Monday, April 04, 2011

Music Review: Pearl Jam - Vs. & Vitalogy 3 CD Deluxe Edition

About this time two years ago, Seattle grunge champions Pearl Jam remastered and put out an excellent deluxe edition of its first album, Ten, complete with a DVD featuring the band's immensely popular MTV Unplugged set.

As of this week, as part of the ongoing celebration of Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings are putting out remastered editions of the quintet's second and third records (Vs. and Vitalogy, respectively) as part of one package, each with three bonus tracks to round them out. There are two other ways to get this package, including a limited edition box set that includes remastered vinyl (5 LPs), among other valuables, available exclusively at

This review covers the Vs. & Vitalogy 3 CD Deluxe Edition, the third disc being a real treat in the form of a live show from my hometown of Boston on April 12, 1994.


As far as albums go, it's hard to top a perfect debut album with another perfect record following it. But Pearl Jam jammed out two completely classic albums in a row, with Ten in 1991 and Vs. in 1993. The difference between the two is not just found in the songwriting, but in attitude. Where the first record mixed some dark themes with a little Doors and Led Zeppelin/Kiss-influenced guitar rock, its sophomore effort absolutely slammed your speakers with the most angry and aggressive album it would ever record.

Tracks like the screamin' hard rock of "Blood," the headbanging heaviness of hit single "Animal," and the urgent and (tuning-wise) heaviest track of all, lead-off track "Go" are just some examples of Pearl Jam's laudable loud tunes.

Of course, some of the band's most celebrated soft songs are represented here as well, with the child abuse-themed "Daughter" and the folk hit "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town."

Perhaps the remastered edition could have done without bonus track "Hold On," since it was already available on a previous compilation (Lost Dogs). However, ending it with a rockin' instrumental, "Creedy Stomp," and hit Victoria Williams cover "Crazy Mary (w/Williams)" (originally from the Sweet Relief compilation) was a smooth move on PJ's part.


Classic as this (1994-released) record is, it still confounds me to this day. The last time I listened to it was on vinyl form and as a teenager in the mid-'90s who was just learning to appreciate the warm, full sound of records. That's how long it's been! So it's good to get another chance at the whole darn thing, this time in CD form, remastered and with a few outtakes.

First track "Last Exit" has some meaty chords and a rapid, ringing guitar riff in the breakdown section that still sounds a bit Edge-y (as in U2). The band's furious, punk energy blasts out of your speakers on "Spin The Black Circle," a pro-vinyl song written well before it became cool again to buy vinyl records. Those tracks, along with (radio hit) "Not For You," "Satan's Bed" and "Tremor Christ" showed the band had not lost its ability to rock hard with authority.

The personal "Better Man," which was written by Vedder well before his time in Pearl Jam but made complete with church organ runs and great production and "Corduroy" were hits and remained staples in Pearl Jam sets over the years. "Immortality" is also very much a timeless staple in the Pearl Jam catalog, especially with Mike McCready's bluesy solo at its apex.

The downers on Vitalogy then are still downers now, with the silly, accordion-led "Bugs," the strange "Aya Davanita" and final track "Hey Foxy..." being examples of filler material/interludes that interrupt and sort of ruin an otherwise near-perfect third album.

Note: This review was first published and can be read in FULL at Blogcritics Magazine

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston Celtics Look To Heat & Heal Up Before The Break

For the most part this season, every other time the Boston Celtics had its depth tested (due to injuries), someone has stepped up and shined. Sixth man of the year Glen Davis in particular stands out. In Sunday's 85-82 win over the Miami Heat, it was his 16 points, along with Von Wafer's 10 points and energy that proved huge in a game that saw a sick and sore Paul Pierce register just one point. Of course, Rajon Rondo's league-leading third triple-double was the biggest key to that win, which put Boston 3-0 against LeBron James' new squad for the year.

Tonight against the New Jersey Nets, another key player off the bench is due back from the injured list, Delonte West. But after getting hit in the hand during practice yesterday, that is in question now. Still, it's a good sign that Boston has been able to be near or stay atop the Eastern Conference Standings despite a depleted roster, one still without both O'Neals (Jermaine and Shaquille), Semih Erden and Marquis Daniels.

The Celtics success at the top will be short-lived though if it continues to have so many bodies dressed in street clothes come game time. Yes, they've proven they can beat just about anybody at least once (and they're 18-0 at home versus the Eastern Conference so far in 2010-2011 and have been the likes of the Lakers and Spurs) but the chances of Doc Rivers being able to coach a full complement of players this year is not looking good right now. And the longer that is the case, the more that will be be reflected in the Eastern Conference Standings.

Hopefully the Celtics will hit the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak with a win against the Nets. But this game isn't that important and if getting healthy means limiting Pierce's minutes and holding off on bringing West back until the second half, so be it.

Sure, that could mean losing the game, but Rivers and the Celtics proved last year that rest (or at least limiting Kevin Garnett and company's minutes in the season's second half) is best and that they didn't need to be the top seed in the playoffs to make the NBA Finals against the Lakers. It could very well be a formula worth testing out again this year.

NOTE: This article was first published at Blogcritics Magazine earlier today