Monday, May 03, 2010

CDs of the Day: ‘Mirrorball’/‘Merkin Ball,’ Pearl Jam & Neil Young (1995)

For a few days in early 1995, Pearl Jam served as Neil Young’s backing band during an impromptu recording session that led to Young’s “Mirrorball” album later that year. The CD is as frustrating as it is fulfilling due to the general lack of Eddie Vedder’s presence, who sings only a couple of verses on the entire album (and “Peace and Love” isn’t even that good).

The CD isn’t bad; the other members of PJ obviously provided Young with a big spark, because these songs come with a big, healthy dose of classic rock. Young’s trademark monster chords are all over the record, and new PJ drummer Jack Irons is on fire behind the kit. Favorite songs include “I’m the Ocean” and “Act of Love.”

But there’s a huge Vedder-sized hole shot through the middle of “Mirrorball.” His lone appearance gives just a hint of what a whole album of trading verses between him and Young could have been.

“Merkin Ball,” perhaps, fulfills a little of that promise. Though Young doesn’t sing any lead on this two-song EP released later in 1995, his fingerprints are all over it and result in two of Pearl Jam’s best songs. “I Got Id” is a stomping rocker in the classic Young tradition, while the elegiac “Long Road” is an arresting ballad—and a beautiful way to start a concert.


Grade: B-

Favorite Track: “I’m the Ocean”

Least Favorite Track: “What Happened Yesterday”

‘Merkin Ball’

Grade: A

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