May 20, 2012

May 11, 2012

AC/DC Research

For some reason today, I was staring at the tracklisting of the two AC/DC albums I own--Who Made Who and Black in Black--and noticed lots of similarities. There are lots of rhymes and near-rhymes, assonance and consonance, reoccurring themes, and not many syllables (between the two albums the only polysyllabic words are "into," "salute," "foundations," "money," "honey," and "pollution"). "A Duh," you say. I mean, no one's ever accused AC/DC of being non-formulaic, but I figured it was a good time to inspect the rest of their catalog and see what fun things I could find.

Rhyme Time
Back in Black
Bedlam in Belgium
Chase the Ace
Hells Bells
Mistress for Christmas
Ruff Stuff
Sink the Pink
Stormy May Day
Touch Too Much
What Do You Do For Money Honey

Alliteration (Non-Rhyming)
Back In Business
Bad Boy Boogie
Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap
Highway To Hell
Little Lover
Money Made
Riff Raff
Sin City

All Screwed Up
Give It Up
Let's Get It Up
Stand Up
Stiff Upper Lip
Two's Up
Up To My Neck in You

Caught With Your Pants Down
Down Payment Blues
Go Down
Nervous Shakedown
Shot Down in Flames

Some Titles (Just Aren't Long Enough)
Ain't No Fun (Waiting 'Round To Be A Millionaire)
It's a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)
If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

S.O. (Short Ones)

Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
Hard As a Rock
It's a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)
Let There Be Rock
Rock and Rock Ain't Noise Pollution
Rock 'n' Roll Damnation
Rock 'n' Roll Dream
Rock 'n' Roll Singer
Rock 'n' Roll Train
Rock Your Heart Out
Rocking All The Way

She Likes Rock 'n' Roll
That's The Way I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll
There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'
Whiskey On The Rocks

Bad Boy Boogie
Boogie Man
Down Payment Blues
House of Jazz
Satellite Blues

Love Songs
Let Me Put My Love Into You
Little Lover
Love at First Feel
Love Bomb
Love Hungry Man
Love Song
Shot of Love

For The Ladies
Can I Sit Next To You Girl
Girls Got Rhythm
Mistress For Christmas
Playing With Girls
She's Got Balls
She Likes Rock 'n' Roll
Whole Lotta Rosie

Guns, Bombs, Fire, & Electricity
Burnin' Alive
Fire Your Guns
Gimme A Bullet
Gone Shootin'
Guns For Hire
High Voltage
Kissin' Dynamite
Live Wire
Love Bomb
Shoot To Thrill
Shot Down In Flames
Skies on Fire
War Machine
This House is on Fire

Heartbreaker Dreammaker Lovetaker...
Little Lover
Night Prowler
Rock 'n' Roll Singer

All Balls
Big Balls
Got You By The Balls
She's Got Balls

Beating Around The Bush
Deep In the Hole
Given The Dog A Bone
Inject the Venom
I Put the Finger On You
Let Me Put My Love Into You
Sink the Pink

Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be
Hells Bells
Hell Or High Water
Highway to Hell
Rock 'n' Roll Damnation
Sin City
Some Sin For Nuthin'

Shakin' & Breakin'
Brain Shake
Breaking the Rules
Nervous Shakedown
Shake a Leg
Shake Your Foundations
You Shook Me All Night Long

Stage & Screen
Anything Goes
First Blood
Problem Child
Nick Of Time
Sin City
The Razor's Edge
This Means War

Nervous Shakedown

Here's an AC/DC album I just made up:
Stop, Drop, and Rock 'n' Roll (If You Ever Find Yourself On Fire)
Snake In The Grass
She's Going Down The Street To Pick Up Some Meat
Shooting Off At The Mouth
Jackin' the Beanstalk
Connecting To a Hot Spot
Double Dog Dares Are a Dime a Dozen
Can't Stop Punching The Hell Out Of Your Balls
Pole In A Hole

May 1, 2012

The Even Flow Experiment

I'd like to take a quick departure from my complete failure of the 30-Day Music Challenge to try another goofy music-related experiment. While surfing the legal gray areas of the internet yesterday, I happened upon an mp3 compilation that a dude named Steve made called "21 Years of Even Flow." It's 21 different versions of the Pearl Jam song "Even Flow" dating from 1990 through 2011. Not every single year is represented ('97, '99, '01, '02, and '04 are omitted), but these selections will surely run the gamut of drummers, venues, maturity, intoxication level, energy, and sonic quality. I'm already familiar with a handful of these tracks, but most I've not heard. Let's see if my established biases change at all (or if I even make it to the end).

Also, sorry for all the formatting problems. Blogger can eat me.

01. Gossman Project/New Stuff - '90
"Even Flow" started as an instrumental demo recording named "The King." The track was written by guitarist Stone Gossard and recorded along with eventual Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament and Mike McCready, and eventual-eventual Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron.

First impression is "Holy wah." Second is, where's the main riff? There is definite structure here that resembles the song we've come to know, I can hear Stone Gossard on the right side playing what a riff that is almost the verse and some chords that are almost the chorus, but without being told this is the "Even Flow" demo, I probably would not have figured it out. The funny thing is there's a third section which has the strongest fully-formed riff but it didn't make it to the final version! It reminds me of Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills" with less evil and more wah-wah. 

02. Mookie Blaylock Demo - '90

Just a few months later and the final structure has fallen into place. Dave Krusen is now on drums and a young-sounding Eddie Vedder has been recruited to sing the lyrics he wrote. It's a little slow for my taste though I believe it's on par with the final studio version. It feels less aggressive and more groovy then the previous and next versions as Mike McCready's guitar is very clean (the Stevie Ray Vaughan tone is in full effect) in the verses and solos and Vedder isn't growling the vocals or punctuating every line with grunts.

Speaking of punctuation, they seem to be really emphasizing the 7th beat of each measure more than I'm used to (or have noticed) in the post chorus/solo section. Also, whatever Jeff Ament is playing during the last chorus sounds all wrong. What the hell is he playing? 

03. Ten Redux - '91/'09 
This is the '09 remix of the original album version from '91. All the clean stuff is gone--Vedder is now growly and mumbly and the guitars are distorted. McCready is responding to each verse line with a really confident guitar lead part (as opposed to the tentative ones on the MB Demo version). On the heels of that is now a reverse reverb-like vocal effect which builds into each verse line. I feel like Vedder and McCready are fighting for attention, which is funny because neither of them wrote the song.

McCready wins though, because the solo is solid and his leads are all really memorable, while I can't understand anything Vedder is saying anymore. I wouldn't know the song was about homelessness unless someone told me, though I did pick out Vedder mumbling something about "spare change," and even that is really only audible in this newer remix. Krusen has definitely stepped it up (and I know this because I caught myself playing air drums in the solo and at the end) and Ament isn't fucking anything up. They also dropped that overemphasis on the 7th beat in those few sections, which is good because the momentum is now much more fluid.

04. Hollywood - '91
I don't know exactly which performance this is because they played Hollywood a few times that year.  The song doesn't match up with the versions Dave Krusen played in Hollywood and Matt Chamberlain never played there with the band. I'm pretty sure it's Dave Abbruzzese anyway because I can hear harder hits and lots of hi-hat/cymbal work. So it must be late in the year. This also means that Chamberlain and Krusen are not represented in live performances on this compilation.
This version is a bit faster. The solo doesn't mimic the studio version at all. It starts out more like the video version, then gets really frenetic. Dave A. is sneaking in on the solo too. I don't know if Dave K. ever did because there aren't any live versions with him on the compilation either. There's a nice extra long calm before the build-up. Vedder peters out towards the end, but there's enough energy from the rest of the band. Dave A. sneaks in some hits after the traditional ending of the song, then McCready does too. 

05. MTV Unplugged - NYC - '92
This didn't make the original half-hour broadcast, but was taken from the same Unplugged session. It's a little slower and acoustic, but the bass, drums, and vocals are still pretty much full force and overpower the barely audible guitars. It's an experiment they probably didn't plan for, but it's interesting to hear a guitar-driven song with barely any guitars in it. Dave A. quiets things down a bit during the calm part and build-up, but Stone and Mike are pretty much shit out of luck the rest of the time. I read once that the guitars they did use were rentals and had really high action making it difficult to play lead parts, so Mike ends up playing similarly to the clean stuff on the MB Demo.

The big finish seems to have stuck and they go on even longer here, with Dave's fills, McCready's harmonics, and now with Ament throwing in notes too. Stone was strumming around as well, but I think he was just checking his tuning.

I should mention that this is the first time I can hear Ament doing the little upwards slide thingy in the post-chorus "life again"/"him away" parts. It's a nice touch. Also, I never caught this before, but it sounds like Vedder says "yeah, yeah, don't vote Republican" at the end. 

06. Music Video/Radio Version - '92
This has always been the definitive version for me. It seems to encompass everything they've tried to have in previous versions, but now all at once--groove, aggression, cool leads.
This version starts with guitar and Vedder yelling. Verse lines end with McCready playing leads parts and Vedder making noises and Dave A. playing fills. The big finish at the end now has Vedder ad libbing some poetry or something on top of everyone else winding down and he gets the last word. This is a good studio recording that also accurately captures their live energy which at this time sounds like everyone fighting to show they're on top of their game.

07. Seattle - '92
This free performance was originally supposed to occur months earlier but was cancelled by the city, and Vedder sounds a bit more aggressive than usual. He counts off the song, but doesn't do the opening yell. He throws plenty of others in later though. McCready balances things out by extending the quieter "underwater" effect before the build-up.

Apart from the overcranked vocal delay effect, this version is similar in execution to the video version. There's no big finish at all, possibly because it's only the first song of the set. 

08. Las Vegas - '93
We're back to Dave counting off and Eddie yelling along with the guitar slide. Vedder sounds a little hoarse, but he adds an angry "...nothing!" after the "that is something that has never showed him anything" (or whatever it is) line. McCready's solo starts out with a lot more bends than usual (almost Chuck Berry-like), then goes into the more traditional wah-drenched lead. Then it fizzles out for a bit and picks up with some clean shuffling. I can't tell if he's looking to go on longer or is starting the build-up with a little too much "up." It sounds pretty sloppy, to be blunt.
No big finish anymore. 

09. Atlanta - '94
Part of a concert broadcast on the radio (and later released as their first authorized live album), this was performed just a few days before Kurt Cobain's suicide. I don't know if that tidbit is relevant to this performance, but it's around the time McCready "fell off the wagon" and also when he blacked out through a song on Saturday Night Live. If he is under any chemical influence here, it's not obvious to me at all. His solo sounds great--a thousand times better than the previous track from '93.
Elsewhere in this concert is an altered version of "Jeremy," which shows the band growing weary of playing some of their older songs. "Even Flow" still sounds pretty energetic though, with Vedder amping up the delivery of vocals in the last chorus to a memorable peak at "whispering hands." They take a stab at the big finish, but I think only Dave, Eddie, and Jeff participate. 

10. Melbourne - '95
Really weird start to this one. They begin by playing just the descending riff at the end of the intro twice, then jump into the rest of the song. Just keeping things interesting I suppose. It's definitely a much less aggressive start.

There's another change that becomes clear very quickly--Dave A. is out of the band Jack Irons is in. I can't tell if the song is either a tiny bit slower, or if Dave's missing 16th notes flourishes made the song feel faster. I also miss the hi-hat opening up for the second half of the verses for extra variety.

Also, Mike is now playing a lot more funky notes in the chorus instead of just bending the sustain notes. He seems to be so into this that he fucks up the first chorus, forgetting that it ends early. This trips Jack up as well, but they both catch the mistake and quickly recover.
By the halfway point, Eddie's sounds really hoarse when he yells. He gets a little rest during Mike's solo, which sounds good. It goes on much longer than usual, to the point where Stone appears to force the build-up to begin before he's done. The rest didn't prove to be enough and I think I hear Vedder's lungs fly out his throat by the end. 

11. Berlin - '96
Back to the normal intro and tempo, minus Eddie yelling. He still sounds like he's having a lot of vocal fatigue, which is a shame because this concert was also broadcast live on the radio. What he's lacking in power, he's making up with a bunch of new melodies and dramatic staccato punches to the ends of lines.

This is around the time that SPIN Magazine noted the lack of passion in the band's live performance, particularly with "Even Flow" which Vedder once (or maybe more times) introduced as the "human jukebox" portion of the show. I don't know--I don't really hear it.

Mike is still exhibiting plenty of passion in his playing. His solo here is very Hendrix-like and now he seems to be allowed to go on as long as he wants--probably a good decision by the band if they want to save the song from extinction. He's also completely changed up the outro solo to keep the song fresh. It reminds me of the solo in "Animal," a song which many people have said is a ripoff of "Even Flow" anyway. 

12. Melbourne - '98
No opening yell here, just Eddie saying "You know this one." Vocals are in much better shape then the last track, but still not as strong as they once were. It's understandable, of course, with all the shows they play each year, but it makes me wonder if it's worth trying to push so hard to sing an old song just to make fans happy. I'd rather not hear "Even Flow" again than have someone risk their health and career. Again, to compensate, he changes up the phrasing and melodies a bit, and throws in some extra asides and yelps.

There's also a point where Eddie briefly changes the third person narrative to first person ("Gently lead me away"). I don't know if he's ever been homeless himself, but he did explore the topic before while in Bad Radio, his band prior to joining Pearl Jam. The song "Homeless" was written in the first person. It could just be for dramatic purposes or a way of relating to the character, or it could autobiographical--I'm not really sure. To hear it during "Even Flow" in 1998, when the band is in great shape financially, it could serve as a humbling reminder that anything could happen, or even a sign that Vedder is flirting with walking away from success. Or he's just bored with the song.

Eddie's not the only one playing around with the song. It sounds like Mike is experimenting with different tones throughout the verses and chorus. Sometimes things are pretty fuzzed out, other times trebled in (that's now official the opposite). The solo goes on pretty long again and Mike adds some dives for drama. The outro is different again too (the melody sounds familiar but I can't place it) and could go on forever if the rest of the band doesn't end the song. They do.

I'm not going to lie--I miss Dave A.'s cymbal crashes all over the place. Jack Irons is doing a good job adding a lot of unique fills, but I'm pretty sure there's one of those rhythm egg shakers happening during the second chorus and the solo build-up and I'm not into it at all. I loved what he did on the Yield album but never really accepted his treatments of the older songs. I guess my opinion stands. 

13. Barcelona - '00
Obviously, because of my comments, Pearl Jam has fired Jack Irons and replaced with him Matt Cameron. This could have been the opportunity to retire "Even Flow" but he still remembers how to play it, so they keep it in the set every single night.

While Matt is not returning the song to Dave A.'s crashy-splashy style, I am happy he has reunited the chorus with the ride cymbal (which Jack ditched). He's also made the rest before each chorus his own by delaying the fill a few beats instead of playing throughout like each drummer before him. It's a toss-up whether it's successful as a dramatic pause or a momentum killer.

One dramatic pause that is very effective comes after the second and third choruses. Eddie usually yells "Yeah!" when there's a brief break in the action. He does not this time instead lets the crowd lead. I am typically annoyed by crowd participation at Pearl Jam shows because everyone sings the words to everything the entire time, but when used at specific times, it can really enhance the song.

Oh, there's a crazy fill that Matt does during the second chorus that may have almost started as a mistake. Nice recovery if it was. He's also a lot more active during the solo, as is Stone, and the crowd. They get quiet and forgo the build-up, instead jumping right into the final chorus. This catches me completely by surprises. I'm not sure I like it. Matt replicates the almost-mistaken drum fill in the third chorus for consistency. Mike goes back to something resembling the traditional outro.  

14. Buffalo - '03
The first thing I notice is Vedder not punctuating the verse lines as much as before. There are fewer howls, yelps, and "yeah's," just an occasional hum. There's more singing than growling now. Again, the crowd takes over the big "yeah" after the second chorus (but not the third).

Mike's trilling more than usual during the verses and his solo goes on for a really long time. Stone is considerably more involved--after getting tired of riffing, he starts playing around with some slides, feedback, effects, and occasionally dissonant stuff. If you were to drop the needle in the middle of the solo, you might think you're hearing some AmRep noise rock. Then Mike starts playing Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun." The build-up returns and they finish off the song. 

15. The Gorge - '05
"Even Flow" continues to be played quickly. The Cameron days are like being on a fast treadmill as compared Dave A.'s muscular versions of the song. Eddie's back to punctuating the verses, but it still feels like the song is now just a race to the solo. There, Stone continues to mix parts similar to the previous version for a while with some rhythmic stuff while Mike is soloing.
As they begin the build-up, Eddie speaks to the crowd: "We play this song a lot... and still like playing it... but if you could take this chorus, I'd love it." They go nuts and do just that (though he rejoins them by the end of it to mention "republicans" again).

16. Adelaide - '06
Eddie's changing up  the vocals during the verse quite a bit, breathing new life into it again. He singing the lines much longer and with more melody than ever and switching a lot of lyrics ("I can't help when I'm happy I look insane," "We begin our life again"). Matt now sings back-up vocals during the chorus. This doesn't really add anything for me, but maybe it's making Eddie feel more confident. It is definitely causing Matt to play faster which is not helpful.

The solo goes on to the point where I almost lose interest and definitely lose my place in the rhythm. Then Matt gets a big drum solo, but I don't think I can't take any more soloing. The build-up does sound extra cool when they jump in, but does the build-up really need a build-up?

There's also the return of the big finish. At 7:40, this is longest, most bloated version of "Even Flow" I've ever heard! I mean, this is more than 2 minutes longer than the epic Unplugged version of "Porch." 

17. Lollapalooza - '07
Very energetic opening by the crowd and the band. Seems the high-speed tempo is here to stay. The Matt back-up vocals are still there, but he keeps the chorus steady this time.
The thing about the solo now is that I'm almost more interested in what Stone is going to do. It's strange. Mike is playing amazingly, but it's so many fast notes and fewer memorable ones, where Stone is taking a very minimal approach. He's not soloing per se, but it's no longer just a safe rhythm track. I'm certainly not trying to suggest that the song should be extended even more for the sake of him getting some spotlight. It's cool to hear them both going at the same time, even if sometimes they're not playing anything remotely the same.

What I don't need is a drum solo. Matt's a great player, but I want to hear his playing in the context of a crazy time signature or an impressive fill that transitions between two parts of a song--not a 2+ minute drum solo.

The build-up seems to catch the rest of the band by surprise and is not as cool as the previous version. Then another big finish. If Pearl Jam audiences are really craving eight and a half minutes of 16-year old song, then they are being really selfish. I'd personally much rather hear two rare songs in that amount of time. Or eight consecutive "Lukin"'s. 


18. Bonnaroo - '08Another year, another big festival, another "Even Flow." It sounds like Mike makes a very minor mistake in the beginning of the second chorus (so minor that I can't figure out what it is) and Eddie cracks up a little.
Nothing else notable except the drum solo's out of the song again (getting back to a slightly bloated, but manageable length) and Mike slips up a little at the end before the Republican part. Big finish and Mike wants to keep going. I think I'm cracking up a little. 

19. San Francisco - '09

I can believe how many hours I've spent listening to this song. Every take a break, I can still hear it. The video/radio version that is.
This version seems a little sloppier, but more aggressive. Eddie starts some of the lines behind the beat ("thoughts arrive...") and Matt sounds like he's hitting the fills harder.

Stone and Mike play a gnarly little riff together during the solo, then go off their separate ways again. Stone goes back to the main riff and I'm not sure if he's trying to get to the build-up early. Turns out to be a fake-out and he goes off into space again.

At the end, Vedder turns over most of the last chorus to the crowd which diminishes some of the energy. Really big finish.

20. Virginia - '10
Eddie sounds a little exhausted.  Maybe they should play the damn song slower so it doesn't seem like such a workout.

During the solo, I thought Mike was going to go into "Little Wing," but he didn't. Nothing else particularly remarkable in this version except that the delayed "thoughts arrive..." delivery appears again in the second verse and has spread to the "so he chases..." and "he'll begin..." lines too. 

21. Buenos Aires - '11
Holy shit, this crowd is excited! They keep singing the main guitar riff throughout the song! They're like a third guitarist during the solo. Eddie even joins in with them.

The delayed vocals in the second chorus in the last version are now standard in every chorus and even some of the verses. The Argentinian crowd singing the last chorus doesn't follow this rule though and sings it the traditional way. Even though this one hits the seven minute mark, it seems justified because of the crowd.

Here are some bonus versions (because I'm a glutton for punishment):

Seattle - '90
From the soundcheck of their first show ever (as Mookie Blaylock). This version has Dave Krusen on drums and is the slowest its ever been played. They speed it up a bit for the show version itself. They screw up the intro but quickly recover. Eddie doesn't add anything to the verse other than the lyrics and goes into the second chorus early. Mike tries to end the same chorus a little early. During the solo, Stone is emphasizing the 7th beats like on the demo. It cuts off before the very end, but it seems like they don't know how or when to finish the song. 

New York City - '91Here's a version with Matt Chamberlain. Sounds like the 16th notes on the hi-hat actually started with him, not Dave A.! His playing is pretty fantastic the entire time. Eddie screws up the first chorus a little. 

Unknown -'92/'93?
Another soundcheck, this time a pro-shot of Dave A. playing drums. The solo is omitted from this recording. Yeah, I still prefer his versions the best. 

Camden, NJ - '00
To be fair, a close-up of Matt Cameron's version. Looks like Stone is taking a water break during the entire solo. This version also skips the build-up.

And so will I. 

Big finish.