For the twentieth anniversary of their debut Ten -- an event that arrives in 2011 and is being celebrated in 2009, but who's counting? -- Pearl Jam went all out and delivered not one but three reissues, all in increasing levels of lavishness. First off is a standard two-CD set, followed by a triple-disc set that adds a DVD of the band's 1992 ...
For the twentieth anniversary of their debut Ten -- an event that arrives in 2011 and is being celebrated in 2009, but who's counting? -- Pearl Jam went all out and delivered not one but three reissues, all in increasing levels of lavishness. First off is a standard two-CD set, followed by a triple-disc set that adds a DVD of the band's 1992 performance for MTV Unplugged and then there's a gargantuan, frankly ludicrous, collectors edition that has all that plus four slabs of vinyl containing the two mixes of the album plus a 1992 live show, one cassette that replicates the original demo Eddie Vedder turned in as his audition, and assorted memorabilia that retails for $200.00. All this commotion camouflages the really noteworthy aspect of this anniversary edition: Pearl Jam brought in their longtime producer Brendan O'Brien to remix Ten from the ground up, to strip away the studio affectations of producer Rick Parashar and mixer Tim Palmer that made it a bright, shiny anomaly during the dingy heyday of grunge and make the album sound more liked the rest of the band's work (which O'Brien produced, after all). This isn't full-scale cultural revisionism on the order of George Lucas -- the original album is preserved in remastered form on the first disc -- nor is it akin to the massive reworking of Raw Power that took liberties with the aesthetics of a classic, altering some crucial reasons why it was influential, but rather like a director's cut that's designed to be closer to the artist's original intentions.Since Ten is the odd man out among Pearl Jam's albums -- its shimmering surfaces and gated rhythms too eager to crossover -- this revision also seems logical, bringing it closer to the sound and feel of Vs. and Vitalogy without drastically altering its character. Actually, it's quite arguable that this lean, muscular remix is a marked improvement on the original mix, as it's easier to focus on both the songs and group's interplay. The only room for complaint is that for a deluxe reissue this seems to skimp on the bonus tracks, never bothering to include all the relevant non-LP songs from Ten. It's seems that the logic behind their absence is that they're all available on the compilation Lost Dogs and the bonus material here is all unreleased: a version of "Brother" with vocals (an instrumental was on Lost Dogs), early versions of "Breath and a Scream" and "State of Love and Trust" recorded a year before the Singles soundtrack, and the unreleased "Just a Girl," "2000 Mile Blues," and "Evil Little Goat." Although the latter two sound like the unfinished outtakes they are, it's still nice to have all this material in circulation, but even so it doesn't feel quite right to have a reissue of Ten that misses the B-side "Yellow Ledbetter," a song that received a lot of radio play during the peak of the album's popularity. It also doesn't feel right to have that original demo available only as a cassette in the super-deluxe version of Ten -- or to have the live show only on vinyl, for that matter -- when it would have been easy to expand the set out to three CDs and have this material available for everyone, but in a sense, that's nitpicking: the mad collectors are going to invest in the $200.00 set while the less dedicated will be happy with the remix which is certainly reason enough to justify this entire multi-format project. [A vinyl-only version was also released.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi