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Media Type: CD
Artist: PEARL JAM
Street Release Date: 12/06/1994
Vitalogy reaffirms the Seattle quintet's status as the principled, proudly confused voice of a generation. On their third album, they've found their footing as a raw, forward-looking '90s rock act that fearlessly tackles the Biggest Questions. Lead track "Spin the Black Circle" celebrates the healing power of Eddie Vedder's LP collection, but it is overshadowed by such masterstrokes as "Immortality" (which can be read, right or wrong, as a reaction to Kurt Cobain's suicide), the Lennonesque "Tremor Christ" and a thrilling anthem for the pro-choice movement, "Whipping." --Jeff Bateman
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Yes, there are some odd tracks here that don't quite serve as much of an artistic purpose as one would hope. But it's hard to say they don't fit on the album - in fact, I'd say the only track that truly doesn't fit on Vitalogy is "Better Man," which, on an album filled with rage and paranoia, doesn't musically gel with the other songs. It's a great song in its own right, but despite the dark lyrics the melody is too soft to be perfectly at peace on this set.
Take out "Better Man," and what you're left with is an album bursting with energy, anger, and artistic ambition. On the surface, the album lashes out against fame and record companies. In more unskilled hands, these themes would leave the listener feeling unable to relate to the music and therefore quite distant from it. But, as with most Pearl Jam recordings, Vedder & Co. lend the songs a universal character with lyrics that can be interpreted in many different ways. In short, anyone who has ever felt anger at a world seemingly stacked up against them will be able to not just hear, but *feel* Vedder's primal and wholly satisfying screams in "Last Exit," "Tremor Christ," "Whipping," and many more - and will more than likely have an unsupressable urge to scream along. Vedder's vocals are quite possibly the strongest of his career, thankfully beyond the "yarling" stage of Ten and before the period where his voice started to subtly weaken.
The genuine anger and desperation throughout the album is absolutely tangible, and matched only in glimpses on other Pearl Jam albums. Very rarely in music is such passionate energy bottled and translated onto a recording so transparently. If your life is perfect, then perhaps you should look elsewhere for your musical needs. For the rest of us, Vitalogy is likely to tap into and bring out your deepest emotions that have been dying for a piece of music to represent them. Pearl Jam fan or otherwise, it's an experience not to be missed.
First, a bit about myself: I am not, per se, an "audiophile." or an audio "snob". I do not own a ton of high-end equipment, nor do I claim to be able to hear things that 99% of the human race is physically incapable of hearing :-) I am simply a person who really enjoys excellent music, especially live music, and who loves to hear my favorite music faithfully reproduced for my enjoyment.
My home audio set-up (in my living room) consists of a Pioneer AV-1020K receiver, four wall-mounted Infinity speakers (forgive me, I don't remember the exact model #), a Samsung BD-H6500 blu-ray player for CDs, and an Audio-Technica AT-LP60RD (red) automatic turntable for vinyl records. The turntable is a recent purchase. I was skeptical for a long-time about the relative value of vinyle records as compared to other audio media.
When I put Vitalogy on the turntable, it immediately comes alive and gives me an experience I've never had before. It's the kind of experience that makes me say, "Why the hell did I wait so long to buy a record player?" Let me see if I can describe why.
First, with my pedestrian ears, the sound seems "wider" to me -- there just appears to be a wider "soundscape" -- meaning, you can hear instruments on the right and left channels more obviously than I have heard on any other media (largely CDs and other digital media) via which I've listened to Vitalogy. Second, I hear other instruments come through that I have never heard on another presentation of this album -- and I've been listening to this album for a long time.
All of this adds up to a more "urgent" and "lively" experience for the listener -- at least this listener. Vitalogy was a deeply emotional album, coming as it did as the members of Pearl Jam were grappling with an onslaught of fame and finding their own public voices, culminating in their fight against the Ticketmaster monopoly.
To the extent that a release of Vitalogy captures and reflects that emotion, it is a credit to that release.
This release does just that. If you are a Pearl Jam fan, and/or a fan of great rock music, go get this. I know I'm years late to the vinyl party, but I'll now lend my voice to the chorus. Go.