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Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild (Deluxe Edition) Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 November 2007

Image Into the Wild (Music from the Motion Picture) is like a peek into the beat-up notebook Eddie Vedder carries everywhere, and is almost everything that you’d want (and expect) from an EV solo project. It’s him at peace, immediate, and creating music that opens both his heart and intellect up to us as if we were being allowed to read things we weren’t intended to see.

Like entries in a journal, the songs of Into the Wild sometimes sound like fully-formed concepts and at other times like exhilarating bursts of thought needing to be vocalized before they’re lost forever. Whether haunting and delicate, such as the finger-picked “Guaranteed,” or reminiscent of REM at their jangly best as in “Setting Forth,” Vedder clearly captures Into the Wild’s themes of personal alienation, individuality and the vast isolation of nature, while creating music that stands alone, and apart, from the film – a feat quite hard to accomplish on a soundtrack without lapsing into baby boomer nostalgia or having the film’s images slap you in the face like a cold morning. I admit it was easy for me dig this release. The production is fairly raw (like I like it) and unencumbered by the glitz and mud that most producers pile on modern recordings. Take the song “Rise Up.” It sounds as if co-producer Adam Kaspar set up a mic and EV picked up his uke and started singing. The instrument is bright, his voice approaches being ragged, and a beautiful song becomes even more lovely in its simplicity. And it’s that way with most of the cuts on Into the Wild. It’s like being in the control room of the studio while wonderful songs are being played live, and that’s a great place to be.

But a large part of my love for Into the Wild probably comes from Eddie’s position as my current conscience of music. He clearly loves a wide variety of music, doesn’t show fear in the face of corporate/government/societal bullshit, and has a strength of vision that allows him to follow his creative instincts wherever they will go, even into those places that get you lost. I admire all these things because he/they provide me a contrasting alternative, in stark black and white, to a world where people flock to Target to purchase Rod Stewart croaking his way through musically-retarded versions of classic rock songs. Or where Britney Spears can zoom to and stay at the top of the charts on the strength of her being the perfect storm of fucked-up celebrity mess. No matter what, I know Eddie will not go (yes, this is an inside allusion for my surfing friends) there because he loves music too much, and in turn I know that when he’s involved in recording music for a big Hollywood production it will still be music on his terms.

That’s not to say that Into the Wild will stay in endless repeat on my sound system, because it’s a very selective listen, and to be honest it goes by way too fast. Even with the Deluxe Edition (about 15 minutes of additional music) it flies by at 48 minutes. I know I’ll still be listening to it periodically, but I also already know I’ll have to be in a very specific state of mind to put it on.

A song on Into the Wild that isn’t out of Eddie’s notebook is Gordon Peterson’s “Hard Sun,” and everything about it screams “I’m a hit song that should fill the airwaves until you are completely and utterly sick of me.” Everything except the fact it’s 2007. It’s a classic from the first strum of guitar, grabs you with a sing-along chorus and seals the deal with one of those low E-string bends that you find only on Frank Zappa or Duane Eddy songs. It’s already slotted for the year-end compilation I send to friends in order to spread the music I love a little further, I just don’t know if it’s going to be the first thing, or last thing they hear. And those are the two most important spots.

If you’re inclined to pick up this kind of thing, or you’re a hardcore EV/Pearl Jam fan, you won’t be disappointed. And you’ll be really happy that the film’s writer-director Sean Penn convinced Eddie to open up his notebook for Into the Wild. It’s an intimate glimpse of a musician who cares, and matters.

Although it is warm, peaceful and immediate, I don’t want you to think that Into the Wild is an audiophile’s recording. It sounds, no, feels more like a ‘60s recording. The distortions are fuzzy clumps of noise (that’s a good thing) and the high end’s as bright as you’d find on a very high-grain audiophile LP playing on a high-end turntable. The mix seems to be geared “between the eyes” and I played it on my computer, stereo system, home theater system, in my car and on my iPhone. I thoroughly enjoyed it in each format and now want to drive up the coast to San Francisco just so I can blast it out to my fellow travelers.

Extra Features
As mentioned, Into the Wild (Deluxe Edition) has four additional cuts, including songs from the documentary Body of War, and it’s really worth the couple of extra bucks, if only for a live version of “No More.” “With our voices we’re saying/No more war.” It’s a shame it still needs to be said but thankfully, like one great John who sang “Give Peace a Chance” long ago and another great John who just this month sang “Don’t You Wish It was True,” Eddie’s not afraid.

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