Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam ... I was a Pearl Jam fan back in the 90s, of course. I remember when I heard Ten for the first time. I was on a school trip, and a fellow student (David Estes) told me to take a listen. He handed me the CD and I listened to it for the next hour ... and went out and bought it for myself the next day. Like most other fans I really liked the next two albums as well, Vs. and Vitalogy. After that things went down hill. Yield was good, but I haven't bothered to buy their last couple of CDs. I heard the first single, "Worldwide Suicide" off their new self-titled CD, on the radio, and so I was pleased to received Pearl Jam as a gift on my birthday. I won't compare it to their past efforts, as it is tempting to do. It is an excellent CD. It rocks from start to finish. The lyrics are very political, but actually kind of subtle. That makes for an interesting contrast to the music. This is a great CD. If Bruce Springsteen's The Rising was the defining rock response to 9/11, then Pearl Jam may be the defining rock response to the war in Iraq.
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - Bruce Springsteen ... Speaking of Bruce Springsteen, I received his latest via an iTunes gift card. It's a fun cd to listen to. I don't have the familiarity with the songs on here, which are all folk songs from the 60's. I think that actually detracts from my experience with this CD. But these are good songs anyways and the performances are energizing. I think Bruce is a great songwriter though, so there's always something a little bittersweet with hearing him sing other peoples' songs. That made me think to myself "if this was by some other, unknown artist, would I like it better?" The answer is probably no, since it's the connection to Bruce that makes these songs seem relevant and modern, even though they are neither.
Stadium Arcadium - The Red Hot Chili Peppers ... I've been a Peppers fans since the 80s. My friend Kevin Stanley got me listening to The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, and it was mind blowing, especially for a 14 year old. I've loved their last two CDs, Californication and By The Way. This CD is clearly an extension of those two, and in many ways is even better. It's a double-CD, with 28 songs altogether. It's kind of overwhelming because every song is really good. It's hard to have the energy to enjoy that much music in one listen. It would almost be better if there were some mediocre songs that you could listen to while doing something else. Instead every song demands your attention and is rewarding. The rennaisance of the Peppers must be attributed to guitarist John Frusciante. His work on here is unbelievable. The bass work by Flea is also the best he's ever done. Is this the Peppers' best CD of their long, storied career? That's a big statement, but it may be true.