duo. I caught Vedder out in the water longboarding at 38th Ave. in Santa Cruz a few years back.
      I'd love to make it to the Bridge School Benefits!
    1. Guf Gufler's Avatar
      Guf Gufler -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      I'd love to make it to the Bridge School Benefits!

      Our music back ground is very similar except i transitioned into jamband world in the early 90's, a slightly different path from PJ. Very similar in the way that certain bands really become a part your way of life. This summer I was in Chicago seeing Phish and the show was cut short due to rain. I heard Pearl Jam also was interrupted the same night in Chicago but then they came back to play additional 2 hours after the rain delay. Kudos. I have seen Eddie Vedder play the bridge school a few times and I have to say he is one of the highlights. I totally appreciate him as musician and seems like a great humble guy.
      great read thanks.
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      Quote Originally Posted by Vic Damone View Post
      If your like most of the children of those days you didn't hear the Beatles live. Hearing and seeing McCartney live made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

      The next best thing and maybe even more fun because of their song selection is a Fab Faux performance. Their instruments and amplifiers are almost identical to the Beatles. Only the vocals are just the slightest bit different. Musically, they cover the very complicated later studio tracks with the help of modern keyboards impeccably and in some performances with String and Brass backup.
      I was born about the same time in the same town, and now I live in Santa Cruz, and I still never have managed to see him/them.
    1. Erwin S's Avatar
      Erwin S -
      Not only is Pearl Jam one of the great rock bands ever, Eddy Vedder is simply a great person. I don't think there's a nicer guy in rock music. There are enough jerks, wannabee's and non-talents around to appreciate a true man like him. Oh, and I also loved the music he did for "Into The Wild"...
    1. Bill Lord's Avatar
      Bill Lord -
      Great article. My Wife and I are huge Pearl Jam Fans. We just saw them recently for the "Lightning Bolt" Tour.

      I saw that you, Chris, posted over at the 10 Club regarding the live versions technical qualities. The tracks are available here pearl jam download mp3, flac at nugs.net I have no connection with that site. Can you elaborate on your findings and are all these "Higher than CD quality" releases worth purchasing?

      Thanks
    1. Ajax's Avatar
      Ajax -
      Hi Chris,

      I started a thread under the Music Forum and I am including it here because the passion with which you described your adolescent music journey, and the love still you have for those albums, was/is the same for me, albeit my youth pre dates yours by some 20 years. I was 13 in 1969 and in hindsight it was a weird (but great) time to be growing up - the real world was unreal: This is the thread FWIW:

      Hi Guys,

      I am always looking for new music and a good way of identifying what's good is that it stands the test of time.

      What were the albums that you absolutely loved as a kid, in your teens, that you still do. No particular genre or era here .... you could still be in your teens! Mine are from the late 60's and early 70's, which was a prolific era. I still play them regularly - is there something wrong with that?

      Harvest .... Neil Young
      Greetings from LA .... Tim Buckley
      Electric Ladyland .... Jimi Hendrix
      Dark Side of the Moon ... Pink Floyd
      Transformer .... Lou Reed
      Can't Buy a Thrill .... Steel Dan
      Tupelo Honey .... Van Morrison
      Kaya .... Bob Marley
      Naturally .... JJ Cale
      Abraxas .... Santana
      Tea for the Tillerman .... Cat Stevens
      Tapestry .... Carol King
      Night Moves .... Bob Seeger
      Blood on the Tracks .... Bob Dylan
      The Blue Album 1967-1970 ... The Beatles
      Layla and other assorted love songs .... Eric Clapton
      Sweet Baby James .... James Taylor
      The Art of Tea .... Michael Franks
      Crosby Stills and Nash .... Crosby Stills and Nash
      Let it Bleed .... Rolling Stones
      Paradise and Lunch .... Ry Cooder

      My brother and I had 300 albums by the time I was 20 but I have to stop now otherwise it gets ridiculous.

      All the best,

      Ajax
    1. james45974's Avatar
      james45974 -
      (donning my flame-proof suit)

      Isn't this subject more appropriate for a forum rather than an article? At least this is doing better than the last PJ article which had a whopping 10 comments over 3 months! Even the newer Arnold Schoenberg thread has more comments!

      Chris, does the number of views/comments have any influence as to the direction you take with potential subjects?

      btw, not a PJ hater, I have 4 of their recordings in my collection, vinyl and CD, and Eddie Vedder has demonstrated that he has talents that go far beyond PJ!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by james45974 View Post
      (donning my flame-proof suit)

      Isn't this subject more appropriate for a forum rather than an article? At least this is doing better than the last PJ article which had a whopping 10 comments over 3 months! Even the newer Arnold Schoenberg thread has more comments!

      Chris, does the number of views/comments have any influence as to the direction you take with potential subjects?

      btw, not a PJ hater, I have 4 of their recordings in my collection, vinyl and CD, and Eddie Vedder has demonstrated that he has talents that go far beyond PJ!
      Hi James - Thanks for editorial feedback.

      The number of views or comments doesn't influence my writing too much. I write about what I'm passionate about and hope people like it. I could publish articles on a a few subjects that would get a massive amount of comments but I need to write about topics that interest me. A new DAC review every other day would raise the number of readers greatly but would bring down the quality if each review. Also, I like to try new things or write in different styles. If I stick to the "popular" highly commented topics I would get bored quickly. There are 250,000 unique monthly CA readers. Less than 1% leave comments. Thus the number of comments shouldn't be used as an indicator of reader acceptance. The number of views may be a more accurate gage of interest

      A lot goes into an editorial strategy. It's impossible to dwindle this strategy down to a single response.
    1. james45974's Avatar
      james45974 -
      Chris, I totally agree that you can't run this enterprise as a popularity contest. This is my go-to site for information, I love the varied content and there are lots of different subjects for all tastes. I guess my comment was just me letting off some steam! I have been anxious to hear the CA perspective of the recent RMAF and I get an article fawning over PJ!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by james45974 View Post
      Chris, I totally agree that you can't run this enterprise as a popularity contest. This is my go-to site for information, I love the varied content and there are lots of different subjects for all tastes. I guess my comment was just me letting off some steam! I have been anxious to hear the CA perspective of the recent RMAF and I get an article fawning over PJ!
      I'm anxious to write about RMAF but my photos haven't came back from the lab yet. I shot the show with a Hasselblad and real analogue film!
    1. james45974's Avatar
      james45974 -
      film is like vinyl, too bad there isn't as much interest in taking photos on film these days though, the quality is so much better!
    1. Fork's Avatar
      Fork -
      I remember those days well, living in Seattle and finishing school at the University of Washington. Having suffered through the 1980's, holding on to Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Ozzy (the Randy Rhodes years), it seemed like everything cool was in the past (GnR or Def Leppard, no thanks). I still view the 1980's as a cultural wasteland for music, movies, fashion, etc that I hope to never experience again.

      Around 1990 when music from Nirvana, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers and Alice in Chains started hitting the radio it seemed like the early days of the Stones...a complete rejection of the status quo and a new and completely original direction. Unfortunately I wasn't in-the-know early enough to follow some of the bigger names in the early days, but the club music scene in Seattle was quite vibrant until 1995 and there's a big resurgence of talent today. The club atmosphere of the early 1990's is gone forever though. Back then every small club in Seattle was a complete haze of pot smoke, stage diving, crowd surfing and mosh pits (it was like taking a trip to Mexico), then the stage diving and other lawsuits started. If you watch the movie PJ20 there are a few clips that show how crazy it was. Funny how the crowd energy changed when we started showing up for the same bands 10 years later. I guess 30 and 40-year-olds just aren't as good at jumping up and down as 20-year-olds, but the music back then was great fuel for raising hell.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fork View Post
      I remember those days well, living in Seattle and finishing school at the University of Washington. Having suffered through the 1980's, holding on to Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Ozzy (the Randy Rhodes years), it seemed like everything cool was in the past (GnR or Def Leppard, no thanks). I still view the 1980's as a cultural wasteland for music, movies, fashion, etc that I hope to never experience again.

      Around 1990 when music from Nirvana, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers and Alice in Chains started hitting the radio it seemed like the early days of the Stones...a complete rejection of the status quo and a new and completely original direction. Unfortunately I wasn't in-the-know early enough to follow some of the bigger names in the early days, but the club music scene in Seattle was quite vibrant until 1995 and there's a big resurgence of talent today. The club atmosphere of the early 1990's is gone forever though. Back then every small club in Seattle was a complete haze of pot smoke, stage diving, crowd surfing and mosh pits (it was like taking a trip to Mexico), then the stage diving and other lawsuits started. If you watch the movie PJ20 there are a few clips that show how crazy it was. Funny how the crowd energy changed when we started showing up for the same bands 10 years later. I guess 30 and 40-year-olds just aren't as good at jumping up and down as 20-year-olds, but the music back then was great fuel for raising hell.
      Thanks for sharing fork.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      It's Pearl Jam week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Different acts are covering PJ songs.

      Here's a link to the shows.

      NBC.com - Late Night with Jimmy Fallon