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Neil Young - Mirror Ball

Not every day do we tell you about a meteoric connection between two great artists, from two different generations and both ends of the musical spectrum. It is also rare for such a connection, until it already happens, to be fruitful and give birth to a full album, a double single, and even a joint tour.



This is the story of the album "Mirror Ball", Neil Young's 21st studio album released on June 27, 1995, in which members of the Pearl Jam band collaborated with Neil Young.


Our story begins in 1993, when "Pearl Jam" was in the midst of touring the "Vs". During that time "Pearl Jam" also served as Neil Young's opening act in his shows. Pearl Jam members' admiration for Neil Young was well known. It’s no secret that bands in the grunge scene have been influenced and adored by him, but it turns out that this admiration was mutual. Neil Young known as "The Grunge Godfather" used to bring Pearl Jam members on stage during the encores to perform the song "Rockin 'in the Free World" with him.



It worked so well that it was clear to everyone that this mutual admiration would eventually yield a joint creation, but it did not work out with the busy schedule of both parties.


Eventually, a narrow window of opportunity opened up for the artists in early 1995 and they decided to make the most of it. Eleven days after performing with "Pearl Jam" members in a charity show in Washington, Neil Young flew to Seattle and settled in the famous recording studio "Bad Animals", where albums such as Soundgarden's "Superunknown", "Mad Season" "Above" and "Vitalogy" of "Pearl Jam" were recorded.


The recordings were held for only four days, at the end of January 1995 and the beginning of February. Young wrote all the songs during those four days of recordings except the two "Act of Love" and "Song X".


All of the songs on the album were written by Young except for "Peace and Love" co-written with Eddie Vedder, so this is actually Young's album with "Pearl Jam" which serves as his backing band, similar to "Crazy Horse". At the same time, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the members of the band "Pearl Jam" were the ones who were responsible for the sound, the musical style, and the general atmosphere of the album, and thus contributed quite a bit to the result.



The album was recorded almost entirely live and without special production tricks. The sound is very immature and rough, with quite a bit of guitar feedback and friends' talk before and after the songs, really a sense of performance and not of an album.


Eddie was almost absent from all the recordings because at the time he was under the surveillance of a serial harasser, and hardly left his home.


During the sessions for recording, two more songs were written by Eddie, who did not find their way to the album: "I Got Id" and "Long Road". These songs eventually came out as a "Pearl Jam" double single of the season called "Merkin Ball", which was also released in 1995. The reason these two songs were not included in the album is probably because it is Neil Young's album and not a joint work, hence the separation between the songs was a commitment to reality. However, just as "Pearl Jam" served as Young's backing band on the album, Neil Young returns a favor here and accompanies "Pearl Jam" on both of these songs, so all 13 songs from the album and the double single can be treated as one piece.


After the release of the album, Neil Young and Pearl Jam (minus Eddie Vedder and plus album producer Brendan O'Brien who played keyboards) went on a short tour in Europe. During that tour, we were privileged to see them here in Israel, at the Sultan's Pool, and in Caesarea. We were there in Jerusalem that hot summer night, a day after the horrific attack on Line 26 in Jerusalem, and after a really unrelated warm-up show by Ronit Shachar. We have witnessed this special connection between two generations, the veteran in the plaid shirt and the young men in Bermuda shorts, sharing one stage in the name of music.


By the way, this special connection continued even after the tour, as the partnership with Young influenced Pearl Jam's sound later on. Parts of this can already be found on the band's next album "No Code" which was released in 1996. Listen to the songs "Red Mosquito" and "Smile" for example and you will hear in them the clear effects of Young, especially in playing the harmonica in the last song.


For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music


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