The release of Earthling by Eddie Vedder is his first solo album in 11 years!
There are a few things that bring up memories of our coming of age as young adults. For some people, it may be the hotrod car they owned, an event that happened, or the small town we lived in. My coming of age happened in the early ’90s. This was a new era in rock music.
While the ‘80s were filled with songs of hard-partying good times, this new era brought more emotional thoughts of living life and the troubles the world faces. Just listen to Motley Crue’s “Girls, girls, girls” and Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” back-to-back and you will see my point. At the forefront of this movement were several bands I remember fondly; Pearl Jam was on the top of this list. There was just something about Eddie Vedder’s vocals that called out to me. His passion came through his voice and took no prisoners. When you listen to his songs you can feel the story he is telling, truly poetry in motion.
I admire the fact that a lot of these artists are still around making music, still growing as artists while staying true to the roots that got them there. What I will be reviewing today is a solo album from the lead singer of one of the forefront bands from the era Eddie Vedder.
His New Sound
Eddie Vedder is a pure soul and a man that knows how to discuss life through song while at the same time taking you to the moment as few can. Just by the way he uses his voice he can tell a full story in just a few words.
“Earthling” is his first solo album in 11 years. While his last album was a ukulele affair that some people thought was too far departed from his roots, these new songs feel like a revival of what he does best. Tell stories through song and let his voice transport you there.
The album was produced by Andrew Watt who also played bass and guitar on the new material. The rest of the band call themselves the “Earthlings” that include Josh Klinghoffer and Glen Hansard who play multiple instruments. Chris Chaney on bass, and Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers fame taking up the drums. All of the musicians on this album are very accomplished in their right promises a very complete package for the listener.
The album is available in all formats including CD, Vinyl, Cassette, and for this review, I am listening to the 24bit/48KHz streaming version per Qobuz. With the resurgence in formats from the past, they want you to hear this album no matter which way it is delivered.
The songs on this album are a mixed bag. Some like Invincible, Power of Right, The Dark, Good and Evil, Rose of Jericho, are all songs you would expect from Eddie and from Pearl Jam for that matter. They remind me of albums like Vitalogy from 1994. While songs like a long way, Brother the Cloud, Fallout Today, The haves, Mrs. Mills, and On My Way show a softer side to his songwriting. The song Picture is a duet with Elton John and kind of takes on a bluesy, but somewhat upbeat feel. They complement each other quite well in this song.
“Invincible” starts off the album with a good direction. As the first written for the album, it was started as an instrumental and only gained lyrics later on. “Power of Right” was inspired by the instrumental song Invincible. Both of these songs show that Vedder still has a total passion for music, and these numbers kick off the album well.
“Long way” was initially started by Vedder himself but when Eddie met Andrew Watt, they worked on the song together to finish it. Long Way has the feeling of a ‘90s era love gone bad song. But it’s a more upbeat-sounding take of love gone bad.
“Brother the cloud” starts with a guitar effect that I would more associate with a jazz fusion song. But it quickly moves into a song that has Vedder’s signature on it. Still, the song is a slight departure from the Pearl Jam sound so many associate with Vedder’s style. “The Dark” is a number that only Vedder, with his vocal style, could sound the way it does. It is hard-driving and that pace keeps you hooked.!
These 3 tracks,“Good and Evil”, “Rose of Jericho” and “Try” are hard-rocking songs that also show a different side of Vedder. Not ironically, “Rose of Jericho” sounds more like a song expected from the lead singer of Pearl Jam. “Try” keeps up the emotional speed but goes in a different direction completely incorporating the use of harmonica throughout giving it a different feel altogether. Stevie Wonder wrote and played the harmonica for the acoustic version of this song and it was added to the punk version that is on this current album. Incredibly, Stevie wrote these parts without ever hearing the finished product!
“Mrs. Mills” is a piano-based ballad that closes out the album well. The song is based on Andrew Watts’s piano background in his studio. It is a descendent of the piano at Abbey Road studio and lots of hands have “tickled the ivories”.
The track titled “On My Way” seems to invoke a “closing” statement to the album. This is signature Vedder as he did the same thing on Pearl Jam’s Ten album. It just lets the music glide off into the sunset.
Sound Quality Analysis:
This album is an Eddie Vedder-based collaboration with many artists and guest artists, so it’s obvious that there are going to be differences in how each track sounds. Andrew being the producer, seemed to allow each song to come into its own and have a sound that seemed to fit the feel of the song. Songs like “Long Way” have a warmer tone and seem to go for a smooth sound. While wilder songs like “Invincible” get brighter and more dynamic.
While you can tell that these tracks were recorded in the same studio, each song has different elements within its focus. “Brother the Cloud” has a deeper, lower, and dryer bass drum feel than most of the other tracks. I’m not sure if he’s using a different drum kit or just a different sound engineering signature that was used here…
Although this album is not the last word in stereo imaging and soundstage width and depth, the overall mix does allow these elements to be heard. There is no brightness exhibited and the cymbals do not draw too much attention to themselves like so many mixes I have heard of today’s music. The album has an authentic, real-world texture to the mix.
Vocals are set into the mix and appear to hang in mid-air behind the speakers as they should. The drums sit behind in the group and sound real and palpable while not drawing too much attention to any one part while the bass and guitars are evenly and well placed within the mix. My only complaint is that at times, the instrumentalists are hard-panned to either speaker and not on the stage with the other instruments (this happens with a lot of today’s music).
I usually split the treble, midrange, and bass into different sections in an album review but on this album, the songs sound slightly different from track to track so I decided to bundle them together knowing it would make the evaluation a bit easier to comprehend.
As a whole, the record uses multiple musicians and singers, and gratefully, the album does a good job in the sound reproduction department.
If you are a rock fan, especially a Pearl Jam or Eddie Vedder fan, you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection, or at least stream it from your favorite service. I think it is a valued addition to Eddie’s catalog and the rock enthusiast’s sincere attention.!
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