Sound — 9
This CD is Pearl Jam's greatest hits collection, hence it spans all the changes in the band's sound in it's nearly 20 year career. The band emerged at the height of the Grunge era, and for any who hasn't heard of them before, it's not too hard to imagine "Alive" or "Jeremy" ruling the airwaves. However, the band always looked to experiment, as a result of which after the debut album (the first few songs on both discs), Pearl Jam more or less emerged onto a kind of style that has been evident on all later releases, a kind of timeless, slightly weird, slightly experimental (but always interesting) folky alt-rock. Whereas most Greatest Hits CDs just list the songs in chronological order, Rearviewmirror does so, but after dividing the songs neatly into a Rock and a Ballad (or Up and Down). This means that when listening to the record as a whole, there's less variation in each disc. Anyone who's listened to a Pearl Jam album would know how easily the band can switch from full-out rock mode, to sombre, ballad mode (take "Why Go" immediately followed by "Black" on Ten as an example), so the way it's done here is certainly interesting for any listener (although it does take away the surprise for any first-time Pearl Jam listener). The record features remixes of "Once", "Alive" and "Black" (and although it isn't listed as one, "Even Flow" has a slightly different mix than the original), which I guess was done to give the most up-front impact on any first-time listener. Personally, I don't think the remixes are any better or worse than the original versions, I just think it's interesting hearing an alternate version of the same song.
Lyrics — 9
Eddie Vedder is widely regarded as one of the best lyricists of the past 20 years. He has a way of writing words that never seem generic, but always seem so natural. His voice's range matches the variety offered up by the rest of the band. He can go from all-out rock n roll to gentle balladeering at the drop of the hat. Take "Animal" and "Elderly Woman" from the Vs. album. Both at completely different ends on the rock spectrum, yet Eddie seems equally at home on both of them. Probably the only complaint I have of his singing is that it deteriorates towards the later albums, mostly due to his smoking. It goes without saying that he's still a great singer, but at the same time it's sad to see his vocal range & tone disappear.
Overall Impression — 9
The collection here is a pretty definitive one. There aren't too many surprising choices of songs here (which is both good and bad. sometimes it's interesting to find out what a band thinks of it's own music), so the choice is not likely to annoy anyone, so it suits it's purpose pretty well. Pearl Jam are a rock band first and foremost, but I personally think it's the Ballad (Down) side that really shines the most. They've included quite a few non-album tracks towards the end (Yellow Ledbetter, Man Of The Hour, Last Kiss), which I guess makes it good for completists. For massive fans of any band (such as myself with Pearl Jam), sometimes Greatest Hits collections seem a little uneccesary, as usually you have most of the tracks on CD already anyway. However This compilation has been handled really well (I think it's been made for listening, something many greatest hits fail to address), and I can happily listen to either disc.