Pearl Jam has surpassed the competition with this Super Deluxe Edition of the Ten reissue. Though the cost may appear to be restrictive, and to some in this economy--insulting, note that the band has put everything into this box. A lot of bands today are releasing increasingly-priced deluxe editions of varying widths and lengths, but this set feels the worth. They clearly put every bit of their respect for the long-time fans into this box set.
The cloth-bound box is rather heavy and is the shape of a vinyl record. The slip box that pulls out of it contains everything except the vinyl records. In that is an envelope that includes reproductions of Pearl Jam memorabilia including postcards, a Mookie Blaylock playing card, concert ticket, sticker, etc. Additionally there are card-stock quality photos, all of which contain the box's liner notes/credits on the back (for the set, the concert, the original album and the remix).
Underneath a composition book is fastened into the box. The book, designed to perfection by Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder, is exactly what a Pearl Jam would expect to see. It includes notes, doodles, designs and memorabilia seemingly fastened onto the page (though every page is actually just a flattened reproduction). The book is exhaustive with memorabilia, including backstage passes, newspaper clippings, pictures of the actual Mookie Blaylock. The box also contains a full sized poster of the album cover. It's a visual history of 1990 to 1992, a peak into the band's unique design sense, thanks in large part to Ament's meticulous craft. (As a designer, I took special appreciation in seeing the sketches of t-shirt designs or posters with notes about font styles and sizes). The band eschewed the self-serving biographical liner notes that typically champion a band in these box sets, keeping to their reluctant and humble image. If you're buying this box set, you probably already know the stories.
Underneath the book, are the sleeve for the CDs/DVD and the reproduction of the infamous Momma-Son cassette tape that brought Eddie Vedder to Stone Gossard's attention. The demo includes Vedder's vocals for Alive, Once and Footsteps over Gossard's music demo (with help from future drummer Matt Cameron). The demo is of the quality you would expect of the time, but is a fascinating peak into the band's formation. (Especially hearing Vedder's spot-on vocals prior to ever meeting any of his future bandmates.)
The first CD is a remaster of the classic Ten (which doesn't need to be reviewed here). The second CD is a Brendan O'Brien remix of the album, along with six bonus tracks. The remix doesn't mess with the essential basics but crisps up the original mix and improves the production value of the recording. (Whether a fan wants to remain completely loyal to the original mix is unessential since both versions are included.) The bonus tracks include rough mixes of two favorites from the Singles soundtrack ("Breath" and "State of Love and Trust") along with four other notable additions...all in the spirit of the first album's delivery. Additionally, a DVD captures the full unedited set from Pearl Jam's famous appearance on MTV Unplugged from 1992, a nice preview to the band's increasing skillful dabblings in acoustic-performed rock in later albums.
Vinyl productions of both Ten and the Ten redux are included along with a double-vinyl of Drop in the Park, a famous concert Pearl Jam performed in Seattle. (The latter has been mixed by O'Brien.) It's a gripping peak at Pearl Jam in their raw infancy...tearing through their early tracks with the same reckless abandon of Vedder climbing the scaffolding. (The Drop in the Park vinyl includes a poster fold-out for the show.)
Pearl Jam have outdone most bands with a perfectly themed, honest-to-their-roots set celebrating their much-heralded debut. And like they did back in 1991 they are now forcing other bands to get real and give their fans what they want: more bang for our buck. SPECIAL NOTE: In all of the literature in the box, the set is called "Pearl Jam 1990-1992" which follows up on the rumblings that the band plans to do the same with much of their back catalog.