AUDIO JUNKIE: Eddie Vedder gets a little help from his friends

Published February 14, 2022, 6:24 AM

by Punch Liwanag

Photo from Eddie Vedder’s launch of Earthling album at The Beacon Theatre from left Glen Hansard and Eddie Vedder (Rolling Stone article)

Pearl Jam singer’s recent activities led to a duet with his daughter, a welcome collaboration with an Oscar winner, and to his latest solo album “Earthling.”

A movie that fell between the cracks in 2021 is “Flag Day.” Seems like an interesting film, for one, it features Sean Penn who starred and directed. It also featured Sean’s daughter Dylan Penn, who also played his daughter in said movie. And while we admittedly didn’t see the film (yet), and we’re going to use the still ongoing pandemic as an excuse here, that didn’t stop us from getting smitten with the film’s music.

“Flag Day (Original Soundtrack)” has actually served, in effect, as an Eddie Vedder collaboration album of sorts. The Pearl Jam lead singer has released music outside of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-level band before–with 2007’s “Into the Wild” and the 2011 album “Ukelele Songs.” But what makes the “Flag Day” OST special is who Eddie Vedder sang with. It was a family affair of sorts as the album featured the recording debut of her daughter Olivia Vedder, who sang solo on the apt and wistful opening track “My Father’s Daughter.” Here Olivia sings the chorus “I am my father’s daughter / come hell or high water,” which not only reflected the real-slash-reel relations of the lead actors Penn, but the fact that she inevitably picked up after musical father. Olivia also sang on the acoustic guitar driven “There’s A Girl” with the elder Vedder that conjured up the sonics of Pearl Jam’s acoustic side (think ‘Live at Benaroya Hall’).

This album also marks the official recorded collaboration between Vedder and Academy awarded singer-songwriter Glen Hansard. The two have been friends for several years now, but this is the first time that they’ve written, sang and recorded together. The resulting songs may sound low-key, but are intense in other ways nonetheless. Starting with the gothic folk drama of “Flag Day.” Then Vedder and Hansard split singing duties beautifully on “Tender Mercies.” The two naturally complement the other sonically, with Hansard’s intensity being tempered by Vedder’s booming baritone. They put it to good use on the excellent alt-rock sounding “Wave” and again on the jangling tune “I’ll be Waiting.”

Eddie Vedder in Barcelona (Photo by Danny Clinch used on Rolling Stone article)

A true-blue singer-songwriter affair, “Flag Day (Original Soundtrack)” also features some exceptional music from Cat Power (a.k.a. Charlyn Marie Marshall) whose alternative/indie rock, folk and lo-fi leanings can be heard on “I Am A Map,” “I Think of Angels,” and “Dream” respectively.

Back to Eddie Vedder, the singer just released a new solo album titled “Earthling.” While his first solo effort “showcased his gentler side,” the new album is more wide-ranging. Vedder directs rock through a prism and comes up with all kinds of hues. From anthemic rock on “Invincible” which cross pollinates Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” on the intro with melodies that recall The Waterboys, to distorted guitar punk rock on “Power of Right,” to 70s era George Harrison on first-rate “Fallout Today.”

Then there are the collaborations. Vedder gets some assistance from Elton John on the classic pop sounding, honky-tonk piano-driven “Picture.” On “Mrs. Mills” Ed namechecks John and Paul on this Beatle-esque gem and even gets Sir Ringo Starr on the drum kit. And that’s Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica intro and solo to the pop-punk mash “Try.”

For the musicians, Vedder gets some help from Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and producer-musician Andrew Watt. “Earthling” closes on a personal tone as Ed does a virtual duet with Edward Severson, his father, in “On My Way.” And those who know the story behind Pearl Jam’s “Alive” would know the reason why this one is special for Eddie Vedder.

 
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