REVIEW: Pearl Jam – Ten (Collector’s Edition, aka The Mother of All Box Sets!)

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Pearl Jam – Ten (2009 Collector’s Edition, 4LP, 2 CD, 1 DVD, 1 Cassette boxed set)

This is how you do a box set!

Obviously, due to the price tag ($250 give or take), this box is not for every fan. This set is for the diehards — the ones who try to collect all the live bootlegs, all the singles, are members of the Ten club, and go see them live every year. Or, this is for people who just want to own something monstrous and cool looking. No matter who you are, if you have the disposable income, you will not be disappointed. There are some things that I was mildly disappointed with (which I shall get to in a moment) but on the whole, if you bought this, you got exactly what you wanted.

This box is packed full of goodies so numerous that I can’t list them all. Needless to say, don’t let the kids get into it or stuff will go missing. From Vedder’s scrap book, to photos, to even a reproduction Mookie Blaylock rookie card! (Pearl Jam’s original name was Mookie Blaylock in case you wondered.) Like I said, this box is loaded. It will take days to absorb all the goodies inside, all packed within a very sturdy and attractive black case. Amazon shipped this set very well packed.

To some, all that stuff is just paper and doesn’t matter next to the music, and in some sense they’re right. So onto the music.

This box includes the original Ten on vinyl and CD. It also includes the 2009 remixed Ten on vinyl and CD. The CD version contains 6 bonus tracks. Brendan O’Brien himself helmed the remixes. I have never been fond of the sound of Ten, until now. If you liked the remixes done for Rearviewmirror, you will like this. I have always found the original mixes too muddy and dull, now they are very bright and crisp. Dare I say it, they are heavier and more rocking. But the essence is the same, and casual fans will probably think this is the way the album always sounded. The six bonus tracks are mostly demos, all very rare.

Also included on DVD is the complete MTV Unplugged performance, previously unreleased and longer than the original broadcast version. This DVD was also included in the more affordable regular retail version so don’t shell out just for this DVD, although it is truly excellent and a great performance.  Legendary performance in fact.  Back in the early 90’s, this is one that spread by word of mouth.  We didn’t get MTV up here in Canada so it was even harder to see stuff like this.  Generally you had to buy a bootleg video at some shady store in Owen Sound or something.  And it looks and sounds a heck of a lot better than bootleg video.  5.1 surround sound plus “Oceans” which did not make the broadcast.

There’s exclusive music in this box, which is another real reason to get it. Drop In The Park, included on vinyl only, is a September 20, 1992 concert at Magnuson Park in Seattle. This is a 9 song album, two records (four sides!) with a 12 minute version of “Porch”. This is a fantastic early concert, a highlight of which was “State of Love and Trust”. As an added bonus, and one not heavily advertized, was that the album comes with a tiny coupon with a download code. You can download the whole album on mp3 and burn it to CD. Nice added touch.

And more!  Also included is a reproduction of Pearl Jam’s original demo cassette, Momma-Son. Right down to the cassette shell and J-card, this replicates the tape that Eddie and the boys made. These early arrangements are really interesting, with “Once” being quite different. This being a cassette, it sounds like…well…a cassette. I would recommend playing it just once, and burning it if you have the technology to do so. After all, tapes wear out fast.  One play could screw it up if it doesn’t like your tape deck.

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I mentioned earlier that some tunes were not included. What I wish they did was give you a download code to get mp3 versions of Momma-Son. Throw in some mp3s for MTV Unplugged, and now we’d be cooking. However these items were not made available for mp3 download. Astute fans may already have them on mp3 anyway…(wink).

Also not included were the four bonus tracks available for sale on the iTunes version. For the record, those tracks were “Why Go”, “Even Flow”, “Alone”, and “Garden” recorded on December 31, 1992 at The Academy Theater in New York. After spending this much money, I felt ripped off that I needed to buy those tracks separately. So being the obsessive compulsive collector that I am, I shelled out.  Again.  I had to buy the whole album again to get the four tracks.  I guess different retailers need different exclusives, it’s what makes the music world go ’round?

There are also MIA bonus tracks from earlier versions of Ten. Europe had “Alive (live)”, “Wash” and “Dirty Frank”, while Japan had “Master/Slave” and the Beatles cover “I’ve Got a Feeling”. For a box set of this stature, I’m afraid to say that these songs really had to be included. Otherwise, this is an incomplete picture of what Ten was and is. In my opinion. Some of that stuff can be easily found on singles and Lost Dogs, others not.

Yet Ten is an historic album.  It is one of very few that you cannot deny was part of a dramatic movement that shook the music world to its core.  Not the rock world, the music world.  Don’t forget, two years later, Pearl Jam were collaborating with Cypress Hill.

I’m going to be totally truthful to admit that Ten is not my favourite PJ album (Vitalogy is), and that I don’t really listen to it much anymore.  I’ve heard “Jeremy” a lotta times…let’s put it that way.  Still, I have never been tired of “Even Flow”.  The guitars of Stone and McCready are strait out of 1970, they are buttery smooth.  Sounds like Fenders and Gibsons to me!  You can’t go wrong with the basic album, even if you don’t like every single song.  It’s an album, it’s a portrait, and it friggin’ rocks at times!

The bottom line is, armed with this information, only you can decide whether this edition of Ten is worth the money. Another drawback to consider: After spending this money, do you really want to play the CDs in the car? It does look awesome on the shelf, but unless you have the money to burn, you may be wiser get the scaled down edition.

5/5 stars. My complaints are mostly nit picks.

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