In record-geek circles, you occasionally hear the laments of a Baby Boomer Beatles fan who buys a clean, remastered copy of say, Abbey Road on CD, only to be let down because the album doesn't sound exactly as he remembered it. Modernized and missing the unique pops and hisses of the well-worn vinyl he had as a kid, the album, like an unfaithful lover, betrays the intimacy they once shared.
The remixed version of Pearl Jam's 1991 debut album Ten included in this deluxe edition could have a similar effect on Gen Xers and ex-grunge kids. Count me among them: This album is ingrained in my conscience, and every time I hear the original it zaps me right back to a time (high school in the early '90s) when adolescence was my energy drink and girls and rock 'n' roll were my driving forces to get a driver's license, get a job, hell, get out of bed.
Yes, the original mix of the Rick Parashar-produced album is probably over-reliant on reverb and various period effects (through no fault of its own, the 18-year-old Ten can't help but sound dated), and remixer Brendan O'Brien was wise to strip away some of the muck. But yeesh, the new version of album opener "Once" sounds like late-'90s weight-room rock (O'Brien did do a Korn album, after all).
Yet O'Brien's hit-and-miss remix has its merits. The guitars and drums are noticeably punchier, and the result is a sound more in line with a Pearl Jam live set — you can almost see Mike McCready step to the front of the stage for his solo on "Even Flow." The cleaned-up "Black," meanwhile, is simply gorgeous, with all the intricacies of the ballad — a beautiful composition when you get down to it — on full display for the first time.
The big problem here is that the remix is too damn loud, an abominable trend in modern music making. As a result, "Once" sounds like one of those legally-suspect MP3s you download off a Russian website, and "Why Go" is now so aggro that Eddie Vedder sounds one steroid away from morphing into the dude from Godsmack.
Fortunately, you get two versions here — the remastered original and the remix — so listeners have a choice between unspoiled nostalgia and the merits (or lack thereof) of modernization. As a bonus, the deluxe edition includes the band's complete 1992 MTV Unplugged performance on DVD for the first time, providing a perfect tutorial for standing on a stool and writing "pro choice" on your arm with a Sharpie: