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Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam


Given their fractured beginning, who would have suspected that Pearl Jam would be the last Grunge band standing?

Just as Seattle's Mother Love Bone looked like it was going to be big news, lead singer Andrew Wood overdosed on heroin. Guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament pulled themselves from the ruins and started all over again. They added Mike McCready (guitar) and Dave Krusen (drums). Dave Abbruzzese replaced Krusen following the release of "Ten" with Jack Irons picking up the sticks in '94.

In an inspired move, they linked with vocalist Eddie Vedder, who was in San Diego. Sent a tape containing instrumental tracks, Vedder was told to write lyrics and lay them over the pre-recorded music. Obviously, he passed this unusual long distance audition.

Pearl Jam's '91 debut "Ten" took most of the year before it connected. The title was a reference to point guard Mookie Blaylock's jersey number. Serious B-Ball fans? Actually, Blaylock inadvertently crossed the band's path and became one of those inside jokes. The combination of "Even Flow" and an appearance in the movie "Singles" shot Pearl Jam to the forefront.

Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, for one, criticized the group as being a nothing more than a corporate cash-in on Alternative Rock/Grunge. Given Pearl Jam's subsequent political activism and fan focused business decisions that seemed a harsh assessment.

"I don't think Kurt understood us at the time, but we became friends," said Vedder in an '09 interview. "If Kurt were around today, I know he'd say to me, 'Well, you turned out OK.'"

Riding the singles "Jeremy" and "Daughter," the successful sophomore release "Vs" and a full touring itinerary, Pearl Jam was huge. That was when they took on Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam cancelled their '94 summer tour claiming Ticketmaster was jacking up the prices. They even took their case to the Justice Department, which they eventually lost. "Vitalogy," released in late '94, was another Pearl Jam commercial success.

"No Code" represented a change. It featured styles and influences not present on other recordings. Due to their hassles with Ticketmaster and a growing reluctance to spending months on the road supporting the CD, "No Code" did well initially but quickly disappeared. "Yield," seeing the light of day in '98, was more focused but it suffered a similar fate. For something of a disappointment it still sold over a million copies. To remind fans of what the group sounded like on stage, Pearl Jam also put out "Live On Two Legs." They continued to record studio albums with "Binaural" and "Riot Act" released in '00 and '02, respectively. "Lost Dogs," collection of b-sides, rarities (going back to early in their career) and songs recorded for soundtracks and benefits appeared in '03.

Pearl Jam came roaring back three years later with a self-titled effort (with the avocado cover), that was among their best.

Live packages don't come much bigger than Pearl Jam's seven-CD box set chronicling three concerts played at the breathtaking Gorge Amphitheatre (in George, WA). '07's "Live At The Gorge 05/06" contained 76 songs and ran over seven hours.

Pearl Jam returned to touring with a stop at Lollapalooza '07 in Chicago. During their headlining stint on the final night, lyrics criticizing President Bush were censored from a live webcast by AT&T Inc. The lines cut from a rendition of "Daughter" (with a part to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall") included "George Bush, leave this world alone," the second time it was sung, and "George Bush find yourself another home." Days later AT&T admitted they made a mistake (no kidding). Following the incident Pearl Jam posted a notice. "This troubles us . . . as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media," wrote the band. They also promised to "work harder to ensure live broadcasts or webcasts are 'free from arbitrary edits'."

Vedder performed at the '07 Toronto International Film Festival for the world premiere of the movie Body Of War, a documentary about an Iraq war veteran paralyzed by a bullet wound. Vedder composed two songs for the film. He was motivated to contribute his talents partly by the deaths of nine fans during PJ's set at '00's Roskilde Festival in Denmark. "I have a hard time thinking that . . . Dick Cheney nor George Bush (have) had this close an experience with tragic death right in front of them," stated Vedder.

Another Vedder solo project that year was composing the soundtrack for "Into The Wild." The Sean Penn film was about adventurer Chris McCandless who met a sad end in Alaska. Vedder also played nearly all the instruments. "I thought we'd call in real musicians at some point," offered Vedder. "But there's something about not having to explain . . . the soul of whatever the song was. (I'd) just grab the bass and do it (myself)." From the soundtrack, "Guaranteed" won an '08 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

Pearl Jam embarked on a 10-date East Coast headlining tour in the summer of '08. They also revived their official bootleg series. Complete recordings were available for purchase as made-to-order CDs through the band's official website and in MP3 and FLAC digital formats.

Work began on Pearl Jam's ninth studio album, "Backspacer," in early '08. The album marked the return of producer Brendan O'Brien, his first album with the band since "Yield." "I like the sparseness of the songs and the way that Brendan pulled us together and made us play as good as we could," said McCready.

While work continued on "Backspacer," an O'Brien remastered and remixed version of "Ten" was reissued in '09. There was also a DVD of the group's '92 MTV Unplugged session and an LP of a live show from the same year recorded in Seattle.

To promote "Backspacer," Pearl Jam was the first musical guest on the premiere of NBC's Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien. They played "Get Some," a track off the album. Also prior to "Backspacer's" release the group launched their world tour at the Alberta edition of the Virgin Festival '09. They headlined the two-day event.

"Backspacer" was released through Target stores. But some fans weren't so sure about that move. "I can't think of anything we've ever done without putting it through our own personal moral barometer," said Vedder. "Target has passed for us. The fans just have to trust us." The album was also available at the band's official website, independent record stores, and online retailers.

"{'Backspacer'} feels good - really strong and uptempo, stuff we can sink our teeth into," added Vedder. "It was all based on this brand-new idea to us of 'let's write the songs before we record them." Vedder was on to something. First week out, "Backspacer" sold 189,000 copies to land at #1 on the Billboard album chart. It was the group's first chart topper in 13 years - since "No Code" in '96.

Vedder has always drawn attention but in '10 it was McCready's turn. He composed the score for a segment of the FOX science fiction show Fringe. "I wasn't a huge fan of the show at first - but now I totally am," said McCready.

The show originally contacted Pearl Jam about using "Just Breathe" and discussions evolved from there.

"I like to have a lot of different creative outlets," added McCready. "It means working with a lot of people - directors, editors, musical supervisors and you have to appease all of them. I'm totally up for it." Prior to his first TV assignment, McCready composed the score for the surfing documentary Westsiders and contributed to Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous.

Pearl Jam celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first public performance (on 10/22/90 at the Off Ramp Cafe in Seattle) by launching "Pearl Jam Radio," a commercial-free music channel on SIRIUS XM.

In addition, they issued a live compilation album in '11 titled "Live On Ten Legs." The 18 songs, recorded by the band's engineer John Burton between '03 and '10, was the follow-up to '98's "Live On Two Legs."

A short time later, Vedder rolled out his sophomore solo album, "Ukulele Songs." The title said it all. Vedder bought a ukulele while on vacation in Hawaii (where else?) and learned how to play it. He even used the instrument to compose some Pearl Jam songs.

Continuing to mark their anniversary, Pearl Jam Twenty, the Cameron Crowe career-spanning retrospective film, premiered at the '11 Toronto Film Festival. There was archival footage plus material Crowe shot over the previous year-and-a-half. The film was accompanied by a soundtrack and a book featuring anecdotes, memorabilia, photos, tour notes and drawings.

But the band wasn't content to rest on its laurels. Ament reported that the group had reached the halfway mark in recording its 10th album. "The first handful of songs we had are a great, great start,' claimed Ament. "It's been really important for us that in the middle of all this (their 20th anniversary), we got together and recorded a bunch of songs. We can go back and get ready for the show and book and movie and all that stuff."

Ament also launched a side project called RNDM (pronounced 'random'). The group included singer/songwriter/guitarist Joseph Arthur and drummer Richard Stuverud. Arthur, known for his solo career, was also in Fistful Of Mercy with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison. Beginning in the early '80s, Stuverud played in several Seattle bands.

RNDM's debut album "Acts" dropped in '12.

Side projects were one thing, Pearl Jam was still the main thing. More than two decades after it was released "Ten" reached the 10 million mark in U.S. sales. "We had no idea that it was going to ever do that well," McCready told Billboard in '13. "I just felt like it was a really cool record and that I was in a good band."

Back in March '11, Ament said the band had 25 songs and they'd be heading into the studio to produce their follow-up to "Backspacer." Exactly two years later, there was still no album - due to touring and other commitments.

But it became evident there were other problems. The band had completed seven songs before taking an extended break. "We had to take some time to figure out what we wanted to do" McCready explained. "(Then) we started up again with a brand new batch of songs."

'13's "Lightning Bolt" was Pearl Jam's 10th studio album. Produced by Brendan O'Brien, the set featured the track "Mind Your Manners."

So what was the final verdict? "It's a really cool record and I'm very excited about it," enthused McCready.

The public shared McCready's opinion. "Lightning Bolt" debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart with opening week sales of 166,000 copies. It was their fifth chart topper, following "Backspacer" ('09), "No Code" ('96), "Vitalogy" ('94) and "Vs." ('93). In addition, songs from "Lightning Bolt" and other PJ tunes were the soundtrack to Major League Baseball's World Series (between Boston and St. Louis). The deal between the group and MLB, called for 48 Pearl Jam songs to be played throughout the games.



As a band with a social conscience, Pearl Jam launched their '06 Carbon Portfolio Strategy, which earmarked $100,000 in donations from the band to nine environmental-related organizations to help offset carbon emissions produced through touring and other activities. "We (are investing) in the future health of our planet and its delicate ecosphere," said Gossard.

Four years later, he reaffirmed the band's commitment to slowing climate change. "We're seeing ourselves as a Washington business, a regional business that is acknowledging its carbon footprint and hoping to inspire other businesses."

Pearl Jam's benevolent work was not confined to the environment. In '08, the group raised nearly $3 million for the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty charity, by playing a private benefit show at NY's Beacon Theater. Bison, a band with McCready, members of Velvet Revolver and the Presidents Of The United States Of America, performed at a charity concert in Seattle for the local Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. And at the VH1 Rock Honors tribute to The Who, the L.A. concert with Pearl Jam and other bands (Incubus, Foo Fighters and the Flaming Lips) took in more than $1 million for various charities.

On a smaller scale, Ament was in his hometown of Big Sandy, MT, in '10 for the dedication of a skateboard park. He contributed $40,000 toward the construction. "As small towns get smaller and smaller, I think it becomes more important for kids to have something to do outside of just school sports," Ament, a skater since '76, told reporters. "My dad helped me build ramps, now I can give kids around here something else to do."


Pearl Jam Discography

RockinTown.com - 2006 Hall Of Fame Winner

1991 Ten
1993 Vs.
1994 Vitalogy
1996 No Code
1998 Yield
1998 Live On Two Legs
2000 Binaural
2002 Riot Act
2006 Pearl Jam
2007 Live At The Gorge 05/06
2009 Backspacer
2011 Live On Ten Legs
2013 Lightning Bolt

Funny thing. The Rolling Stones are thought of as a '60s group. Sure, that's the decade where they made their debut but their best work came in the early '70s when they stopped chasing The Beatles. First, The Beatles were no more and second, they realized the futility of that course. The Stones were the Stones, they would never be The Beatles. Pearl Jam went through a similar experience.

Forever linked to Grunge, Pearl Jam saw other bands achieve greater notoriety but Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins came and went. Having managed to survive, they have, over time, lost much of the Grunge sludge and become a lean, driven unit. They are far better in that mode.

By the tenth album, both fans and critics are pleased when a band produces an album that is not an embarrassment. Also by that time, whatever trend the band initially was a part of has long since passed. So the trick is to find a new, more contemporary sound that keeps old fans happy and may even attract some new ones. "Lightning Bolt" does that and has moments of brilliance that most would not expect this late in the game.

Though five of the album's twelve songs are ballads, the set leans toward the straight-ahead Rock sound that's featured in "Mind Your Manners." Vedder's vocals have a leaner cut while the guitars ride the song rather than anchor it.

"Swallowed Pride" with a jangling guitar is an unexpected turn, but a welcome one. Another lightning bolt is the groove Rock "Let The Records Play." Who let Foghat in the studio?

Countless albums are done before the last track. The opposite is true of "Backspacer" and not because it clocks in at a little over 30 minutes. The first four tracks; "Gonna See My Friend," lead single "Get Some," "The Fixer" and "Johnny Guitar" could be labeled "riffs and Vedder." Damn hard to top that, but they do.

The acoustic "Just Breathe" with its pastoral style could have fit on the "Into The Wild" soundtrack. The tempo picks up with "Against The Waves" and "Unthought Known" (the Christopher Bollas term for anything that we "know," but for any variety of reasons, cannot actually think about) before the album peaks with the full-throttle "Supersonic."

Pearl Jam's self-titled '06 release is nothing short of brilliant. The set opens with a trio of excellent Rockers, "Life Wasted," the hit "World Wide Suicide" and "Comatose." Later, there are a pair of impressive ballads, "Marker In The Sand," Vedder's most intense vocal effort on the CD, and the intimate "Parachutes." The tempo picks up with "Unemployable," "Big Wave" and "Army Reserve," which is vintage Pearl Jam.

In their previous life, Pearl Jam produced three brilliant albums. They are, in order of appearance and importance, "Ten," ('91), "Vs" ('94) and "Binaural" ('00). The obvious low point is a ridiculous cover of the wretched "Last Kiss." This piece of early '60s pop schlock was reportedly a favorite of someone close to the group. To record a novelty song for a friend is one thing but to foist this disaster on the unsuspecting public is quite another (even if all the proceeds went to charity). Ironically, it's the group's best charting single. "Last Kiss" is not the worst thing ever released by a major Grunge group but it certainly dwells in the bottom tier.

"Ten" contains Pearl Jam's signature songs "Jeremy," "Even Flow" and "Alive." "Vs" is best known for "Daughter" while "Binaural" is their most notable effort in years, thanks in part to The Who-inspired opening track "Breakerfall."

"Vitalogy" represents a step back (too much acoustic noodling). "No Code" and "Yield" along with the mediocre "Live On Two Legs" rounded out the groups '90s work. "No Code" and "Yield" are good albums but they are an audible step down from Pearl Jam's best.

"Riot Act" is an interesting title. The album is certainly not riotous. Too bad. There are a couple of great Rockers - "Save You" and "Cropduster" with uncharacteristically lean Vedder vocals. Had they kept in that vein, the album might have earned its title. "Riot Act" suffers from "Vitalogy's" acoustic notions but they're better executed. The CD opens with the stark "Can't Keep" which is hardly the roaring opener that "Breakerfall" provided on their previous effort. The album has a laid back feeling as Vedder references the great outdoors on numerous occasions. He's a surfer dude after all. The group does take a cut at George W. bashing with "Bushleaguer" ("Born on third, he thinks he hit a triple").

B-sides, soundtrack material and odds and ends rarely attract the attention of anyone but hard core fans. "Lost Dogs" is the exception. Rocker "All Night" is potent. "Don't Gimme No Lip" with a herky-jerky guitar and tons of energy is undeniable. Other high points include the chord bashing "Hold On" and the sparse "Undone" ("last stop on the west coast") which has a Springsteen sound to it. From the acoustic ballad "Dead Man" to the numerous Rockers "Lost Dogs" is a winner - and not just for the true believers.

Anyone expecting the "Into The Wild" soundtrack to be a Pearl Jam variant or even Pearl Jam-lite will be disappointed. Here, acoustic guitars, banjos and mandolins are the instruments of choice. The album's style and overall feeling is close to Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska." But Vedder's voice and the instrumentation work exceptionally well within the context of the film.
   Rockin'Town Forum - Latest Forum Posts
misscheeks   eddie looks just like my hubby and hes gotta be the sexiest man on earth!
pearl jam are defo the best!!!!!  
pearljamn   Didn't think PJ could ever get better. And they did....Is there anyone else out there   that can't stop listening to Parachutes?  
Ricsard   Pearl Jam is above all other bands.
That's it!
Their shows are truly better than you previously expected even if you have seen them before...they're still getting even better and better!
I wish them COME BACK to Hungary ASAP!  


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