Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 29: Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016”

The 29th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in August and September of 2016. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The twenty-ninth Vault package contained a live LP from Pearl Jam, performed in the Blue Room at Third Man Records and recorded directly to acetate. The single in this package was a one-sided 6-inch disc recorded by Eddie Vedder in the Voice-o-Graph machine at Third Man. The package also contained a photo book. This Vault package was also offered through Pearl Jam’s Ten Club.

The LP Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016, pressed in black-and-gold split-colored vinyl, captures the June 9, 2016 concert by the ‘90’s grunge titans, performed for an audience of about 250 VIP’s in the Third Man Records Blue Room. Pearl Jam is currently comprised of four-fifths of the original lineup (Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready), along with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron (who had also played in Temple Of The Dog with those same four Pearl Jam founders) and keyboardist Boom Gaspar.

The direct-to-acetate recording gives this record a “closeness” to the listener, but with an analog type of clarity, not with the type of exactitude that we would expect from a digital recording on a CD. The intimate venue also undoubtedly played a part in this, although the band did not exactly hold back during this show. The band put the same level of energy into this performance that we would expect them to give to a large arena concert.

They did, however, steer clear of familiar radio hits from their grunge glory days – unless you count “Deep”, one of the lesser-known songs from their classic 1991 debut album Ten; that song sounds a notch less intense but no less effective in this setting. The other two ‘90’s selections found here are obscurities that eventually turned up on the band’s 2003 odds-and-sods collection Lost Dogs: the mid-tempo “Hard To Imagine” (which has a slightly heavier sound than its studio version) and the disillusioned Christmas ballad “Let Me Sleep” (which shows more vocal restraint from Eddie Vedder than the studio version from an early fan club single).

The first four songs on this LP are drawn from the band’s lower-profile post-1990’s albums. All four tracks are performed well, whether the band rocks out on “Life Wasted” and the furious “Mind Your Manners”, or displays a more moody approach on “Pendulum”. Mike McCready shows impressive guitar chops on the blues-rocking “1/2 Full”.

The most notable track here is “Of The Earth”, a song that has never been released on a studio album, but is often performed at Pearl Jam’s live shows. Jack White joined the band onstage for this ten-minute song, jamming with McCready in an intense lead guitar duel.

I’ll leave it to Pearl Jam scholars to determine how well Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 compares to other Pearl Jam live recordings (especially considering their hundreds of official bootlegs). Judged on its own merits, it’s certainly a good one. Spin this black (and gold) circle.

The six-inch single, pressed in clear transparent vinyl, contains one song recorded solo by Eddie Vedder with an acoustic guitar in Third Man’s 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording machine. The ancient recording technology gives this single the sound and feel of a scratchy old folk record. The low-key, lo-fi “Out Of Sand” is a somber ballad about aging and regret, movingly sung and played by Vedder. It’s a good track, succeeding as both a recording novelty and as a musical work. This song is reportedly intended for the soundtrack of the forthcoming Twin Peaks TV series in 2017, presumably in a fully realized studio version.

The bonus book is a thorough visual component to the package, containing 50 pages of black-and-white photographs by Jamie Goodsell, taken onstage, backstage, and around Third Man Records on the day of the event. With a foreword by Ben Blackwell explaining the logical connection between Pearl Jam and Third Man, the 9” x 6” hardcover book -- titled Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 -- provides decent pictures from the band’s performance, and perspective on the Blue Room experience for those of us who’ve never been to Third Man’s Nashville headquarters. And, yes, we do see a few pictures of Jack White interacting with the band. The last few pages show Vedder in the process of recording “Out Of Sand”, and display that song’s handwritten lyrics.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The LP has “A Unmute the boom!” and “Live at Third Man” carved on Side A, and “KW shouts in approval” and “direct to acetate” carved in Side B. The single has “She was washing windows” carved in its one side.

Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016” (Third Man TMR-388) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Pendulum
2. Mind Your Manners
3. 1/2 Full
4. Life Wasted
5. Deep
6. Of The Earth w/Jack White
7. Hard To Imagine
8. Let Me Sleep

Eddie Vedder “Out Of Sand” (Third Man single TMR-389) 2016

a. Out Of Sand

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-014):

Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016. Third Man Books, 2016.

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages