Vs. by Pearl Jam

Buy Vs.

Vs. by Pearl Jam Pearl Jam tried to strike a balance between embracing their phenomenal success brought on by their debut Ten (our 1991 Album of the Year) and trying to maintain their rigorous standards of integrity in the face of that massive commercial success. The band set out on an intentionally obscure path which mirrored the “secret society” movement of Led Zeppelin at the height of that band’s popularity with their untitled fourth album in 1971. Like that classic album, the title Vs. does not appear anywhere on the cover, no singles were released from the album until several years later, and Pearl Jam also refused to produce any music videos from the album.

The album was originally slated for the title “Five Against One”, which represented the band’s perspective on their struggles trying to make this sophomore record. However, the title was changed shortly before its release to Vs. as a mocking tribute to all the media stories that would compare Pearl Jam against another Seattle-based band, primarily Nirvana. Lead singer Eddie Vedder took personal exception to this adversarial tone because most of the Seattle bands worked together in promoting their scene. The title was changed so late in the process that some of the first cassette pressings of the album were labeled Five Against One.

Vs. was co-produced by Brendan O’Brien and contains a rawer and more aggressive sound compared with the band’s previous release. In fact, some members of the band have since lamented that they wished the debut had more of a vintage sound like Vs.. O’Brien used an unusual linear approach of recording and mixing each song in turn so the band can focus singularly on each track, with most of the music developed through jam sessions. The lyrical content, written primarily by Vedder, is at times simplistic and self-righteous but this is offset by a passionate delivery with an intense and live-sounding performance.
 


Vs. by Pearl Jam
Released: October 19, 1993 (Epic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien & Pearl Jam
Recorded: Nicasio, CA and Seattle, WA, March–May 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Go
Animal
Daughter
Glorified G
Dissident
W.M.A.
Blood
Rearviewmirror
Rats
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Leash
Indifference
Eddie Vedder – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Mike McCready – Guitars
Stone Gossard – Guitars
Jeff Ament – Bass
Dave Abbruzzese – Drums
 
Vs by Pearl Jam

 
Dave Abbruzzese joined Pearl Jam on drums in mid 1991, making this his first album recorded with the band. He composed the music for the album’s frantic opening rocker “Go”, a song relentless throughout and building right until its crashing end. It was the first single from the album on international releases. “Animal” was composed by guitarist Stone Gossard but is somewhat less appealing than the opener, yet adequate due to its short but great lead. The album’s original title Five Against One was taken from a lyric from “Animal”.

Daughter by Pearl Jam“Daughter” is a storytelling song in the same vein as “Jeremy” from debut album. It is a surreal acoustic tune by Gossard, with an otherwise standard arrangement until it dissolves into an odd, faded ending. Lyrically, Vedder wrote about a girl with a learning difficulty which is misinterpreted as outright defiance by her parents. This rather odd song became the most popular radio hit from the album. Although never officially released as a single in the U.S., “Daughter” song topped Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock charts for eight consecutive weeks and became the band’s first Top 40 single on the Pop charts.

“Glorified G” is a light, almost poppy song with chorus hook complete with backing vocals. Musically, the song features a twangy, Country-esque guitar by Mike McCready and an upright bass by Jeff Ament. Lyrically, the song was inspired by an incident after Abbruzzese told the band he had just bought two guns and Vedder was outraged, sparking a conversation about guns within the band. Overall the song straddles the line between country and funk before it later breaks into a strong rock section in the outro. “Dissident” is a political statement by Vedder with great vocal melodies and music collaborated by Gossard, McCready, and Ament, built from a live jam. The good, melodic guitars lead this slow but strong storytelling song, again not released in the United States, but charted as a single in several other countries.

RearViewMirror by Pearl Jam“W.M.A.” is driven by Abbruzzese’s rolling drums and Ament’s repetitive bass lines never really deviates making the song kind of mundane after the first three minutes, despite the fast and funky guitars and U2-like quality of the way it builds over a simple phrase. “Blood” alternates between thrash metal and funk, which is interesting at first but soon sounds like nothing more than an unorganized jam used for album filler. “Rearviewmirror” is a song of great motion that contains a syncopated riff and bass line and an E-bow effect by McCready, blending new wave type music with Vedder’s distinctive grunge vocals on top. “Rats” is a rather typical (by this point in the album) funk/rock song, upbeat and entertaining, but not quite original.

“Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” may be the climatic point of the album. It is an acoustic waltz by Vedder that acts as a nice break late in the album with a definitive chorus hook. An overall melancholy tune about nostalgia and long lost love told through the eyes of an elder woman who never left her small hometown, rather typical pop song fare but not typical of Pearl Jam. While the album is pretty uniformly strong throughout, it is kind of weak at the end. “Leash” is heavy, shouting, with bad transitions and rather uninteresting. The final track “Indifference” is a mundane song which completely falls in line with its title, save for just a light tinge of cabaret blues by Gossard which may be the song’s redemption. Still, the deep connection which the song is trying to accomplish never quite materializes and Vs. does not finish as strongly as it should have.

Still, the album was nothing short of phenomenal commercially. Upon its release, Vs. set the record for most copies of an album sold in its first week – well over a million – a record it held for five years. It occupied the number one spot on the Billboard album charts for five weeks and has been certified seven times platinum by the RIAA in the United States. It was also nominated for “Best Rock Album” at the 1995 Grammy Awards, giving Pearl Jam the mainstream acceptance that they claimed they loathed.

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1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.

 

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Counterparts by Rush

Counterparts by RushWhile there is a definite break from the pop-leaning, synth-fused sound that had defined the Rush sound since the mid-1980s, their evolution back towards rock was not quite complete on Counterparts. Some have claimed that this was the back-to-basics album for the rock power trio, the truth is they had been migrating back on their previous two albums. But while the material leaned more towards the then-hip alternative rock sound, the album still contained its share of pop oriented and radio-friendly material, and it paid off commercially. The band’s fifteenth studio album, the album was Rush’s highest charting album in the US, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200.

The dark and emotional themes of Neil Peart‘s lyrics on Counterparts continue many of the trends of the band’s previous 1991 album Roll the Bones. Also resumed from the previous album was the inclusion of the instrumental, something that the band had abandoned through most of the 1980s. In this case, the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone” was a thematic sequel to “Where’s My Thing?” and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1994.

While Peart took care of all the lyrics, bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson composed all the music, an arrangement employed by the band since the mid 1970s.
 


Counterparts by Rush
Released: October 19, 1993 (Anthem)
Produced by: Peter Collins & Rush
Recorded: Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, April-June 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Animate
Stick It Out
Cut To the Chase
Nobody’s Hero
Between Sun and Moon
Alien Shore
The Speed of Love
Double Agent
Leave That Thing Alone
Cold Fire
Everyday Glory
Geddy Lee – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Alex Lifeson – Guitars
Neal Peart – Drums & Percussion
 
Counterparts by Rush

 
An opening drum beat by Peart introduces “Animate” and suggests the album is intended to be built on musical motifs with lyrical rhymes, rhymes, and more rhymes and just a touch of poetry. Still, a decent overall sound and a very entertaining middle part which includes the line which gave the album its title followed by a short, bluesy guitar lead by Lifeson. “Cut to the Chase” contains a moody picked guitar with bass accents by Lee eventually gives way to harder rocking section. As many have labeled Counterparts as Rush’s foray into “alternative” music this may be the best example to make that case, with the sound having a definite 1990s “groove”.

“Nobody’s Hero” contains a nice strummed acoustic and good guitars all around by Lifeson, with lyrics which remember lost friends much like the song “Afterimage” on Grace Under Pressure a decade earlier. “Stick It Out” takes a more raw, grungy sound and combines it with an almost-89s-hair-band-like anthem lyrically. The simple yet doomy riff over the verse gives way to a softer middle section, which just acts as a wall to bounce off the more appealing, heavier elements of the song, which charted at #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart.
 

 
Peart really shows his drum chops on “Between Sun and Moon”, while yielding the lyrics to guest Pye Dubois. Combined, the song is melodic and entertaining throughout, and purely the most enjoyable song on the album. “Alien Shore” is driven by a funky rhythm on Lee’s bass and a great drum shuffle by Peart, but the vocal melody kind of mundane and repetitive, resulting in the song never quite hitting its potential, as one might have under the production techniques of Terry Brown, their producer from the early days.

The album’s latter tracks include the sonically pleasing “The Speed of Love” and the odd but original “Double Agent”, which forecasts the future Rush sound of the 2000s while continuing their occasional experimental pieces of the 1990s, such as the title song from the previous album Roll the Bones. “Cold Fire” is laid back with a steady beat, soaring vocals, and a good hook which made it very radio-friendly and earned it a #2 on the U.S. mainstream rock charts. The album concludes with “Everyday Glory”, which includes Lifeson’s bright guitars and Peart’s strong rhythms with a good bridge being the salvation of this song.

While it was the commercial peak of Rush’s long career, few would rank Counterparts in the top echelon of albums in Rush’s long career. This album’s success was due primarily to weak competition during the rather weak rock year of 1993.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.


1993 Images

 

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Candlebox by Candlebox

Candlebox 1993 albumCandlebox was one of the last riders of the huge Seattle grunge wave of the early 1990s. Consequently, they were at the vanguard of the post-grunge wave, where this newly labeled “alternative” music was becoming less and less alternative. Their debut album Candlebox came in mid 1993, a couple of years after many of their Seattle contemporaries made an international splash with this fresh new sound. Further, the commercial success of the album took a while to materialize, as the album did not enter the Billboard 200 until over a year following its release, although it did remain on that chart for two subsequent years.

The four-piece band was formed in late 1991 and took their name from a line in a Midnight Oil song. Their rise to fame was quite rapid as a demo tape found its way to Madonna’s Maverick label and the group landed a record deal in 1992. In their early career, Candlebox was occasionally looked down upon by members of the grunge movement who criticized their style which leaned more towards classic rock then the punk and indie sound of other bands in the genre. Nevertheless, the band worked and played hard until they got their big break.

We start our look at 1993 with this album because it is an example of where 1993 was on the rock timeline – in a phrase, it was when alternative rock stopped being alternative. Candlebox is the perfect representation as they had one of the greatest songs of the decade but it was the only truly complete song on the album, as the rest just seem to be reaching for the gold ring but falling just a bit frustratingly short.
 


Candlebox by Candlebox
Released: July 20, 1993 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Kelly Gray & Candlebox
Recorded: London Bridge Studios, Seattle, March–April 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Don’t You
Change
You
No Sense
Far Behind
Blossom
Arrow
Rain
Mother’s Dream
Cover Me
He Calls Home
Kevin Martin – Lead Vocals
Peter Klett – Guitars
Bardi Martin – Bass
Scott Mercado – Drums

Candlebox 1993 album

 
A little nervous laughter (intentional or not) starts the album before the song “Don’t You” breaks in with a Pearl Jam–like-jam, riff-driven hard rock with simple and steady drumming and some boilerplate vocal effects. “Change” is a distant and moody song with picked out, reverb-drenched guitar notes by Peter Klett, before it breaks into a strong part during the choruses. Like many of the alternative albums of the day, this song employs a tactic in use since “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” on Led Zeppelin I in 1969, of letting the dynamics be extra-dynamic by sheer use of contrast.

Deadened guitar notes introduce the rotating shuffle of “You”, a minor radio hit for the band. The song’s best moment is the sustained-notes guitar lead by Klett towards the end, preceded by an an almost rap-like lyrical rhythm and choppy drumming  by Scott Mercado. On the next track, “No Sense”, Mercado adds some Boss-Nova style drums accompanied by some interesting guitar and bass interplay before it unfortunately launches into typical grunge orgasm, which is quite a shame for this good beginning showed promise before it gets formulaic.

“Far Behind” is, quite simply one of the greatest songs of the decade of the 1990s, led by incredible vocal intensity by lead vocalist Kevin Martin. Everything comes together on this song, from the crisp opening riff and fantastic middle lead by by Klett to the incredible climax after in the final minute mark of this song. The song was actually recorded in April 1992, four months after the band’s formation, for their original demo tape and it peaked at #18 on the U.S. charts in 1994. The song is a tribute to the late Andrew Wood, lead vocalist of Mother Love Bone, the band which sparked much of the grunge movement.
 

 
“Blossom” is slow and methodical with good bass accents by Bardi Martin, again breaking into grunge formula, but strong enough to remain one of the better songs on the album. The next two songs are not quite there, just thrashing for the sake of thrash as the formula and becomes more of an unfocused distraction than a true sonic reward. Kevin Martin has an adequate voice, but not quite the soaring mystical kind necessary to pull off the heavier moody stuff which requires much range (see Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder). The most unfortunate production faux pas is “Rain”, cool and bluesy from the start with the band doing an adequate job pulling it off before the song abruptly stops about halfway through and breaks into a funk/grunge section which was totally unnecessary for this song.

The album does recover a bit with the final two, acoustic driven tracks. “Cover Me” is a refreshing slow ballad with great strumming and picking by Klett. “He Calls Home” concludes the album as a bit of melodramatic ballad about a homeless man, carried by mainly by the vocals of Kevin Martin.

Candlebox had success both critically and commercially and the band was eager to follow up on the success, But by the time the band released the follow-up record, Lucy in October 1995, the rock landscape was already changing again and they never quite surpassed the success of their debut.

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1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.

 

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