not for a little album called Nevermind,
1991 might have been the year of Pearl Jam (indeed, when opening for Nirvana on
December 31, 1991, guitarist Stone Gossard played a few riffs of “Smells Like
Teen Spirit” between songs and joked, “Remember, we played it first!”). But
while Nirvana has become increasingly mythologized since Kurt Cobain’s
suicide/martyrdom in 1994, Pearl Jam is still standing, and directing their own
reassessment of their history, beginning with their debut album, Ten.
retrospect, it’s strange to think that Ten,
and even Pearl Jam, were lumped into the “alternative rock” category, as their
music so obviously draws on the classic rock tradition; well crafted songs,
topped by the bluesy angst of lead vocalist Eddie Vedder. But it was, of
course, that very angst that became synonymous with “alternative rock” and
“grunge,” and songs like “Jeremy” – written at a time when school shootings
were anomalies instead of the expected, even routine, occurrences they are now
-even more bittersweet than when the album was originally released.
Nonetheless, Pearl Jam had a knack for making ostensibly gloomy material
strangely uplifting, most notably in “Alive,” whose story is rooted in Vedder’s
troubled family life, but which became in concert a bonafide, singalong arena
rock anthem. The band also exudes a heartfelt sincerity that’s noticeably
missing from our ever-more dumbed down American
Idol-ized music world.
sincerity won Pearl Jam the most rabidly devoted following this side of the
Grateful Dead, and the fans are being rewarded with not one, not two, not even
three, but four different editions of Ten.
The standard set features two CDs, one with the complete album, the other with
the album newly remixed by producer Brendan O’Brien. It’s cleaner-sounding, but
was a remix really necessary? After all, the original album suited its 12
million customers just fine. But you also get six bonus tracks, including a
couple of demos recorded when the band was briefly going by the name Mookie
Blaylock. The deluxe edition throws in a DVD with the band’s excellent 1992 MTV
Unplugged performance. There’s also a
vinyl set (de rigueur these days),
and they go all out on the “Super Deluxe Edition,” which has all of the above,
plus a buoyant September 20, 1992 Seattle concert (on vinyl), and a replica of
an early demo on cassette, the
legendary “Momma Son,” demo, with early versions of “Alive,” “Once,” and
“Footsteps,” the very demo that won Vedder a place in the group. Oh, and you
also get reproductions of flyers and other goodies, plus an “Eddie Vedder-style
composition notebook.” Whew.
Ten is also just
the beginning of a two-year campaign of reissues that will culminate with their
20th anniversary in 2011. And after this reissue, they’ve set the
bar pretty high for their subsequent releases.
Tracks: “Once,” “Alive,” “Jeremy” GILLIAN G. GAAR