Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
A band born in the aftermath of Andrew Wood’s tragic, heroin-induced death at the age of 24 in March of 1990, Pearl Jam was the brainchild of Wood’s Mother Love Bone bandmates Jeff Ament (bass) and Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), who filled out the lineup by recruiting guitarist Mike McCready, drummer Dave Krusen and vocalist Eddie Vedder. The band’s original name was Mookie Blaylock, inspired by the former NBA point guard who entered the league shortly before the band’s formation. Soon thereafter, the group changed the name to Pearl Jam, but still found a way to pay homage to Blaylock, in titling their debut album Ten, a reference to the star’s jersey number.
Ten, of course, proved to be Pearl Jam’s breakthrough and, along with Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991) and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger (1991), served as one of the seminal recordings that elevated the Seattle rock sound and scene on a global level. Though the grunge rock phenomenon seems like a now-ancient artifact of yesteryear, Ten—like the rest of the band’s repertoire that followed—has aged remarkably well.
Galvanized by the group’s symbiotic musicianship, Ten formally introduced the world to Vedder’s songwriting prowess, which spanned a varied assortment of propulsive (“Even Flow,” “Once,” “Why Go,” “Porch,”) anthemic (lead single “Alive,” “Jeremy”), and more plaintive fare (“Black,” “Oceans,” “Release”).
Indeed, in the 26 years since Ten’s release, Pearl Jam have remained the bedrock of stability (and enduring credibility), when you consider the tragic outcomes that have befallen their kindred Seattle spirits, with the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and most recently, Chris Cornell. Though Pearl Jam would achieve greater creative triumphs in the years following (see 1993’s Vs. and 1994’s Vitalogy, for instance), Ten remains their commercial high water mark and—for better or worse—directly influenced a generation of aspiring rock bands that attempted to emulate the band’s energy and ability to balance mainstream viability with critical legitimacy.