One of Grunge Rock's most beloved acts, Pearl Jam formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990 and is considered one of the most influential bands of the '90s.
Written and Compiled by: Eric, Pave
Last Updated: 2005-02-10
PEARL JAM - BRIEF OVERVIEW:
The story of the seminal rock quintet, Pearl Jam, begins in tragedy. Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, already veterans of the grunge scene with their band Green River, were on the verge of making it big with their latest group, Mother Love Bone. Along with singer Andrew Wood, MLB was preparing to release their full length debut album, Apple, in March 1990. Just as the band was on the brink of success, Wood died suddenly of a heroin overdose. With their goals of rock stardom shattered, Ament and Gossard finally found salvation when a close friend of Wood, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, decided to put together a tribute to the fallen singer. Gossard, Ament, Cornell, guitarist Mike McCready, and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron began working on the tribute album. Along with guest appearances from then unknown Eddie Vedder, the project resulted in the legendary album, Temple of the Dog. The somber tribute, highlighted by the songs 'Hunger Strike' and 'Say Hello to Heaven', was one of the most emotionally difficult rock albums of the modern era.
Expressing the sadness and grief over their loss, as well as their determination to carry on, the album set the stage for one of the most monumental bands of the coming decade. Cornell and Cameron returned to Soundgarden, and the Temple Of The Dog alumni joined together in late 1990, along with drummer Dave Krusen. Pearl Jam was officially born, and they immediately began work on their first album. In 1991, the band released their epic debut recording, Ten. Still generally considered their finest recording, Ten defined everything that the grunge era was about. The band was fiercely independent and existed completely outside of the flash and glam that plagued the previous generation of rock music. Krusen left the band shortly thereafter, replaced briefly by Matt Chamberlin, before the band finally chose Dave Abbruzzese as their next drummer.
Pearl Jam quickly earned a reputation as a wonderful live band, largely due to Eddie Vedder's possessed stage presence and Mike McCready's aggressive soloing. In 1993, the band released their sophomore album, Vs, which was another huge success. At the peak of their stardom, the band refused to remain content with their previous successes, choosing instead to push forward and mature as a musical unit. 1994's Vitalogy set up a new stage of their career. Instead of relying on grungy guitar riffs and Vedder's impassioned baritone, the band began experimenting in new directions. The hard rock songs were still there, but the band also had a newfound sense of subtlety and mystery.
In 1995, the band backed Neil Young for his latest album, Mirror Ball. After Abbruzzese was replaced with former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, the band began work on their fourth album. No Code, released in 1996, found the band at their most experimental. Attempting to ask some of life's biggest questions, the album showed Vedder finally reaching maturity as a lyricist. Sadly, the album failed to impact radio and sales charts the way the previous albums had, but the band seemed happy to limit their appeal to a more specialized audience. No longer catering to the MTV crowd, the band could finally play exclusively to their true fans. Those that stuck with the band through this experimental transition were rewarded greatly with some of the most thoughtful and innovative music of the late nineties.
After releasing Yield in 1998, the band hired former Temple of the Dog band mate Matt Cameron. With the most solid drummer of their career, Pearl Jam was reinvigorated as a live act and managed to remain one of the most popular concert attractions in the world. In 1999, they found unexpected success with their cover of 'Last Kiss'. The benefit recording surprisingly became the biggest selling single of their career. The band's next two releases, Binaural (2000) and Riot Act (2002) continued to explore new artistic directions. During the 2000 tour, the band became the first major rock act to record and release "official bootlegs" of every live show. The process is still becoming continually more popular, with many other high profile rock acts, such as Phish and The Who, recording and releasing entire tours on cd. In 2004, the band ended their contract with Epic and was once again a free agent in the musical world. Their first self-produced single, 'Man of the Hour', was another hit for the band. The band began playing various shows around the country, and Vedder also performed solo sets at several benefit concerts. The band released their ninth studio album, "Backspacer" in September of 2009 which includes the single "The Fixer".
Pearl Jam Members:
Eddie Vedder (vocals, guitar)
Mike McCready (lead guitar)
Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar)
Jeff Ament (bass)
Dave Krusen (1990-1991)
Matt Chamberlin (1991)
Dave Abbruzzese (1991-1994
Jack Irons (1994-1998)
Matt Cameron (1998-present)
THE STUDIO ALBUMS (ranked in order of greatness):
1. Ten (1991) Pearl Jam's debut album is a perfect blend of the classic hard rock everyone loved with the alternative sounds that were growing to a peak in the early 90's. It serves as proof that a band can be commercially appealing without losing its sincerity and depth. The album holds many of the great songs that Pearl Jam is remembered for, including 'Jeremy', 'Alive', and 'Black'.
2. No Code (1996)
Pearl Jam's fourth studio album is arguably Eddie Vedder's shining moment. The band's role may be more subtle, but it is just as affective as their previous albums. With the focus shifted towards creating textured walls of sound rather than hard rock riffs, Vedder can ease back with more mature songwriting and vocals. The heavy riffs aren't lost completely though, just scattered around the album.
3. Vitalogy (1994)
Vitalogy is the most creative effort of the band to date. Every song, good or bad, has a unique sound of its own. The album jumps from radio hits to tracks that leave the listener wandering "what were they thinking?" The result is a brilliant album that changed the most commercially successful band of the time into a cult band almost overnight. Some may find the album inconsistent, while others view it as an underrated alternative rock classic.
4. Pearl Jam (2006)
The band's eighth studio album contains one of their biggest hits to date with the protest rocker Worldwide Suicide. The album received rave reviews from critics who saw it as a much needed return to form for the band. With rockers that sound like they are from the band's earliest records, the album is on it's way to be one of the group's best selling albums since Vitalogy.
5. Binaural (2000)
Continuing their trend of creating a new unique sound with each new album, the band changed greatly with the addition of drummer Matt Cameron. His ability to create unique rhythms that could stand on their own gave the guitars a lot more room to branch out without having the bulk of the song relying on them.
6. Vs (1993)
With their second album, Pearl Jam stripped away the grunge sound that layered Ten for vintage classic rock. Depending on your personal taste, this may be a good thing or a bad thing. It did fail to produce the memorable songs that made Ten so great, but it still stands as a very consistent and energetic set of songs.
7. Riot Act (2002)
Pearl Jam's latest album proves that they are still one of the greatest rock bands in the world. They may have lost the mainstream exposure long ago, but the depth that remains makes this album a gem for anyone smart enough to ignore current music trends. This album may very well be as good as the previous album Binaural, but only time will tell if the songs remain as memorable.
8. Yield (1998)
Yield was a return to the guitar riff oriented classic hard rock that dominated Vs five years earlier. However, the depth and creativity that was at a peak with the previous two albums was lost in the attempt to recreate their rock anthem form. Still a great listen for any fan of modern rock, it may be just a little too plain for grunge and alternative rock fans to get into.
Live on Two Legs (1998)
Live on Two Legs is the first live Pearl Jam recording officially released. It gives a decent overview of the band's live show, but better examples are on the several officially released live shows from the 2000 and 2003 tours.
Lost Dogs: Rarities and B-Sides (2003)
A collection of random recorded songs and b-sides, Lost Dogs will undoubtedly make you question why a lot of the songs were scrapped. Though some of the tracks are not serious at all, a lot of them could stand up with any of the already released material. The collection is not entirely complete, leaving off some songs that would later be released on the greatest hits album.
Rearviewmirror: Greatest Hits 1991-2003 (2004)
This compilation is an amazing introduction to the band. It also holds a couple of great tracks that could only be found on singles and live shows prior to this release, such as 'Breath' and 'I Got Id'.
11/6/00 Seattle, WA
Regarded by many to be the ultimate Pearl Jam bootleg, this was the last show of their 2000 world tour and took place in the grunge capital of Seattle. 3 discs of intense performances that are a must for any Pearl Jam fan.
Pearl Jam's unplugged concert was never officially released. However, bootlegged copies can be found fairly easy. Vedder's emotions are on high, especially on 'Black', which makes this show a beautiful look at what Pearl Jam were like live even very early in their career.
Benaroya Hall: October 22, 2003
Almost completely acoustic and very intimate makes this a special live album. It plays through most of the live staples with some very unique choices also appearing, such as an acoustic 'Lukin' and a cover of 'Masters of War' that will bring back memories of the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary where Vedder gave it such a memorable performance.
5/3/03 State College, Pennsylvania
The Penn State show spans three discs, holds several great cover songs, and shows that the band is still down to earth despite their fame. After struggling with 'Satan's Bed', Vedder recaptures the audience with two powerful performances, 'Rockin in the Free World' and 'Yellow Ledbetter'. This was the final show of the first leg of the Riot Act tour and the band clearly doesn't want the performance to end, as evidenced by the extended encore segments.
6/11/03 Mansfield, Massachusetts
This epic, 44 song set is the longest show from the bands Riot Act tour. It is unique because the band chose to open for themselves with an excellent 12 song acoustic set, opening with one of the most emotional performances of 'Long Road' of their career. The main set doesn't offer quite as many hits as the Penn State show, but we do get some unique song choices, such as the trilogy of 'Nothingman', 'Betterman', and 'Leatherman'.
Live on Two Legs
Benaroya Hall: Oct. 22, 2003
SIDE PROJECTS BY PEARL JAM MEMBERS:
Some of the earliest music from the Seattle grunge scene, Jeff and Stone were joined by vocalist Mark Arm and Steve Turner (both later of Mudhoney). The result is often somewhat inconsistent, but you can definitely hear the influences this had on the major grunge bands of the nineties.
Albums: Come On Down (1985), Dry as a Bone (1986), Rehab Doll (1988)
MOTHER LOVE BONE
After Green River broke up in 1988, Jeff and Stone formed Mother Love Bone with drummer Greg Gilmore, guitarist Bruce Fairweather, and vocalist Andrew Wood. The band was an attempt to emulate the arena rock of bands such as Queen and Aerosmith. The band had just completed work on their first full length album when Andrew Wood died of a heroine overdose on March 16, 1990.
Albums: Shine (1989), Apple (1990), Stardog Champion (1990, posthumous compilation)
TEMPLE OF THE DOG
Out of the ashes of Mother Love Bone, Jeff and Stone joined with Chris Cornell, Mike McCready, and Matt Cameron in remembrance of Andrew Wood. Eddie Vedder also shows up on a few tracks, most notably on the album's most recognized song, 'Hunger Strike'. This intensely emotional tribute showcased the heartache resulting from the loss of their friend, as well as their optimism that life can go on after such a devastating tragedy. Their single release is truly one of the great rock albums of the nineties.
Album: Temple of the Dog (1991)
After Pearl Jam and Neil Young toured together, they formed a musical bond that caused Young to use them as his backup band for his 1995 album. The album is relatively typical of Young's other output from this period. Eddie Vedder shows up for an excellent cameo on the song 'Peace and Love'.
Album: Mirror Ball (1995)
Layne Staley wrote this set of songs while he was in rehab for heroine addiction. The band also includes Mike McCready and Barrett Martin (from Screaming Trees). The focus is squarely on Staley, whose pained voice works perfectly on such songs as 'River of Deceit' and 'Long Gone Day'. McCready gets a few moments to shine, but he doesn't seem as confident here as he does with Pearl Jam. Overall, this is an excellent album that any fan of grunge rock should listen to.
Album: Above (1995)
Stone's main side project throughout the nineties also includes Shawn Smith, Regan Hagar, and Mike Berg. The band sounds like classic seventies rock, complete with riff oriented rockers and piano driven ballads. Don't expect it to sound like Pearl Jam, but it's still great to hear another side of Stone Gossard's music.
Albums: Shame (1993), Interiors (1997), Welcome to Discovery Park (2002)
Jeff Ament's side project is about as far from the style of Pearl Jam as you could possibly expect. The band includes Ament, vocalist Robbi Rob and drummer Richard Stuverud. This trio plays mystic rock with rough vocals and beautiful fretless bass playing from Ament.
Albums: Three Fish (1996), Quiet Table (1999)
Mike McCready is joined by friends Carrie Akre, Chris Friel, Danny Newcomb, and Rick Friel for this excellent side project. As expected, McCreadys solos are creative and exciting, and the songwriting is very strong as well. The band plays the same kind of straight ahead hard rock youd expect from these veterans of the Seattle music scene.
Albums: The Rockfords (2000), Live Seattle (2005)
This sadly overlooked band is one of the most intriguing side projects from any member of Pearl Jam. The band includes Matt Cameron and his former Soundgarden band mate, Ben Shepherd, as well as Monster Magnet guitarist John Paul McBain. The bands psychedelic style defies categorization. Their albums also include guest appearances from such notables as Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, and Eddie Vedder.
Albums: Declaration of Conformity (1997), Brotherhood of Electric: Operational Directives (1999), Scroll and Its Combinations (2001), Wellwater Conspiracy (2003)
On his 2001 solo debut, Stone Gossard explores musical directions he could never go with his other bands. The melodic rock includes Stone's humorous lyrics, extended instrumental interludes and his unique vocal style. This album also proves that Mike McCready isn't the only great guitar soloist in Pearl Jam. Absolutely nothing like the grunge rock you'd expect from Stone, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Album: Bayleaf (2001)
Live At the Showbox (2003)
This excellent live recording of the band's December 6, 2002 performance in Seattle shows how the band has reached full maturity as a live act. The set is made up primarily of Riot Act material, with only a couple older songs and a few interesting covers.
Live At the Garden (2003)
This excellent live show includes several guest appearances, including Ben Harper on two songs. The show, played before a sold-out New York crowd, shows that the band is still one of the best live acts in the world today. Touring Band (2001)
Taken from the band's 2000 world tour, this live collection is packed with hits. The video quality isn't the best, and the band is a little better at the Garden performance, but this is still an excellent live dvd. Single Video Theory (1998)
This documentary shows the band in the studio working on Yield. Don't expect any energetic live performances or cinematic music videos. This shows the band in the intimate setting of a recording studio, and includes interviews with all of the members. A great way to see what goes into the albums we all love listening to.
Pearl Jam's Greatest Songs:
3. Better Man
4. Yellow Ledbetter
5. Off He Goes
6. Even Flow
9. Worldwide Suicide
10. Love Boat Captain
3. Yellow Ledbetter
5. In Hiding
7. Given to Fly
8. I Got ID
9. Love Boat Captain
MIKE'S BEST GUITAR SOLOS:
2. Yellow Ledbetter
3. Reach Down (from Temple of the Dog)
5. Satan's Bed
7. Even Flow
9. Come Back
JEFF'S BEST BASS PERFORMANCES:
1. Dirty Frank
4. In My Tree
5. Get Right
6. Inside Job
STONE'S BEST RIFFS:
1. Even Flow
4. Spin the Black Circle
5. Do the Evolution
6. Save You
7. Glorified G
PLACEMENT ON DDD LISTS (as of 2/2005):
Rock Guitarists - Mike McCready #89 Rock Drummers - Matt Cameron #19, Jack Irons #88, Dave Abbruzzese #97 Rock Bass Guitarists - Jeff Ament #53 Rock Vocalists - Eddie Vedder #89 Rock Lyricists - Eddie Vedder #14 Rock Albums - Ten #47 Rock Albums of the 90's - Ten #2, Vitalogy #27, Vs #62 Rock Artists of the 90's - #1 Rock Artists - #84 Live Rock Artists - #13