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I had a Twitter conversation with some friends a few months ago about Pearl Jam’s debut record, Ten. I had been told by a few trustworthy sources that session great Matt Chamberlain had played drums on that record, ghosting then-drummer Dave Krusen. BUT… I hadn’t listened to the album for some time. I listened to it all the way through on the plane yesterday and I am now comfortable officially stating that Krusen DID play on Ten, as the liner notes state. Or maybe it wasn’t Krusen, but it definitely was NOT Chamberlain. The sound, the feel, the ideas… they don’t square with everything else I’ve heard from Chamberlain.

So, if you’ve ever heard that rumor, or if I’ve even told you that rumor… I don’t think it’s accurate.

Carry on.

I’m going a different direction for Album of the Week this time around. Instead of a record I’ve been listening to lately, I want to turn everybody on to an older album that had a huge role in shaping me when I was younger: VS, by Pearl Jam. I got this album when I was 13, and even now (15 years later) I still love it.

VS was Pearl Jam’s second record. Ten, their debut recording, was a huge international success, selling over 12 million copies. In line with Eddie Vedder’s typical “anti-establishment” style, the band went a completely different direction for their sophomore release, recording an album with much more raw and aggressive songs and a less “produced” sound. Compared to Ten, the VS album had no real radio singles, and the band produced no music videos for any of the tracks. It is all the more impressive, then, that VS sold over 7 million copies and is commonly cited as the “fan-favorite” in Pearl Jam’s discography.

The best part of this record is the energy. I actually can’t think of a rock record that has more “pump-up” from track to track, and yet keeps the songs somewhat diverse and artistically interesting. The drum performances on this album, recorded by Dave Abbruzzese, were the single most prominent influence on the early formation of my view on what a “rock” drummer should sound like. The most notable examples would be “Go” (track 1), “Daughter” (track 3), “Rats” (track 9), and “Leash” (track 11). My all-time favorite Abbruzzese track is a B-side from the VS sessions, called “Alone” (which can be heard on the Lost Dogs B-side compilation).

I should say at this point that, after studying the drumset for 15 years since first hearing VS, I don’t think of Abbruzzese’s performances on these tracks as perfect. In fact, I find new “flaws” every time I listen to it. That’s the way it works – you grow as a musician and, over time, things that once seemed amazing become less and less impressive. However, I will still always cite this recording as a huge part of my early development as a drummer.

For those of you who haven’t seen Episode 4 of the video lesson series, “Go” (the opening track of VS) gets a shout-out as a great example of the “4 on the snare” groove.

Sidenote: I have a love/hate relationship with Pearl Jam’s drummers. “Ten” was ghosted by studio drummer Matt Chamberlain, and Abbruzzese played on both “VS” and the third Pearl Jam record, “Vitalogy.” I am a big fan of both Chamberlain and Abbruzzese, and these guys really helped to shape Pearl Jam’s sound. But then, after the Vitalogy record, Vedder fired Abbrusseze and got ex-Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons. Then, after Soundgarden disbanded, Vedder picked up Matt Cameron, who remains the Pearl Jam drummer today. In a rare moment of printed criticism, I will boldy state that both Irons and Cameron are awful… in fact, I can’t decide who sucks more. Probably Cameron actually, who has been in Pearl Jam for ten years now and has only gotten WORSE.

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