Release Date: May 31, 2011
Record label: Republic
The ukulele doesn't allow for the widest range of expression, which makes it a challenging foil for Eddie Vedder, who never met a feeling he couldn't drive through a wall. But this uke-suffused album stands up because he adapts the instrument to his idiosyncratic needs – see the Who-style riff on "Hey Fahkah." He also indulges the uke's romantic side on a ragged duet with Cat Power and on a finale of "Dream a Little Dream." That track could be the disc's theme song: These 16 tracks are that sweetly evanescent. Listen to "Longing to Belong": Eddie Vedder on Pearl Jam's 20th and his New Ukulele-Powered LP Photos: The Rise of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and More .
Since the members of Pearl Jam have released solo albums and side projects, it was just a matter of time before its frontman, Eddie Vedder, went out on his own, too—which he did in 2007 for the soundtrack to Into the Wild. Here, armed only with his iconic vocals and a ukulele, Vedder’s sophomore album is an eclectic mix of tunes ranging from Vedder covering himself (Riot Act’s “Can’t Keep) and others (The Everly Brothers’ “Sleepless Nights”), as well as originals (songs like “Without You” and “Dream a Little Dream,” serving as delicate and soothing lullabies). Like his work with Pearl Jam, the singer’s trademark baritone is balanced with heartfelt lyrics, which are best reflected on the introspective “Longing to Belong.
This has been coming for a while now. It’s been coming since Vedder went Nature Boy and wrote a pile of quietly gorgeous songs for Into the Wild. Since his adventures in Hawaii landed him a new attitude (and his band a new keyboardist) prior to Riot Act. Since he actually picked up a ukulele and hid the surprisingly affecting cautionary tale that is “Soon Forget” at the end of Binaural.
Chris Cornell got it very, very wrong. His 2009 solo tune ‘Part of Me’ will surely go down in the history of embarrassing music as one of the most unintentionally hilarious records of all time. With production supplied by a well-past-his-peak Timbaland, it featured Cornell wailing over the top of cheesy hip-hop beats about how “Oooh, that bitch ain’t a part of me/No, that bitch ain’t a part of me/I said no, that bitch ain’t a part of me/No, that bitch ain’t a part of me…” as if for some appalling reason he thought it was appropriate to unleash his misogynistic side because he was collaborating with a rapper.
The first question you might ask, upon hearing that Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder has decided to release a ukulele record, is “Why?” A fair question, that. After all, perhaps it’s not the most obvious career choice for a 46-year-old career musician to make. Why devote an entire album to a cute, four-string novelty of an instrument, recording a batch of songs—a third of which are covers—with the help of a couple famous friends sprinkled here and there (The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard and Chan “Cat Power” Marshall each appear on one track)—a batch of songs you’ll release on your own imprint, freed of big-business interests? Why take a lighthearted break from your legacy act that’s essentially proven all that is has to after 20+ years and can now successfully tour on its laurels whenever it wants? Why then, after releasing said album, which you will cheekily call Ukulele Songs, would you book a month’s-worth of shows that will all sell out almost immediately? Why foist all of this upon a fanbase that’s gracefully aging right along with you and is thus a little more malleable than either of you were in your mid-twenties, a little more open-minded, a little more down for whatever? The answer, clearly, is “Why not?” .
Twenty years after Ten made them instant grunge gods, Pearl Jam show no signs of slowing down — which is probably why frontman Eddie Vedder relished the opportunity for a breather. On the aptly titled Ukulele Songs, he dials down PJ’s arena-rock bombast to a tender voice-and-strings murmur, pairing originals such as the plaintive ”Goodbye” with moon-eyed standards like ”Dream a Little Dream.” It’s a feather-light lark from a dude known for depth. B Download these:Intimate ballad Without You at Last.fmGlen Hansard duet Sleepless Nights at Last.fm See all of this week’s reviews .
There is no irony in the title of Eddie Vedder’s first full-fledged solo album: these are indeed songs performed on a ukulele, an instrument uncommon but not unknown to rockers. George Harrison was a well-known advocate of the small four-string instrument, and Vedder’s hero Pete Townshend once cut a lovely little gem called “Blue Red and Grey” on ukulele, a song that could easily slide onto this gently ramshackle collection of covers, re-recordings, and new tunes. To say that this is a minor album is to dismiss its intimacy and miss its appeal: Vedder’s self-imposed curse is that he takes everything very seriously indeed, so to hear him without the weight of the world on his shoulders is disarmingly inviting.
Eddie Vedder is an old, old friend of mine. And when you’ve known someone for too long, it becomes hard to find faults in that person, since that familiarity and sense of comfort allows you to overlook mistakes, even if those mistakes come packaged in CD cases with the word “Binaural” plastered on the cover. With the imaginatively-titled Ukulele Songs though, there’s no need for any protective glossing over about the quality of the album.
If you include the soundtrack album he recorded for Into the Wild, Ukulele Songs is only Eddie Vedder's second solo album. Considering the size and devotion of his cult, coupled with Pearl Jam's "No, you really shouldn't have" over-generosity when it comes to releases, it's remarkable he hasn't put out five by now. This makes Ukulele Songs even more of a curiosity: As its title makes clear, the album consists of 16 tracks of Vedder pawing the tiny, four-stringed Hawaiian instrument and warbling love songs.
PEARL JAM play the Air Canada Centre on September 11 and 12. See listing Rating: NN At this point in Pearl Jam's incredibly successful yet determinedly self-directed career, it's unlikely anyone tells Eddie Vedder and the boys what's best for them. If Vedder wants to release and mass-market a 16 ….
It’s sort of an asinine idea: 16 tracks of ukulele songs. But for some reason, Eddie Vedder thought otherwise. On Ukulele Songs, Vedder’s first solo foray since 2007’s lean-yet-flawless Into the Wild soundtrack, the Pearl Jam frontman cuts loose on the island favorite. But why? In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Vedder explains that the whole project “started as a writing exercise” and admits “at first it was kind of a joke.” With a song like the tenderly spoken “Longing to Belong”, it’s hard to imagine anyone laughing.
A collection of predictable covers, haphazard originals, and one re-rendering of a 10-year-old Pearl Jam track (“Can’t Keep” from 2002’s Riot Act) performed solely on the titular instrument by Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, with guest vocals from Cat Power’s Chan Marshal and the Swell Season’s Glen Hansard, Ukulele Songs would be much better suited as a fan-club curio or concert souvenir—not a mass-marketed, canonical product. Vedder’s first official solo outing, the soundtrack for Into the Wild, was an enjoyable, if slightly unmemorable, exercise in campfire folk, but the novelty of hearing the alt-rock elder statesmen’s garbled howl juxtaposed over the precious, plucky register of the ukulele here quickly wears thin. Likewise, the slapdash nature of these 16 (!) songs doesn’t make them feel visceral or honest (which was clearly the artist’s intention), but haphazard and disposable.
“I’ll be sleeping by myself tonight,” sings Eddie Vedder on Ukulele Songs, his reflective, minimal new solo album. It’s a touching moment for a guy who spends most of his waking hours growling, screaming, and snarling as frontman for Pearl Jam, America’s long-running kings of anthemic classic rock. But 16 tracks full of touching moments, played by a lonesome Vedder on the ukulele—with nary a guitar to speak of—has the potential to be a quietly awkward disaster of the highest proportions.