Ten Vs. Ten

9

April 6, 2009 by MK

ten-original2 ten-reissue1

Ah, Ten.  The anthems.  The pink teamwork of the cover.  The album name taken from a relatively obscure basketball player’s jersey number.  What’s not to like?  Well, according to some fans and the band themselves, plenty.  Which is why we have a new version for our listening pleasure.

With the release of the Brendan O’Brien translation of Pearl Jam’s Ten, we have an interesting battle of sorts.  The original vs. the “new and improved.”  Can you improve upon a classic?  Is it worth doing?  These questions and more can only be answered in a good, old-fashioned track-by-track smackdown.

So, we match the 1991 original produced by Rick Parashar with the 2009 remix produced by Brendan O’Brien.

Let TEN VS. TEN begin.

ONCE

The foreboding instrumental ‘Master/Slave’ drones as the precursor to this track about a man suffering from a total loss of control.  Right away, it hits you:  Jeff Ament did play bass on Ten!  The thick layer of reverb has been taken off the instruments with the remixed version of ‘Once.’  The contrast is akin to hearing a soundcheck from outside the venue versus being in the room with the band.  The guitars snarl — much like they did on the O’Brien produced follow-up, Vs. — adding to the ominous tension in the lyrics.

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

EVENFLOW

Much of this track is similar to what people have been singing along to for almost 20 years.  The main difference is that of Dave Krusen’s drums, his hi-hat up front, almost on top of the surging guitars.  Also, Eddie’s mumbling on the breakdown is slightly more coherent.  In the end, O’Brien’s take is less anthemic, which is like giving the Mona Lisa a frown.  ‘Evenflow’ belongs in the rafters.

Winner:  Parashar ’91

ALIVE

The rhythm guitar is given more prominence during the verses, highlighting the guitar interplay that became a hallmark of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready.  Vedder’s oceanic wail is (wisely) left untouched while the outro is given even more urgency with the trudging reverb lifted and Krusen kicking everyone down the stretch.

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

WHY GO

Another song that O’Brien allows Ament to own.  Also accentuated throughout are the vamps and idiosyncrasies once buried underneath — Vedder’s madman improv, McCready’s flourishes and Krusen’s drumfills.

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

BLACK

The key to this remix is the intimate sound of Vedder’s vocals.  In Parashar’s version, Vedder sounds far and away, like he doesn’t want you to hear how much it hurts.  O’Brien puts the vocals up front, stripping it of any mask.  In the end, what the remix loses in scale is more than made up for in warmth.  And the outro is a runaway train in 2009’s vintage.

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

pearl-jam-early1Layers were very important in 1991.

JEREMY

The song/video that really got everyone on board is left relatively untouched.  Once again, Krusen is allowed to shine just a bit more, the snare much crisper than the original.  However, the murk of 1991 plays a little more in ‘Jeremy’s’ favor, adding a sense of menace to the occasion.

Winner:  Parashar ’91

OCEANS

This is one of those songs that shouldn’t be messed with.  Such a wonderful build, such feeling in the vocals, such awesome tympani.  Let’s leave it in the time capsule, shall we?

Winner:  Parashar ’91

PORCH

This is, hands down, the single best remix on the new Ten.  O’Brien unleashes this Vedder-penned song by putting the manic guitars front and center where they belong, leaving the rest of the instruments racing to keep up.  Get in a car and crank this full blast.  Never mind the speeding ticket.  “There ain’t gonna be any middle anymore.”

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

GARDEN

‘Garden’ almost sounds too Creed-y.  And this is before there were 8 trillion bands trying to ape Pearl Jam.  Vedder just moans his way through (“I just question our modern needs.”).  O’Brien does manage to reduce the bombast and make the verses more interesting by highlighting the blend of Vedder’s vocal lines.  ‘Footsteps’ deserves a slot much more than this song.

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

DEEP

The redux of ‘Deep’ sounds positively scary and could easily rage alongside the urgent tracks of Vs. — think ‘Go,’ ‘Blood’ and ‘Leash.’

Winner:  O’Brien ’09

RELEASE

The best album-capper (and concert-opener) in PJ history.  I like that Parashar’s version sounds much more dream-like, fading in and out and drifting until Vedder takes it to the next level (“I’ll ride the wave… WHERE IT TAKES ME!”).

Winner:  Parashar ’91

stickman2

FINAL SCORE

Parashar ’91 = 4

O’Brien ’09 = 7

Best Remix = PORCH

Most Improved = Jeff Ament & Dave Krusen

Down goes Parashar!  Down goes Parashar!

It’s almost unheard of for a redux to outdo a classic original (I’m looking at you Let It Be… Naked), but Brendan O’Brien manages to pull it off with his Ten.  Overall, a greater sense of urgency is felt throughout, especially in the up-tempo numbers.  O’Brien’s strength has always been in letting Stone Gossard and Mike McCready play off of one another, while never forgetting the bread and butter (and warmth) of Vedder’s vox.  Ten ends up sounding very similar to Vs. in that regard.

So, to answer the question put forth in the intro:  Yes, you can improve upon a classic.  Especially if said classic is dripping in echo.  But something tells me Rick Parashar is not bothered as he lays in a bed of royalties.

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9 thoughts on “Ten Vs. Ten

  1. Gian4455 says:

    I almost agree with your opinions about Ten vs. Ten Redux 100%, but I feel that the “Oceans” version of the O’brien mix is far better than the original. Other than that, I think you pretty much nailed it. Especially the comments about “Jeremy”, when I heard that track I couldn’t help but feel confused and somehow a little angry at O’brien for messing up what was almost a perfect song, just turn off the reverb and let it fly is what I would have done with that one…

  2. will says:

    I pretty much agree with you on everything except for Jeremy. In the REDUX version, you can hear that there are no guitars until at least half way through the verse. I thought it was cool to just have Jeff Ament’s 8-String Bass going, most people think it’s guitar. In the original the guitars enter in with the drums and stay in. I think it was a cool move to let the bass be alone for awhile then build up by adding guitars later.

  3. will says:

    …I was super Pearl Jam nerdy. I made a playlist on my ipod entitled “Original VS. Remix”. First song from Ten, first song from redux. Second song from Ten, second song from redux, that’s how the order went. Yeah.

  4. […] First, from Tim over at the Mental Defective League sent along a great look at one of the great alternative albums of all time. It’s an in depth comparison between the original and a recently release of a great Pearl Jam album: Ten Vs. Ten […]

  5. rick parashar says:

    you guys are fools
    i produced peal jam ten
    it is the same recording and production on both versions
    tim palmer mixed the first one, brendan the second
    get your facts straight
    i produced, engineered and played on the music
    that did not change from one version to the other
    i did not mix it
    there is no brendan vs parashar when comes to pearl jam
    your comments are very misguided and inaccurate
    if you want to rate the mixes then get who mixed them correct
    mixing comes into play after the recording, arrangement and production
    IS COMPLETE
    do your homework

    please do not use my email or post it
    rick parashar

  6. Jesse says:

    I scrolled down to see if anyone had corrected these geese….and whaddaya know, the man himself!

  7. dhinged says:

    He’s calling the ’91 version a 4? I’ll bet he wasn’t calling it that when he first heard it.

  8. dobyblue says:

    The redux still sounds subpar to me, most likely because they mastered it way too hot reducing the dynamics almost in half over the original CD. What a shame the dynamics weren’t left intact, which would allow a more honest comparison to be made.

    Shame there are no audiophile in the Pearl Jam / Soundgarden / temple of the dog camp, remixed digitally remastered vinyl ahead for TOTD? Really? After you engaged in such pomp and circumstance over getting the original analog multitracks and stereo masters back? Do you send the stereo master to Chris Bellman or Ryan Smith or Steve Hoffman or Kevin Gray or Bernie Grundman to cut an all analogue record? Nope, remix and digitally remaster it, only vinyl option. Sigh. What a sad state of affairs.

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