A strange phenomenon with anthemic hard rock bands is that when they begin to mature and branch out into new musical genres, they nearly always choose to embrace both the music and spirituality of the East and India, and Pearl Jam is no exception. Throughout No Code, Eddie Vedder expounds on his moral and spiritual dilemmas; where on previous albums his rage was virtually all-consuming, it is clear on No Code that he has embraced an unspecified religion as a way to ease his troubles. Fortunately, that has coincided with an expansion of the group's musical palette. From the subtle, winding opener, "Sometimes," and the near-prayer of the single, "Who You Are," the band reaches into new territory, working with droning, mantra-like riffs and vocals, layered exotic percussion, and a newfound subtlety. Of course, they haven't left behind hard rock, but like any Pearl Jam record, the heart of No Code doesn't lie in the harder songs, it lies in the slower numbers and the ballads, which give Vedder the best platform for his soul-searching: "Present Tense," "Off He Goes," "In My Tree," and "Around the Bend" equal the group's earlier masterpieces.
Although Orrin Keepnews' Riverside Records was primarily a jazz label, the company dabbled in blues in the 1960s – and one of the bluesmen who recorded for Riverside was John Lee Hooker. Recorded in 1960, this Keepnews-produced session came at a time when Hooker was signed to Vee-Jay. The last thing Keepnews wanted to do was emulate Hooker's electric-oriented, very amplified Vee-Jay output, which fared well among rock and R&B audiences. Keepnews had an acoustic country blues vision for the bluesman, and That's My Story favors a raw, stripped-down, bare-bones approach – no electric guitar, no distortion, no singles aimed at rock & rollers.
Seventy-one minutes of live Pearl Jam plus an unreleased song? It's aural nirvana for fans of the reclusive, integrity-driven Seattle quintet. Pearl Jam are nothing if not passionate and unabashedly rocking, and this 16-track offering, recorded during their Yield tour, illustrates why the mumbly voiced rock deity and his band of merry men inspire such ardor in their followers. Eddie Vedder's emotive vocals, Mike McCready and Stone Gossard's raw and raging fretwork and edgy, catchy, whisper-to-a-scream dynamics are deftly and inspiringly captured. Though a few staples (including "Jeremy") are missing, songs running the gamut of the band's seven-year career–from "Corduroy" to "Nothingman" to the Neil Young-penned "F*ckin' Up"–more than make up for any exclusions. The breadth and scope found on Live on Two Legs (a take on the Queen song, "Death on Two Legs"?) proves the once über-"alternative" Pearl Jam have struck a loud chord in the mainstream…and that's not a bad thing.