Well, it's about time I put my review up for the new Eddie Vedder CD, - Ukulele Songs - the album thats been raising eyebrows round the world since it was announced!
So, why the raised eyebrows? Well, for those of you who don't know Eddie Vedder, he is best known (his day job if you will) for being the lead singer in the American rock band Pearl Jam. That is to say, rock band as in, plugged, in, rock and roll, electric guitars, long hair - you get the picture. I am not their biggest fan, but know full well that the man has a killer voice (broody baritone in style), and knew their style, so have to admit that the album also raised my own brows a notch.
Before release, the idea of this rock star putting out a set of songs in which he plays the ukulele has split Pearl Jam fans quite a bit, but I think that generally speaking the idea has intrigued more than put off. The fact is, Eddie has been a uke fan for quite some time and of late has appeared live on stage doing the occasional number on the uke, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised... but a whole album?
Ukulele songs is a collection of tracks he actually wrote some time ago but never released, including a Pearl Jam cover (Can't Keep) and one or two covers (Dream A Little Dream Of Me being the standout, but also Tonight You Belong To Me). It's spread over 16 tracks, and includes collaborations with the likes of Cat Power.
Throughout I got the same sort of bleeding heart imagery, and songs of loss, love and desparation, as you can expect with Pearl Jam, but without that rock backing, the ukulele strumming, trebly sound and relaxing backing actually gives them a whole new feel - very graceful, very laid back - very nice! Most of all, despite many critics suggesting it would be the case before release, this is NO novelty record. It has high production standards and is a lush, mature affair. Nor is this an ironic record - as Vedder has been keen to point out - this man really does ADORE the ukulele! The backing is fairly sparse, but, I presume, deliberate to allow the ukulele to shine through (and it does). (I believe he plays a custom tenor from Earnest Instruments, but happy to stand corrected)
Bang in the middle of the set, Longing to Belong is the highlight for me, but other standouts include Goodbye and the Mamas and Papas cover mentioned above.
The CD comes in a lovely book style case, with many pages and beautiful pictures with lyrics for the songs.
I am thoroughly enjoying listening to it - particularly today, on a rather long drive, windows down, blue sky and sunshine outside.
It would be too easy for me, a uke player, on a uke blog to show bias and demand it has a 5 star review just because of the ukulele link - but is it a 5 star album? Well, no - I would argue its probably got a little too much filler, particularly the second half of it, but thats a minor gripe, but a gripe for which gives it four stars for me. Still highly recommended!