Thursday, September 29, 2011
The next demo is kind of a revelation; Acoustic #1 is Stone trying out some ideas on the guitar, with Eddie mumbling some words, but it sounds gorgeous; two young creative minds at work. After this is yet another short demo of the band fooling around on an Alice In Chains song. Fast-forward seventeen years, where you hear Matt Cameron doing his own cut of a tune known as Need To Know, which would eventually turn into The Fixer in 2009. This early, raw version reveals Matt's unique odd time signature style of playing.
Be Like Wind is Mike McCready's little score that was included in the film, and then also a short showcase of Given To Fly, which still sounds cool even when done on the acoustic. The following two tracks are Nothing As It Seems, the first a home demo by Jeff Ament, which reminds me exactly of something Roger Waters would've done during The Wall sessions. Then it's a live version from Seattle '01, which has the usual scorching McCready solo. But other than that, the song has never gotten to me; I've tried very much to like it, but still can't feel it. Seems like a good waste of album space, if you ask me.
Indifference is another song I wasn't so crazy about previously, but this live take from Bologna '06 finally did it for me. The crowd sings along to every word, like it's the biggest Pearl Jam song ever. It's not! But that's the beauty of it, the enthusiastic response a song like Indifference gets from the audience. As Jeff said in the PJ20 book, that's success. Next, Of The Girl, in which I'm glad Cameron included in. Here it's presented without the vocals, in full stereophonic awesomeness.
There are a handful of PJ songs that mean the world to me, and Faithfull is one of them. Their best song about organized religion ever, and Eddie tackles the issue with utmost grace and wit. This performance was only a soundcheck (Pistoia '06), but he sings as if he were in front of thousands; just the sound of him pouring his guts over the chorus lines; pretty unreal. I've always liked how he drops the f-bomb over my favorite line: "whatever the notion we laced in our prayers/the man upstairs is used to all this ____ noise". Just by doing that, the song enters a whole new stratosphere as it takes off into distorted territory.
This particular performance of Bu$hleaguer (Nassau '03) wasn't exactly well-received by the fans. I've read reports of people from the show getting very pissed off by the sight of Eddie donning the Bush mask (also addressed in the film). The crowd noise was purposely turned up in this mix, but I would've liked to hear more of the 'boos' and 'fuck yous' than the cheers. The following live Better Man comes, not surprisingly, from last year's Madison Square Garden show. Everytime PJ (and Springsteen) play that venue, the crowd energy is always off the charts.
Rearviewmirror ends the disc, as it usually does for the band's main sets. If you chart its onstage evolution over the years, you'll know that it has gradually turned into a monster of a song. It's the jam, by golly. I also own the bootleg (Universal City, 10/1/09) in which RVM is taken from, and I'm pleased they've decided to get the sound mix right for this compilation. So with that, I conclude my 2-part review. And now, back to the PJ20 book.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The first disc is mainly presented in chronological order, after Release from '06. Alive, decent sound quality, from the then Mookie Blaylock's second-ever show reveals a then-shy Eddie yet to break out of his shell. Obviously the song was still in its infancy onstage, and it wasn't the audience to 'own' just yet. The next two tracks, Garden and Why Go are taken from their short club tour in Europe in '92. I'm sure the performances were something, but I was too distracted by the very lousy sound quality. Then it's back to NYC for an MTV unplugged version of Black, which needs no further mentioning.
Next three, Blood, Last Exit and Not For You come from the '95 Australasian tour and they blew me away the first time I heard them. Pure fiery passion coming from the band, and Eddie just knocks every line out of the park. Makes me wish I were born earlier so I could see 'em on that tour! Then it's Monkeywrench Radio for Do The Evolution (the whole broadcast is available online and it's mandatory listening). Now Thumbing My Way reveals the soft, gorgeous, more melodic side to PJ; this live rendition contains that 'thing' that was missing from the studio one, as does always in their live versions.
Then comes the big one; the debut of Crown Of Thorns on their tenth anniversary show, a tribute to Andy Wood. This was one of the very rare times that the original intro, Chloe Dancer was played (not sung though). What I like about this is you can hear Brendan O'Brien's organ loud and clear, which is what defines the song really. And paired together with Stone’s guitar, it makes for a unique, emotional experience. Of course you'll also want to listen to the Mother Love Bone version if you haven't yet.
After an impromptu Let Me Sleep comes Walk With Me (from last year’s Bridge School Benefit). The absolute highlight of this disc. The original Le Noise version was as intense as it could get. Acoustically, PJ takes it down a notch, but Eddie's vocals and Matt killing it on the drums make sure the song still has that potency. By now it's common knowledge that PJ does justice to every Neil Young song they cover. The disc ends with Just Breathe from their 2010 SNL performance. On to Disc 2 in a bit.
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Monday, September 26, 2011
The terribly epic opener, Art Of Almost, harks back to that of I'm Trying To Break Your Heart, starts out a bit Radiohead-like with the electronic textured drums, but then halfway through, it takes an unexpected turn, as the distorted awesomeness that is guitarist Nels Cline comes in and blows your mind. Studio wizardry is back! And then I Might harks back into pop territory with a touch of garage rock, which Wilco is also very good at achieving. There's actually a sample of The Stooges' TV Eye in it. And then not to mention a song like Standing O, which has some obvious Pete Townshend influences.
Perhaps the most catchy tune is Born Alone (which I think has some very unique lyrics), in which Cline's little spine-chilling guitar lick in between the choruses has stuck in my head for a very long time. The outro plays out like an endless musical trick, known as the Shepard Tone, ascending and descending chords but never really moving in pitch. Tweedy channels his inner '60s influences and churns them out in songs like Sunloathe (very Abbey Road), Dawned On Me and the second last title track. He also takes out a page from Randy Newman's songbook in the delightful, jazzy Capitol City. As a fan of Sky Blue Sky and A.M., I love the return to country flavor in tunes like Black Moon (lovely strings), Open Mind and Rising Red Lung.
Many will agree the album's highlight is the closing elegy, One Sunday Morning. It happens to be the best Wilco closer ever. It's 12mins long and boasts a simple and soothing acoustic melody, beautifully textured. Interestingly enough it makes me wanna hit replay after the song is over. It's just that addictive. Again Tweedy proves here why he's the best lyricist of his generation, as he describes a heartbreaking father-and-son relationship, and he sings it as if he's on the verge of death. Sound quality wise, you can't go wrong with Bob Ludwig mastering. The Whole Love is easily the best album of the year for me so far.
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P.S. The deluxe edition includes an additional disc of 4 songs, including the Nick Lowe cover, I Love My Label.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
You read about PJ's history in books and articles and you think you know the basic gist of it, but to actually see the real footage is totally something else. It's just overwhelming, the amount of archival footage in the movie, especially during the early '90s -- the Mother Love Bone stuff was kinda mindblowing to see. And about 85% of the film is focused on the first ten years, which is fitting because there were more important events that transformed the band significantly.
Kudos to Cameron Crowe for being able to creatively put together a story that moves seamlessly from one period to the next. And he creates an emotional roller-coaster ride, you'll find yourself laughing (the Singles party was one of the most hilarious scenes in the show, also Stone giving a tour round his house), and sometimes tearing up. We all know the band went through some dark times, and the film doesn't shy away from that. The whole Ticketmaster debacle, the death of Kurt, and of course the incident at Roskilde. All are discussed in moderation, not over the top.
There was some raw footage of Eddie at Roskilde breaking down onstage and watching the tragedy unfold. As painful as it was for him, I'm glad he managed to talk about it for the interview. Speaking of which, all the new interviews with the band was surprisingly candid; they reveal a side of themselves fans don't normally get to see, especially Stone and Jeff. They looked comfortable in expressing themselves. If there's something I wished the film had more of, it's probably these interviews. Also the part about the changing of 'leaders' from Stone to Eddie was glossed over.
Also you can't tell the Pearl Jam story without mentioning Chris Cornell. The whole Temple Of The Dog segment was riveting as it was poignant. And also Pete Townshend and Neil Young. That Rockin' In The Free World performance looked very kick-ass, and so were most of the live performances. Crown Of Thorns on their 10th anniversary (intercut with Mother Love Bone's Andy Wood singing) was an emotional moment for me. Again, it's the sheer amount of footage that makes PJ20 so enjoyable. You just don't want it to end. Also it'd be nice to see a bit more of the story about the changing drummers; the minute-long silent movie parody was a bit out of place.
The film 'predictably' concludes with Alive, taken from Halloween-eve '09, during the band's Philly Spectrum run. It was interspersed with other past performances, and I was stoked to see some footage of one of the Australian shows I was at (Eddie running through the crowd). As the credits roll and Neil Young's Walk With Me plays, the thought suddenly hit me -- I owe a lot to this band, more than I could've imagined; honestly I wouldn't know where I'd be if it weren't for PJ. The film may not be the best rock & roll documentary out there, but essentially it's a big thank-you letter to all the fans, especially the old-timers who've stuck with them through thick and thin. I'm just so incredibly proud to be part of Pearl Jam's history.
P.S. The PJ20 festivities ain't over yet!
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UPDATE: The 10c limited edition box-sets are completely sold out.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I'm very partial to letting people know, as much as diehard fans know, that the group came about because of a terrible event, with the loss of Andrew Wood. You know, I loved Mother Love Bone. I was really happy to put a Mother Love Bone song in the first movie I ever directed ["Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," in 1989's Say Anything...] And I'd met him and I really liked him. I'd been at one of those shows with a few people there where he treated it like it was a stadium. I just thought this guy was so packed with charisma, that like many others at the time [after his death] – nobody ever thought lightning could strike twice. I always wanted to tell the story of how Pearl Jam is the story of lightning striking twice. As well as being the flipside of the classic rock tale where great promise ends in tragedy. This is where tragedy begins great promise.
Do you remember what it was like when you first became aware of this new band emerging from the ashes?
Oh, yeah. We were making Singles up in Seattle, and I had interviewed Jeff and Stone as characters. I loved the fact that they were so different from the guys in L.A., who are like, "I'm a musician, man. I live off my girlfriend." These were guys who were like, "We have a day job. We pull espresso. We get enough money to buy records and to play in our band at night." I really liked that. Jeff has such a great graphic sense, so he came on as one of the art directors. And all of this coincided with the transition from Mother Love Bone to Mookie Blaylock to Pearl Jam. It was happening as we were making the movie. They would show up with tapes, and there would be new songs with this guy Eddie Vedder on it.
When Jeff or Stone would bring in those tapes with Eddie singing, did you have a sense that you were hearing something big?
No. I had the feeling that Eddie was very shy. But he loved rock and loved being a fan of rock, the way the other guys in PJ were. You knew that they fit together. A lot of times you see that in a group of guys and that even precedes the music – you just knew these guys hung well together. They were playing live days after they got together. That's what you felt about Eddie: That he was in it for music. Plus, he loved the Who. He liked that big, emotional experience that came from being true to rock as a holy event.
Did you stay in touch with the guys as the band blew up?
I did. There were a few years where I was in less close contact with them. That was like 2002 through 2006. Then I went to see them at the Forum and really got knocked over by the fact that this group of fans that found them around the time of Ticketmaster had spawned into this whole other layer of PJ fandom. All these in-between songs that people who loved the band early and maybe took a break from them had missed were epic, and they were anthems. And the audience was right there for every one of them. That's when I turned to [Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis] and said, "Holy crap." They did the thing that Bono questioned early on – which is, how are you going to survive if you don't go out there and try to own the world and make the best rock record you can, filled with singles? They actually went their own way and found their own huge audience that was more loyal than an audience would be if Pearl Jam had been out there trying to conquer it all with every song. They were more interested in a personal, authentic experience. And that was the only period I wasn't really close with them, so it was surprising to see all that they had done.
One aspect of making this movie was sorting through all the old footage. The other side was interviewing the band. Were they eager to open up, or did you have to coax them?
That's a good question. Originally, we were just going to do an archival study of them – a real straight The Kids Are Alright kind of account of all the stuff that was in the vaults that had never been released. We got halfway through. We actually have a version of the movie that's like that, which will come out on the DVD, called The Kids Are 20 – it's the movie with just performance and very little talk. But about halfway through, we were saying, "You know, it would be really great to go in there now and talk to the guys about all this stuff. But let's talk to them in their houses, where they're most personally comfortable, and ask them conversational questions. Let's get them as guys on film." So that's what we did.
When did you decide to do those interviews?
About a year and a half ago. It just started to feel like, boy, this would be a good layer. I think Eddie was one of the first people to say, "Yep, let's go for it." So we did that interview in his house with his fireman's pole that he slides down. [Laughs] They all took those interviews very seriously. They were very long. I wanted to get a feel for all the guys, not just Eddie.
You ended up talking about some pretty heavy emotional stuff, from Andy Wood's passing to Roskilde. Was it difficult getting them to talk about those memories?
It was. It was a little uncomfortable. In Eddie's case, I hadn't spoken to him about the Singles party since the day it happened. Actually, I didn't speak to him about it on the day it happened. So that was a moment that was kind of like, "Huh, you're waiting 'til now to talk about this?" Roskilde was difficult. There was a definite shudder in the room, and then he began to talk about it. They all began to talk about all that personal stuff. To their credit, not one of them dodged one question. And when we showed it to them last October, an amazing thing happened. We went back to Kelly Curtis's house, and there was a band conversation about everything that they had talked about. What happened in that room after they saw it was truly great. They all talked about the whole Pearl Jam experience from their singular points of view. I really felt like the movie had pressed the right buttons. These guys who usually are not in any mood to look back – they're certainly different every night, they like to move forward – suddenly were in a very thoughtful way going over all of it. I really wish I had filmed it.
They care so much. I hope that comes across in the movie. They care so much about their fans, they care about the music. There's not one aspect, even in the making of this movie, where any of them said, "It's good enough. Fuck it." Never happens. They're always very careful about what goes out, and that it's true and authentic to them. Even if it's a little tough to watch, which I think Jeff has said the movie in parts is for him.
Was there anything they asked you to change after that screening?
No. If anything, there were some points where Eddie offered to illuminate things that were in there, but not as fleshed out as they became. Eddie rode back with us from the screening over to Kelly's house. He was talking about stage diving. He said, "I look at all that footage and I just wonder, what did that guy want? What was he looking for?" And we pulled up to Kelly's house. All the other guys were there already. We sat outside in the car. I said, "If there's one thing that the movie still needs, it's that feeling, and your reflection on what those times meant and how you look to yourself now." And we went in and did one more interview, which I'm really happy about, which is one that you hear in voiceover, where he talks about how Roskilde changed them and he talks a little bit more about stage diving.
How did you pick the live cuts and rarities on the soundtrack album?
Pearl Jam's so generous with their bootlegs that it's hard to pick live shows that you can't already find or don't know well. We just tried to augment the collection of any superfan, and then also give you a little bit of a tour if you're a new fan, too. Some of the sound quality on the early stuff on the first disc, I think, probably tests the limits of their patience with what I wanted to use sonically. But it's sort of a historical document thing, so it's a different standard sometimes. I did find one more after we finished the soundtrack that I wanted to add, which was "Daughter" and "It's OK" from Jones Beach in August of 2000. So that's like, "Shit! That should be on there." [Laughs]
- interview by Simon Vozick-Levinson, Rolling Stone Magazine
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Call on your lovers, speaking slow and heavy.
while I get my last rites read by a thief...
The mood carries over into the break-up ballad, Sugar, which sounds to me like a distant cousin of Here's Looking At You Kid, in a good way. This is perhaps Brian's most tender vocals, but he sings with an almost bad intention. I agree with some fans that if a popular female R&B singer were to cover this, it would easily become a hit. But it's that sort of unpolished singing that makes Sugar so wonderful to listen to. Best song on the album. Behold The Hurricane is all about grandeur, a mid-tempo rocker which wouldn't be out of place on The '59 Sound. It's got fantastic one-liners, which the whole record is chalked full of, one-liners that speaks volumes about Brian's lyrical ability, a huge step-up from American Slang. The way he sings the bridge ("I heard the moon has visions of her nightly") gets me everytime. And the chorus line, "Be still my heart, I age by years at the mention of your name" kinda sums up what the song is about.
I Witnessed A Crime has grown considerably on me; a reggae-inspired organ-driven rhythm, with some pretty dark lines. And the track flow from here is just so right, from the resentful Go Tell Everybody, to the quiet but passionate Cherry Blossoms, and then to Ladykiller, with words that remind me of some of the most bitter lines from Backstreets. Crush is an interesting one; it contains an average melody that surprisingly complements well a great set of lyrics, and a spine-chilling outro ("sometimes I'm up lord and sometimes I'm down, sometimes I'm almost level with the ground"). Some of the most angry stuff can be heard in Mary Ann, Black Betty & The Moon and Blood Loss, all dealing with different things. To really feel it, listen to this record loud at night and you'll almost feel scared as Brian sings/yells directly at you.
The closing track, I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together is the equivalent of how American Slang closes with We Did It When We Were Young. In some ways it ties the whole record together, a reminiscence of sorts, but also marking the end of a particular relationship. Elsie is considered as Brian's introspective singer-songwriter record; if Gaslight was more Bruce Springsteen, then this is more Tom Waits. The instrumentation is creative and gorgeous, incorporating sounds Brian weren't able to with his other band. Even the softest softs are just about as intense as anything Gaslight has ever done. Is this Brian's peak as a musician and songwriter? Absolutely without a doubt. The ultimate heartbreaker album of the year.
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Monday, September 5, 2011
02. Arms Aloft
03. Do The Evolution
04. Got Some
05. In My Tree
07. Who You Are (feat. Joseph Arthur, Liam Finn, Glen Hansard)
08. Push Me, Pull Me
09. Setting Forth
10. Not For You (feat. Julian Casablancas)
11. In The Moonlight (feat. Josh Homme)
13. Help Help
15. Education (feat. Liam Finn)
17. State Of Love And Trust (feat. Dhani Harrison)
18. Betterman/Save It For Later
19. Wasted Reprise
20. Life Wasted
22. Stardog Champion (feat. Chris Cornell)
23. Say Hello 2 Heaven (feat. Chris Cornell)
24. Reach Down (feat. Chris Cornell)
25. Hunger Strike (feat. Chris Cornell)
26. Love, Reign O'er Me
28. Kick Out The Jams (feat. Mudhoney)
02. The Fixer
03. Severed Hand
04. All Night
05. Given To Fly
07. Love Boat Captain
08. Habit (feat. Liam Finn)
09. Even Flow
10. Daughter/It's OK
12. Red Mosquito (feat. Julian Casablancas)
13. Satan's Bed
14. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter A Small Town (feat. Dhani Harrison)
15. Unthought Known
16. New World (feat. John Doe)
19. Eddie improv/new song
20. Just Breathe
22. No Way
23. Public Image
24. Smile (feat. Glen Hansard)
25. Spin The Black Circle
26. Hunger Strike (feat. Christ Cornell)
27. Call Me A Dog (feat. Christ Cornell)
28. All Night Thing (feat. Christ Cornell)
29. Reach Down (feat. Christ Cornell)
30. Sonic Reducer (feat. Mudhoney)
32. Rockin' In The Free World
33. Yellow Ledbetter
Friday, September 2, 2011
I'm With You ushers in the new era of the band. This is RHCP 2.0. It has been a hotly anticipated album, not only because they haven't made one in a while, but also the fact that they have a new member, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. I don't wanna go so far as to say that the departure of John Frusciante has put a damp on the new songs, but it may seem rather evident to listeners, given that the guitars aren't as prominent as before. Here you don't get the Frusciante-type solos that defined the RHCP sound for more than a decade. But the new guitarist isn't trying to carry on from where Frusciante left off. He's bringing something fresh to the table; he may be slightly buried here, but I think he's really putting some new life into the band's signature funk rock sound. His background singing still takes some getting used to. In time he'll establish his own identity.
It's kind of a throwback record, with some new stuff added in, such as piano, trumpet, African influences. And the talented rhythm duo of Flea and Chad Smith has never been more solid, also Anthony Kiedis's singing, and I love it whenever he goes into his elementary middle-age white-man rap mode. As for his songwriting, it's always been a hit or miss for me, many times you'll get impressive rhyming and wordplay at the expense of unintelligible lyrics. Having said that, not much has changed on this album, but on the other hand there's melodic hooks aplenty. Personally I dig most of the songs upon first listen, except the first single The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie, which is kinda average. Highlights include Monarchy Of Roses, Did I Let You Know, Police Station and Even You Brutus?. But the immediate standout is Brendan's Death Song. I love me an epic tune about death. Can't wait to see 'em live again.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011
And somehow, someone managed to make this show sound even better, by combining both audience and IEM recordings together to create almost soundboard quality that could easily be mistaken for an official release. The mix isn't perfect though, the guitars are pretty low, with the rhythm section overpowering it, but you can hear Max, Garry, Danny and Roy killing it on their instruments. Also the audience is mixed so low that you lose a bit of the celebratory mood, especially during the many sing-alongs (I don't have any problem with this issue).
It also doesn't hurt that the Gothenburg show boasts a kick-ass setlist, specifically made to break stadiums, with some kick-ass versions of She's The One, Jackson Cage, Growin' Up, and the showstopping Ramrod. Finally Detroit Medley, which is pretty much the most definitive version you'll ever find anywhere. It is like holy shit good. Down In The Gothenburg is the perfect starter for anyone looking to hear the power of the E Street Band live. Of course, the Darkness shows from '78 are quintessential too. Listening to this now, not to mention a song like My City Of Ruins, is even more poignant, given Clarence's passing.
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- The Promised Land
- The Rising
- Lonesome Day
- Jackson Cage
- My Love Will Not Let You Down
- Atlantic City
- Empty Sky
- The River
- Waitin' On A Sunny Day
- Darlington County
- Growin' Up
- Worlds Apart
- She's The One
- Mary's Place
- Racing In The Street
- Into The Fire
- No Surrender
- Thunder Road
- Hungry Heart
- Born To Run
- Detroit Medley
- My City Of Ruins
- Land of Hope And Dreams
- Dancing In The Dark
- Twist And Shout