Angel

“Angel” might be as rare as a released Pearl Jam original can get, held only to an early fan club single, played live only four times, and allegedly considered then scrapped from the Lost Dogs collection. But the pure ardor for the song in some fan circles rivals that of their biggest hits. There are a few songs in the catalog that sound so fragile and intimate that it almost seems an intrusion on private thoughts; “Angel” is certainly one of those songs.

The song is also an anomaly as the sole known collaboration completely between drummer Dave Abbruzzese and Ed Vedder, and it’s strange, otherworldly guitar progression is certainly not reminiscent of anything else the band has done since. Vedder experiments here with multi-tracked vocal harmonies that push and pull at each other over the acoustic guitar. Not until the soaring bridge of “I’m not alone” do the notes come together into recognizable and more immediately pleasing combinations. The bulk of the song is full of odd melodic intervals.

Long before Vs. was released, I read about “Angel” as a potential new song for that album. If it was ever considered, I would imagine it was left off not only for its delicacy, but because of its strange, atypical chord structures, which, unless you’re locked in as a devoted fan, might sound disjointed and out of place on that record. Although I was not a Ten Club member at the time it was released, I eventually founded a used copy of the 45, though that was a few years after hearing it on an unofficial bootleg that collected rare songs (also included were “Dock of the Bay”, “I’ve Got a Feeling”, and an early “I Won’t Back Down”). Oh sweet nostalgia.

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~ by Michael on July 15, 2007.

7 Responses to “Angel”

  1. A friend of mine used to have the unofficial bootleg you mentioned. We wore that sucker out.

    Angel was one of my favorite songs on it.

    “I’m not living what was promised.” — that’s a line, like most from Pearl Jam at the time, that resonates with any teenager attempting to fight his/her way out of adolescence.

    That line still sticks with me to this day.

  2. I’ve always loved the lyrics, too. It’s funny how some songs become loved for being “rare”. Angel is rare in another sense in that it doesn’t sound fully cooked…like it could have used a few more weeks in the studio to become something more…but was abandonded as it was…poor Angel. But, to me, it’s an experiment…testing for a new sound…seeing what they could do…similar to other things that came out in the early days (“Let Me Sleep” comes to mind, based on the percussion in that song, I’d guess D.Abbruz. had more than a little to do with that tune, too, but honestly have no idea.) Anyway, it’s Ed’s “Angel” lyrics that stand out, and the funny memory of a friend calling this song “Angle” because he was either dyslexic or just not listening very closely, or both, I didn’t hang around to find out.

  3. I also think that this song sounds unfinished. The lyrics and the multitracked harmonies are interesting, but I don’t have the love for this song that a lot of fans have.

    What I do like is the insight gained from a song like ANGEL. A lot of the early Christmas singles are interesting because they have the same kind of unfinished quality that ANGEL has. There are also a lot of interesting early improvs that show up on bootlegs. It’s almost like being able to see a snapshot of their creative process. From Yield on, this quality virtually disappears. There is a huge gulf between ANGEL and a Christmas single like STRANGEST TRIBE. Listening to all of the Christmas singles one after the other is like watching someone grow up.

  4. This song was inspired by a poem, I think it is called “Eloping Angels” but I may be wrong. Don’t know who wrote it either.

    ‘Angel’ is one of my favorite rarities.

  5. This might be it. Just a guess.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Watson_%28poet%29

  6. “Eloping Angels” is correct, IIRC

  7. i had no idea about that poem…nice one. I wonder how young ed vedder came to it.

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