Emerging from the Seattle grunge base, Pearl Jam formed amongst tragedy. Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament were in Green River before working with ex-Malfunkshun member Andrew Wood on Mother Love Bone, which released one major album due to Andrew's untimely passing as the result of a heroin overdose. To pay tribute to his longtime friend, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and later of Audioslave brought together Stone and Jeff with a talented guitarist named Mike McCready to form Temple of the Dog. With Matt Cameron, drummer of Soundgarden, Eddie Vedder was pulled in to accompany Chris on vocals. The sales of the Temple of the Dog project, the name of which was taken from the Mother Love Bone track titled "Man Of Golden Words", did not initially sell much outside of Washington considering the members weren’t yet household names. Since the album was only meant to pay homage to their fallen friend, Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron returned to Soundgarden to record "Badmotorfinger" where the rest of the band recruited Dave Krusen on drums to form what would later be called Pearl Jam. Coincidently, both "Badmotorfinger" and Pearl Jam's debut "Ten" dominated the Billboard charts making audiences around the world hungry for whatever else these two bands have been up to. After a video for "Hunger Strike" was released, and some Temple of the Dog performances, the book was closed with both bands stating that the album served its purpose. In 1994, Mike McCready collaborated on a new project with Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley titled Mad Season, but the 2002 death of Layne Staley finalized the demise of both Mad Season and Alice In Chains. In the mid-late 1990's, Soundgarden dismembered, leading Matt Cameron to then drum for Pearl Jam and Chris to join with ex-Rage Against The Machine members to form Audioslave. Pearl Jam, however, still releases albums to date that neither produce videos or much promotion in general due to their discontentment with mainstream restrictions.
As a first-time listener to Pearl Jam, their greatest hits compilation is a goldmine to explore who they are and why two discs barely cover their career spanning from 1991 to 2003. Comprising of 33 tracks, an interesting booklet featuring several pictures of the band, and an 'Up Side' and a 'Down Side' where the first of which contains the heavier and more fast tempo songs and where the latter features the broody and often acoustic side of the band. A previous fan of the band will definitely appreciate the gems that never were presented on any of their seven studio albums from this era, including a studio version of "State of Love and Trust", which was included on the "Singles" soundtrack, and "Yellow Ledbettter", which was released on their 2-Disc rarities album "Lost Dogs" a year before and on their "Jeremy" single back in 1992. Also included is "I Got ID" from the "Merkinball" EP that is a spawn from "Mirrorball", which is a Neil Young album featuring the members of Pearl Jam. Also included is "Breath", which has become a concert favorite, "Man of the Hour" which was written for the "Big Fish" soundtrack, and "Last Kiss", which became a hugely popular cover of the 60's tune by J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers. Yet, if that wasn’t enough, long-time producer/collaborator Brendan O'Brien remixed "Once", "Alive", and "Black", giving them a bit of a dynamic emphasized sound. Although there are still tons of Pearl Jam tracks strewn about that have yet to be put together in one place, the most renowned and critically essential tracks have been included in this greatest hits collection, or at least enough for it not to be confused with the "Lost Dogs" collection.
As most long-time fans would argue, the greatest hits collections never seem to grasp all of the favorites, but Pearl Jam's "rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003)" does about as good as any could hope for. One grievance being is that 20 of the 33 tracks hail exclusively from Pearl Jam's debut to their 3rd full length studio album, leaving 2000's "Binaural" and 2002's "Riot Act" grossly unrepresented with only two songs from each. "Thumbing My Way" and "Slight Of Hand" prove to be more worthy of a spot than "Who You Are" or "Wishlist". On a positive note, each of Pearl Jam's seven LPs are distinguished between them by tracks that seem to represent the general feel of each album, so chances are if you like the song you’ll dig the entire album it came from just the same. On the first disc, tracks 1-4 are taken from "Ten", 6-9 are from "Vs.", 10-12 are from "Vitalogy", 14 is from "No Code", 15 is from "Yield", and 16 is from "Riot Act". On the second disc, track 1 is from "Ten", 3-4 are from "Vs.", 5-7 are from "Vitalogy", 8-9 are from "No Code", 10-11 are from "Yield", 13-14 are from "Binaural", and 15 is from "Riot Act", leaving all unlisted tracks from the aforementioned mentioned places. Since the album progresses with each disc chronologically, how the band has changed over the years is presented in almost a new and obvious light.
Pearl Jam is one of the essential rock acts emerging from the 90's, let alone giving bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones a threatening run for their money. Selling more copies than Nirvana's "Nevermind", Pearl Jam's debut album "Ten" belongs in every collection from the scarcely enthused to the most avid musically interested fan. Their touch has not a bit been deteriorated, evident as album after album takes a diverse and creative leap forward. As a compilation, "rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003)" has its minor flaws, but as a band, Pearl Jam grows better with each and every listen proclaiming an A-class band through and through.
Personal Note- Being a relatively long-time fan of the band, I wore out each and every one of Pearl Jam’s albums and still found their greatest hits to be a treat. For anyone not too familiar with the band, which is understandable considering they're media shy these days, a double disc collection for only $15 is well worth the gamble. I definitely recommend this album as an introduction to the band, or maybe to widen your knowledge if you only have a couple albums of theirs.