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Alive


From the 1991 album Ten

The starting guitar riff to Pearl Jam's Alive is possibly my all-time favourite, and one of those riffs that frequently appears in top 100 lists in guitar magazines. It's a strange riff, one that only Stone Gossard could have come up with, but one that draws the listener in straight away. When the band joins in, the context of the riff becomes clear and this epic is under way.

Eddie Vedder's singing during the verses is unrestricted, lacking a clear, repeatable melody, meandering as he recounts the story of his mother, step-father (who he believed to be his real father) and himself. But when the chorus breaks in the melody is very definite, powerful and anthemic, making the chorus one that is easy to remember after just one listen.

Off-set against the main guitar riff played during the introduction and verses, and Vedder's powerful chorus melody, is Mike McCready's blistering, bluesy solo, which, while sounding improvised, is almost as recognizable and anthemic as the chorus. Skilfully played and wah-wah pedal infused, the solo is reminiscent of Hendrix in places.

The song grinds to an end with wailing guitars and vocals, typical of Pearl Jam's endings at the time, to wrap up a truly classic rock tune of our times!
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