Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vs./Vitalogy Re-masters

If you're wondering why I have not talked about the most recent Pearl Jam release yet, it's because the thing took four bloody weeks before arriving at my doorstep. I got the basic three-disc boxset; the 10c exclusive super-deluxe set was super tempting (never mind I don't own a vinyl player), but no way was I gonna pay over fifty bucks just for shipping! Personally, Vs. has always been my favorite PJ album, with Vitalogy a very close second; watershed moments in the band's career.

It was during this period when the band tried becoming unpopular; no music videos, very few press interviews, a losing battle against Ticketbastard. They turned their experiences of their new-found fame (after Ten) into two career-defining albums (which sold like crazy), also a fascinating and sometimes brutal exploration of the human psyche. There's no need for me to talk about the quality of the music, it's pretty much obvious how good it still holds up till this day.

So yes, both Vs. and Vitalogy were remastered. But you can hardly hear any differences if you play the albums on cheap speakers. I was able to pick out some subtle improvements when playing them on my good sound system. Good thing the volume levels weren't tampered with; the originals were already loud to begin with. But the 2011 versions sound much punchier, and the low-end is more defined. For anyone (who already own the originals) looking to get these just for better sound, I wouldn't recommend it.

But of course, remaster or not, most of us fans are after the extra stuff. There are six bonus tracks altogether; three from each album. Hold On is IMO the best song off Lost Dogs. The stripped-down rendition here is simple and elegant. Eddie tones down his singing, but it still has a haunting effect on the listener. Cready Stomp is an instrumental in the spirit of Brother, but much more kick-ass. The studio cover of Crazy Mary is good, though nothing to shout about. You want definitive, listen to those 2008 bootlegs.

The Vitalogy bonus tracks: I was never a huge fan of Better Man. But this guitar & organ-only rendition is the way it should've been. I think it actually works much better than its fleshed-out counterpart. And did you know Eddie wrote Better Man when he was in high school? So it's like thirty years old now! Moving on, the alternate take of Corduroy still sounds great with the addition of acoustic guitars. On the other had, there's nothing special about the demo of Nothingman; it doesn't hold a candle to the final take. These bonus tracks are just icing on the cake. Every dedicated fan knows the real draw is the Orpheum show...