CD Review of Ten (Deluxe Edition) by Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam: Ten (Deluxe Edition)
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Pearl Jam:
Ten (Deluxe Edition)

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

ne of the most influential albums in modern rock receives the reissue treatment here, 18 years after its original release set the music world on fire. There are few albums in rock history that launch bands to almost instant megastardom, and Ten is in that rare category. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament had labored for years in the Seattle scene, only to see their first major label band tragically collapse when Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood overdosed on heroin. But from those ashes, a phoenix arose in the form of Ten after Gossard and Ament hooked up with Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready.

The tunes and the playing are crème de le crème, and most of the songs remain staples in the band’s live repertoire. Your mileage will vary depending on which edition you opt for, though. The Legacy edition features the re-mastered original album along with a new version remixed by Brendan O’Brien, who produced some of the band’s later albums like Vs, Vitalogy and Yield, and mixed No Code, Binaural, Riot Act and Lost Dogs.

Serious audiophiles and/or Pearl Jam super fans are probably the only ones who will really notice much difference in the remixed version, as the changes are subtle. O’Brien was reluctant to take on the project, but the band justifiably felt like maybe the album had been a bit overproduced, so O’Brien was eventually convinced to give it a tweaking. Mike McCready’s scintillating lead guitar work stands out a little sharper in certain places, particularly toward the end of "Porch," where a smoking lick is repeated crisply to great effect. Jeff Ament’s bass is a bit warmer, and the reverb on those 1991 drums was toned down a bit. But the real addition is the six bonus tracks, which comprise a virtual extra EP.

Pearl Jam

"Brother" is a heavy, syncopated rocker that features Vedder’s powerful vocals, while "Just a Girl" has McCready wailing all over on a wicked jam. Both "Girl" and a version of "Breath" (here titled "Breath and a Scream") come from an October 23, 1990 Mookie Blaylock cassette – when they were briefly named after the energetic basketball player – apparently recorded the day after the band’s first gig with Vedder.

"State of Love and Trust" and "2000 Mile Blues" come from an April 21, 1991 session, with the former track offering a slower tempo than the familiar version on the "Singles" soundtrack, placing greater emphasis on Vedder’s vocals. It’s not better or worse – just different. But even with the slower tempo, there’s still a vibrant urgency, as noted by a band member’s endearingly profane exclamation at the end. "2000 Mile Blues" features Vedder in Jim Morrison mode, over a basic blues jam that also features some more shredding from McCready. "Evil Little Goat" is a dark and punky yet restrained number. It’s no classic, but it’s fun to hear the band just messing around.

Step up to the Deluxe Edition and they add a DVD of the band’s previously unreleased 1992 "MTV Unplugged" performance on March 16, 1992. The performance is a keeper, catching the band at a moment when they were rocketing toward stardom. Featuring stellar performances of "Oceans," "State of Love and Trust," "Alive," "Black," "Jeremy," "Even Flow" and "Porch," it’s nice to finally have it for your modern A/V system.

There is also a Vinyl edition, and then a Super Deluxe Edition that includes all of the above plus extra documentation with a Vedder-style journal and vinyl of a September 20, 1992 Seattle show, as well as a replica of the original demo cassette the band sent to Vedder in San Diego, featuring the prototypes for "Alive," "Once" and "Footsteps."

The level of expenditure justified will depend on one’s own level of personal fanaticism for the band, but it’s clear they’ve put a lot of time and effort into recognizing that by offering four different versions. With so many of their peers having either bought the farm or broken up, it’s downright inspiring to see the longevity that Pearl Jam have worked to maintain from their monumental debut.

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