This post was contributed by Jason Cicchella.
“Oh once, upon a time…”
Although I’ve listened to this album countless times over the years, I actually can’t remember the first time in particular that I heard it. What I can remember is being 12 or 13 years old, just getting into music, and walking into a local record store and buying CD’s (remember either of those?) like Green Day’s Dookie, Wonderwall from Oasis, Evil Empire from RATM, and the Offspring’s Smash. Those were the popular rock albums out so naturally my friends and I gravitated towards them. I can remember hearing Pearl Jam around the same time, and while over the years I lost interest in some of the previous albums or bands I mentioned, neither Ten nor Pearl Jam’s music in general never got old to me, nearly 20 years later, and I don’t think it ever will.
This was really the first album I listened to that really made me feel and connect with lyrics. Eddie really wrote about some passionate and personal experiences, and the meanings were imbedded deep in his words and were wildly open to interpretation. It defined half a decade of angst and influenced probably hundreds of bands to follow in similar fashion. As Nirvana took more of a punk rock approach to their song writing, Pearl Jam took more of a classic rock approach, allowing lead guitarist Mike McCready to let loose like an animal while all over the wah-wah pedal sounding like the second coming of Hendrix, Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s astounding to me how a band that was such a huge part of a generational sound that died off within 5 years is not only still writing great albums, but is still selling out arenas and constantly touring all over the world 25 years later, even at a time now when “grunge” can basically be considered classic rock and outdated.
Aside from all of that, the really amazing thing to me about this album is how my personal listening experience has changed over the years of my life and the experiences I went through. In the beginning it was just a phenomenal rock album to listen to from a musical standpoint and just being a fan. Years later, after my dad passed away when I was 19, songs like Alive and the albums closing track Release, really hit home to me considering Eddie wrote those songs about his life experiences with his father, and it was hard not to feel a personal connection to them. Certain lyrics in Release, such as, “Oh dear dad, can you see me now”, really resonated with me in big days in my life, such as when I graduated college, when I got married, and when my niece and nephew were born. “I’ll ride the wave where it takes me” always reminds me of how my dad told me the world is my oyster, don’t think too much and enjoy the wonderful ride that is life and see it as an adventure. I think most people can relate to the sorrow, heartbroken lyrics of Black, which talks about a lost romance. For years this album was therapeutic to me, as I could crank it up, sometimes belt the lyrics out, and would just make me feel better for a moment in time.
I can remember not long after that picking up a guitar and then a bass, and really listening to that album in a whole different mindset trying to learn how to play music. I can remember trying to learn some of Jeff Ament’s great bass work on Porch, or Stone Gossard’s guitar work on Garden, and realized how great of songwriting was on this album not just even from a lyrical standpoint. Later I can remember introducing this album to my wife, who at the time was just a casual fan, but pushed her to listen to the album from start to finish, and really listen to it in its entirety and closely to the lyrics. Now she asks me often about when they are touring and when tickets go on sale, and it’s an album we enjoy together, whenever we hear it.
I can remember seeing them live for the first time and hearing some of these songs be played in front of me. It brings a whole new appreciation to this album as they usually play a good part of it at most of their shows, everyone knows all of the lyrics, and always put a different spin on each song whether it be Eddie improvising lyrics, extending a Mike McCready solo, or improvising into another different song completely. The energy I would feel listening to the CD was magnified ten times over being able to sing along with Eddie and the boys in person, along with thousands of other fans who feel the same as me. Any time I heard the studio version of this album after that always made me think of how it felt hearing it live, and how special this album really is.
This album will always stay with me. To me it’s one of those rare albums that you can connect with in bad times, but also sing along with in good times. I’m sure there will be a time in the future when I will introduce this album to my kids and maybe one day they’ll develop their own connection to this album as good music is timeless, and as “grunge” is long gone. I’ve always found music to be great form of therapy or a remedy to whatever you’re feeling. I’ve found this album can make you feel better if your day isn’t going so well, or improve on your already good day but just hearing some great music and belting out some lyrics. So if you haven’t already, give it a listen, whether your feeling up or down.
Suitable for – bad day, good day with the windows rolled down, getting amped up
Appropriate playback device – Early 90’s Sony Walkman (Don’t forget the plaid and pair of Doc Martins)
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