Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nostalgia 2.0: The Pearl Jam Reissue

For those of you who are not diehard Pearl Jam fans, a piece of news... Ten is getting reissued next week to begin the leadup to the band’s 20th anniversary in 2011. You can find the info for all four (!!) editions online, but in a nutshell: There’s a vinyl-only version, two CD versions (one with a DVD of the full Unplugged show in 5.1… very cool), and a version that can only be described as "extremely expensive." The "EE" edition contains a replica of Ed’s personal notebook, vinyl AND CDs, a complete 1992 concert on vinyl (REALLY, Pearl Jam? I know you fetishize vinyl, but is there seriously a “warmth” to crowd noise that only vinyl provides??), and a replica of the original 3-song tape that Mr. Vedder mailed back to Stone and Jeff as his audition for the band. Oh yes, and this replica? ON CASSETTE. (Finally, someone’s ready to bring back cassettes!! I can't wait for cassette sales to surge 250% in 2010, Sony releasing an updated Walkman, cassette-only reissues of classic albums on high-quality metal tape, etc...)

All in all, this is an intriguing project. Like most reissues, the original album ("Disc 1") has been given a snazzy remastering job… AKA "made louder." (Thank you, Chuck Klosterman.) But that's not the reason you drop your hard-earned cash. That reason would be "Disc 2," which finds uber producer Brendan O’Brien doing his own “remix” of the original album. Better? Worse? Definitely worth a headphone listen. The casual fan probably won't notice anything too different, but for the diehard, there's all sorts of new wrinkles to uncover on what is, by now, a very well-worn album. "Jeremy" and "Evenflow" probably have the biggest changes, the former featuring much thicker guitars and different backing vocals, the latter adding a "spoken word part" by Ed during the breakdown. (He's basically acting out the part of the homeless: "Got any change?" "God bless you, man.") Also, "Why Go" now kicks like a mule.

But the true coolness comes with six bonus tracks from the original sessions. Two are the Singles songs in earlier form ("Breath" is slower, "State Of Love And Trust" shows why they canned Drummer #1). The other four are totally unreleased, including the song attached below, "Just A Girl." For me, this one has special nostalgia value, as it appeared in craptastic form on a bootleg I bought (for WAY too much money) back in college. Pearl Jam Vs. The World I think. (It also had a very odd cover of “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent which was clearly not Pearl Jam but actually Mother Love Bone. Buyer beware, I suppose.) Along with "Brother" (the "new" radio single), it’s an incredibly cool find and would've better served the original album over, say, "Deep." (Full disclosure: "Deep" is the sole weak point on Ten. Discuss.)

Honestly, though, the coolest thing about this whole reissue is that it's taken me back to the point in my life when I fell in love with Pearl Jam for the first time… Christmas of ’91… And on into the spring and summer of ’92…. Buying every “rare Italian import” I could find… Tracking down the singles with "Yellow Ledbetter" and "Dirty Frank" and "I’ve Got A Feeling" (Amazing vocal shredding from Ed, if you've never heard it)…. And covering “Alive” in our silly little cover band at some on-campus bar that spring.

Damn I’m old.

And here’s how I know I’m old: Because record companies are now feeding on my nostalgia in a desperate attempt to keep their industry from completely collapsing. But I don’t care. I don't care because it’s vintage material from one of the most important bands of the last two decades and it was put together with actual care and so I guarantee I’ll be buying the deluxe Vs reissue in a year's time too. Ideally with the entire Atlanta '93 show on cassette.

"Just A Girl," one of the unreleased tracks from the Ten sessions, now available on Ten (Legacy Edition).

1 comment:

Chris said...

Oh that is such an awesome whay to sum it all up! I know I was looking at this going which version will I buy and then I thought, hang on, is this just some record company dupe to squeeze some more of my hard earned cash? YES, yes it is. But then I will also be getting VS which was an amazing follow up record. It was on fine thing that they never became a one hit wonder lost in all the HYPE!