A lifetime of rock star excess has taken its toll on Eddie Vedder’s voice but not on his talent. Most recent performances have tilted towards the gentle, the acoustic, the Americana, reflecting his larger embrace of the broad expanse of American music. And yes, he can still rock when needs be.
But these isolated vocal tracks--”Alive” above and “Black” and “Porch” below--show how powerful Vedder’s pipes were back in the day at the height of grunge. Vedder used a lot of vibrato, more than one can hear in the full band versions. He doesn’t use it so much when he holds a note, but on all the little notes in between.
And on “Porch” there’s a powerful pleading to the entire delivery that’s both vulnerable and hypermasculine at the same time. Where Kurt Cobain always seemed to be delivering rage inward, Vedder delivered it outwards, like the sound of mountains as a logging company got to work.
The videos try to match up concert footage with these studio tracks and the fact they sync so well show the consistency in his delivery. (The sped up tempo changes, not so much.)
Of course, isolated vocals also mean remixers attack! Here’s a few that might horrify a few grunge stalwarts.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.