Artist Series : Mike McCready

Pearl Jam made a name for themselves in the grunge era with their debut album Ten.  Thanks to lead guitarist Mike McCready, "Alive" encapsulates angst we'd all expect from an iconic 90 rock. McCready's generation was in a position to have grown up listening to players like Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, as well as later artists such as Michael Schenker (UFO) and Randy Rhoads. McCready's performance and improvisation  during the 1992 PinkPop festival of "Alive" showcases direct homage to some of the guitarists mentioned above. 

Pearl Jam - Porch [live] 1992 PinkPop Festival, Holland

In this rendition of "Porch", McCready opens with riffs from "Voodoo Child", with a heavy oscillating wah reminiscent of  live performances of Tony Iommi on tunes like "Electric Funeral". When McCready improvises during his instrumental solos,  his phrases are either in Blues Pentatonic or Aeolian modes. During the pent scales McCready's stylings are strongly influenced by Iommi in compositon, along with some tasteful sustain alla Hendrix. 

Connecting positions through the apt use of modes in natural minor, McCready's improv is also heavily influenced by the styling of UFO's guitarist Michael Schenker-- comparisons, as well as tone and EQ, can be best drawn when analyzing "Rock Bottom". Live performances glean the best analysis, as spur of the moment jams tend to fall back on the player's instinct (rather than purely choreographed melodies). 

Unlike the solo on the album version of the song, McCready breaks into the phrase with sustaining bends which lead into a traditional walking blues wah riff. Separating his melodies sprawling raked barre chords, he starts to use his wah as a filter (opposed to a vocal effect) similar to Randy Rhoads during his Quiet Riot years. Finally, McCready ends the tune with Iommi's thematic melody from "War Pigs".

Ryan CaldaroneComment