The '90s were a fun time to grow up, with some great music to enjoy during formative years.
Neil Young and Pearl Jam
The year was 1995. Eddie Vedder and the Pearl Jam guys were at a crossroads of sorts. They wanted nothing to do with the current state of commercial alternative music, which was being watered down by hungry recording companies still eager to cash in. Battles with Ticketmaster ensued over the fairness of concert pricing and how much artists made from their art.
Enter Neil Young, one of Pearls Jams' biggest inspirations. Young had acted as a mentor of sorts in the past, and now the friendship and mutual admiration culminated in an album of original material from their collaborations titled Mirror Ball.
The Mirror Ball album by Neil Young is basically solo Neil Young with Pearl Jam acting as his backing band. The recording sessions were done in the early part of 1995 at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, Washington with producer Brendan O'Brien at the controls.
Brendan incorporated a warm analog sound that captures the essence and purpose of the project in an amazing way. It sounds like a live band locked in, and appreciating the comforts of creating with each other.
Mirror Ball Credits
- Neil Young: vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, pump organ
- Mike McCready: electric guitar
- Stone Gossard: electric guitar
- Jeff Ament: bass guitar
- Jack Irons: drums
- Eddie Vedder: vocals on ''Peace And Love'', background vocals
''Song X'' gets things going perfectly for the Mirror Ball album. When the short intro guitar riff kicks in you just knew at the time the album was going to be a treat. The track continues on with that classic Neil vibe, perhaps harkening back some past glories reminiscent of Neil's Crazy Horse backing band from years ago.
''Act of Love''
The second song on Mirror Ball, ''Act of Love'', sees the guys take it up a notch in tempo and intensity. Drummer Jack Irons was a perfect fit for this project, and Jack's hard hitting grooves and fills work especially well on this track. Jack is an all time favorite drummer of mine, he has played on some spectacular recordings throughout the years, with this being one of them.
''I'm the Ocean''
''I'm the Ocean'' is for sure an album highlight on here, and may well be my favorite song on the recording. The tune has a great flow and positive lyrics that capture the essence of the important things in life and putting things in perspective, with themes of modern culture from Neil's unique views mixed within the lyrics on the song and across the album. If you listen close enough you might find Eddie Vedder's vocals on this track.
''Big Green Country''
Track four from Mirror Ball is ''Big Green Country'' which does a nice job of keeping the uptempo flow and feel of the album going. It features a hard driving verse section and moves into an introspective chorus with a few minor-keyed guitar chords delivered for dramatic effect, a longstanding talent of Neil's songwriting. The bridge section breaks it down further with some cool Neil lead guitar work. A great song and sounds right at home on the album.
''Truth Be Known''
We get possibly a little break in the action, so to speak, with the slower and more downtempo ''Truth Be Known''. The lyrics seem to deal with lost dreams of sorts and tell a story of a man ''putting his money down'' which for me conjured up an image of someone telling stories of broken hopes in a lonely tavern.
''Downtown'' is a four on the floor rocker, done only the way Neil can. This was the first single released from Mirror Ball. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rock Song category in 1996, but losing out to ''You Oughta Know'' by Alanis Morissette. I'm sure Neil and the gang were crushed. There is also some banter between the guys before and after the tune in the studio, adding to the intimate feel of the album while listening.
''What Happened Yesterday''
This is a short piece. It features Neil along with his pump organ, and serves as a prequel section perhaps for the next track, ''Peace And Love''. Every time I hear it, I am reminded of the Neil Young classic ''Like A Hurricane''.
''Peace and Love''
''Peace and Love'' is another standout song on Mirror Ball. Awesome songwriting structure here, it is a seven-minute song that feels like three or four, which is a trademark of solid songwriting. Neils Bigsby tremolo guitar leads anchor the whole structure with more solid Jack Irons drumming.
We also get some more Eddie Vedder action going on as he is featured here vocally on some verses. The lyrics in the song reference John Lennon, and there seems to be no doubt the song is about him.
Peace and love
Living in time
A broken bell
A nursery rhyme
Deserted by heroes
Strangers in your own land
No way to deny you
No way to deny you
Peace and love
— Neil Young ''Peace And Love''
''Throw Your Hatred Down''
''Throw Your Hatred Down'' screams to me a classic Neil Young song he would have done with his awesome Crazy Horse backing band. The biggest difference, at least for me, as people always read art and music differently, is the more bombastic drumming on the harder rock songs here on Mirror Ball.
We get some nice keys in the chorus sections adding texture, and Neils's great lyrics, telling us to get it together for the good of humanity by laying our weapons and hatred down. I enjoyed the album when it came out, and has stood the test of time as a special Neil Young recording.
Here is another scorcher, a deeply hidden gem from this album. Just a great jam piece and I bet they did it in one take. Stays mid-tempo and absolutely grooves. Pearl Jam guitar master Mike McCready opens up and flexes some chops as well, doing some stellar guitar trade-offs with Neil.
The final cut on Mirror Ball is ''Fallen Angel'' which is a short track very similar to ''What Happened Yesterday''. Very soft and beautiful, I feel it does a great job of wrapping things up on the record and serves as a nice coda piece. It also brings a bittersweet finality to Mirror Ball of sorts.
Two songs from the Mirror Ball sessions that did not go on the album were songs written by Eddie Vedder, ''The Long Road'' which had Neil on pump organ, and ''I Got Id'', with Neil supplying lead guitar. These were released as the Merkin Ball two-song extended play recording by Pearl Jam.
''Throw Your Hatred Down'' Neil Young with Pearl Jam (Bridge School Benefit 2014)
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