I originally bought Pearl Jam’s Ten album in about 1991 and have loved it ever since. It’s one of my all-time favourite albums, is simply great from start to finish, and even contains one of my favourite guitar solos (on “Alive”). This past week, Pearl Jam released a new version of Ten which contains two CDs – the first is simply the album I have, the second (called Ten Redux) contains remixed versions of every song on the album, as well as a few bonus tracks. This basically means that I just bought two copies of an album I already had.
I didn’t plan on buying this new version, figuring it was only for serious die-hard Pearl Jam fans. But Alan Cross talked about it on the Explore Music podcast a couple of weeks ago, and said that the new remixed version is simply amazing, so I ordered it from amazon.ca.
Strangely, Cross said that the changes are “subtle, but obvious – if you listen to it off CD and NOT off a compressed MP3”. So on the way into work the other day, I brought the CD with me and listened to it directly, rather than plugging the iPod in. (Ironically, the CD wouldn’t play in the player at first. I had to eject it and try it again before it would play. I think the first time I put the disk in, it got caught in the cobwebs inside.) I was a little sceptical that I would hear any difference, given what Cross had said – I figured that if the differences were so subtle that you couldn’t hear them from an MP3, then the $69 stereo in my car wouldn’t allow me to hear the differences anyway, but it did. I’m not sure I agree with Cross’s assessment, since the differences I hear are obvious enough (to someone who’s listened to the album enough times) that even with a compressed MP3, you can hear them. I listened to the MP3 version from my iPod as well, and sure enough you can hear the changes. I rip all my MP3’s at a variable bit rate, which means that the compression isn’t as good (i.e. the files are bigger) but you don’t lose as much sound quality. Maybe Cross uses a higher compression rate.
Despite sounding oxymoronic, Cross’s description of “subtle, but obvious” is exactly right. This not a “director’s cut” – there are no new verses, no new solos, and none of the songs are any longer or shorter than the originals. Nothing has been added or removed, and most importantly, Han still shoots first. Most of what they’ve done is modify the relative volumes of the instruments. In most songs, the rhythm guitar has been turned up during solos — in a couple of cases, it’s been turned up enough that it’s harder to hear the solo guitar. There were a couple of relatively quiet sections (like the first time you hear “Why go home?” in “Why Go”) where the drums and bass have been turned up a little. In some cases, the background vocals have been turned down. The most obvious specific difference I found was that the “hoo hoo hoo hoo” high-pitched vocals on “Jeremy” have been almost removed. There are a few other smaller changes:
- in “Even Flow” after the line “Where do I stand?”, the echo of “stand” is gone
- the bass at the very end of “Why Go” is a little louder, and is sustained just a touch longer, causing the segue into the brilliant “Black” to be a little less smooth than the original.
- the opening guitar on “Garden” has a different tone
There are also six bonus songs included, some of which were previously unreleased. “Brother” and “Just A Girl both” sound like they could have been on Ten, and I might even have included “Brother” over “Deep”. “Breath And A Scream” is kind of boring, and sounds like a bonus track, i.e. one that wasn’t good enough to make the album. “State Of Love And Trust” isn’t bad, and “2,000 Mile Blues” is cool – very Zeppelin-esque. “Evil Little Goat” is only a minute and a half long, but if Eddie Vedder ever sang for The Beach Boys, this might be what it would sound like.
Now if only Pearl Jam could remix their later albums (anything after Vs.) to make me care about them. I loved Ten and really liked Vs. as well but for some reason, I completely lost interest in Pearl Jam after that. No idea why. I have a couple of later albums (Riot Act and Pearl Jam) and I’ve listened to them a couple of times, but they seem kind of forgettable. But now that my interest in Ten has been rekindled, I’ll give them another listen.