The Color Red
On CD, Jack Irons’s home-recorded “The Color Red” provides a breath-catching segue between the cathartic “Do the Evolution” and the revving up of “MFC”. On cassette or LP, however, not so much: Side A ends with “Pilate”, leaving “Do the Evolution” stuck by itself at the beginning of Side B. That’s more to do with the limitations of those formats, and the realistic expectation that 99.9% will listen to Yield on CD, but it’s still curious sequencing for a band that always plays close attention to detail.
Every Pearl Jam record, with the exception of Ten and Vs. (not counting “Master/Slave”), has at least one numbered track that serves as palate cleanser, or inspired (or uninspired) weirdness. It’s a trait not unique to the band, as countless artists (R.E.M. and Vic Chesnutt immediately come to mind) have wedged in little bits of in-studio goofing around, brief reprisals of other album tracks, etc. in between their regular offerings as a way to facilitate better continuity in the listening experience.
Pearl Jam sometimes sequence songs (“Push Me Pull Me”, “I’m Open”, and “Soon Forget”) toward the end of their respective records, to separate quiet closing songs with from the rest of their albums. “Pry To” and “The Color Red” are closer to the middle, breaking the album into two distinct halves. Because “Do the Evolution” is such a rousing and dynamic song, it would seem that “The Color Red” was placed after it because it’s a tough song to follow. But based on the weird formatting issue of the vinyl and cassette versions of Yield, and from the artwork itself, I believe the real reason Irons’s steel drum freak-out ended up in the middle is because “MFC” was originally intended as the album opener.
Try programming your CD player, or iPod, or Zune, or whatever-the-hell, to play Yield in the order the songs are listed in the booklet, and you’ve got yourself quite a different listening experience:
MFC / Push Me Pull Me / Do the Evolution / Faithfull / Brain of J. / Low Light / Wishlist / Given To Fly / In Hiding / Pilate / No Way / The Color Red / All Those Yesterdays
Only one song retains its position, for obvious reasons: “All Those Yesterdays”, preceded by “The Color Red” like most other PJ album closers are preceded by oddities. Two slow songs make up the middle of the record, “Low Light” ends Side A on a quiet note, “Wishlist” opens Side B. I tend to prefer this version because of the balance, and because of “MFC” as an opener. But the booklet sequence also gives “The Color Red” a better purpose, and separates it further from the other unconventional tune “Push Me Pull Me”. Other than being occasional intro music on tour, there isn’t much to the song except how it plays off the others.