Top Fifty 46: Pearl Jam – Ten, 1991

[Originally posted May 2011]


I was in the States in ’92 and first heard of Pearl Jam when Jeremy was playing on MTV, the third single from the album Ten released in 1991. I was hooked immediately, blown away by Eddie Vedder’s vocals – it is one of the most distinctive and dominant rock vocals of all time [and it does well on current Ukulele Songs to just about stay superb above the incessant strings of the title and whole album’s unusual star instrument!].

Apart from the brilliance of the vocals, songwriting and instant rock credibility, it was the ‘new’ grunge sound that finally put the eighties back to the nowhere from which they sprang musically. I know it was – and still is – a nostalgic sound in reality, but the 70s rock roots were always going to be what I wanted to hear again and again, and Pearl Jam pushed all of those time-shift buttons brilliantly. At some stage I might write about all of the other retro-rock bands that emerged in the 90s to kickstart my aural awakening.

Other classics from the album are Even Flow, Alive and Release, though all the songs are outstanding. It’s a polished rock/grunge sound in fact and I can imagine those who revere the 80s for its punk creations would be less enthusiastic about this album in particular. Pearl Jam’s rawer sound was and is always in performance and of course in albums like Binaural, Yield and Riot Act.

I have only seen Pearl Jam twice, once at Wembley Arena and once in Cardiff, and I missed a more recent gig in Birmingham with a bad back that prevented my travelling: getting on and fragility fighting the pursuit of rock longevity, the latter of which Pearl Jam and Vedder in particular have certainly nailed.

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[NB I did manage to see the band once more in Manchester]


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