- by James Weiskittel Rating:10 Release Date:2016-11-04 Label: UMC
For an entire generation of alt-rock fans (and more specifically, Pearl Jam fans) there are two very distinct stories: the story as it was and the story of what could have been. The former has been well documented, with Pearl Jam having sold a bazillion albums on the way to achieving their elevated status as one of rock’s elder statesmen. But the later includes the story of Mother Love Bone (the band from whose ashes Pearl Jam rose), a tale that is sadly often relegated to a mere footnote; a tale of endless possibility that sadly ceased to exist almost overnight. On Earth As It Is: The Complete Works, as the name suggests, is a soon-to-be-released compilation that celebrates the sonic legacy of Mother Love Bone, one of alt-rocks most tragically brilliant stories.
So what makes this particular reissue/collection so special? Perhaps some context (via an obligatory recap) is in order: Mother Love Bone (Andrew Wood, Bruce Fairweather, Greg Gilmore as well as a pre-Pearl Jam Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) were the toast of the town that was Seattle in the late 80’s. While it's a shame that so many bands crucial to the formation of the Seattle scene (like Mudhoney and Screaming Trees) never tasted the success that befell their peers, the same surely wouldn’t have been said for Mother Love Bone. Their trajectory was well established before the release of their major label debut Apple, and it was only the untimely death of charismatic singer Andy Wood (who tragically died of an overdose mere weeks before its release) that kept them from the reaching the stars.
Given the way that the entire music world would change in the fall of 1991 (largely with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind), the awesomeness that was Mother Love Bone was all but lost in the ever-crowded waters of grunge. The combination of Pearl Jam’s instant success and the influx of new bands to the scene left little room for any sort of posthumous adornment, save for the memories of the band’s committed fanbase.
As it was their first true ‘major label’ release, Apple is really the album that Mother Love Bone should be measured against (and is presented in its entirety on this collection). And while the early DNA of Pearl Jam is easily heard in songs like the slithering “Stardog Champion” and the bombastic opener “This is Shangrila”, Apple was very much a beast of it’s own, a collection of instant classics from a band that was a well honed live act by the time these songs were recorded. The main ingredient here of course is Wood (who was already in full-on star mode by this point via his Iggy Pop-esque croon), and Apple succeeds in finally translating the charisma of his live performances onto disc.
A cut above your typical reissue affair, On Earth As It Is: The Complete Works (a CD/DVD set) also features the Shine E.P. and as well as a slew of B-sides, demos, and other unreleased goodness. It’s comprehensive to say the least, and given the ‘hard to find’ nature that has shrouded most of this material for years, it’s nice to finally have the entire Mother Love Bone story represented in a clean and concise package. So for anyone who wasn’t there the first time around, there is no better time than the present to discover one of the era’s long lost gems.