The singer from a successful band releases a solo album. It is a story as old as musical groups. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are cave paintings somewhere blaming a cave-woman (let’s call her Yukko) for the break-up of a group of rock bangers. The question is, will the singer go on to acclaim and success on their own or will they disappear in an implosion of ego and apathy? When Soundgarden disbanded their lead singer, Chris Cornell, set about recording a solo album which was released in 1999. The result was far from an implosion!
Chris was talked out of calling the album Euphoria Mourning. A “u” was dropped and the album became Euphoria Morning instead. I am not sure what difference it was felt this would make: a solo album by any other name would sound as sweet… or as sour for that matter. I am not even sure what was wrong with Euphoria Mourning in the first place but with this re-release, Chris has finally got his way and the “u” is back in. The album has been remastered and while it has been available in mp3 format and as a CD since August, later this month, it will be released for the first time on vinyl. If you opt for the vinyl version, you get 180 grammes of LP, a download card that gives you access to a 320 kbps MP4 audio version and, most importantly, a belter of an album.
For a start you get Chris Cornell’s vocals. According to his Wikipedia entry, he has a: “…near 4 octave vocal range” and who am I to argue with Wikipedia. But his vocal range, impressive as it may be, is not what I like best about his voice. Rather, I am drawn to the emotional rawness he can communicate with it. It was there in his work with Soundgarden but, for me, he really nails it in Euphoria Mourning. The emotion pours out.
My favourite track, and one that demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about, is “When I’m Down”. It starts off with a Bluesy piano and you can imagine Mr Cornell sitting in a rundown bar, with his heart on his sleeve, recounting his love’s complaint:
I’ll save my breath, knowing,
what you’re wanting me to say,
“I only love you, when I’m down”
But from this painful, and quiet beginning, the song grows until by the end he is screaming defiantly of his love:
“And I only love you when I’m down.
And I’m only near you when I’m gone.
But one thing for you to keep in mind, you know,
that I’m down, all the time,
all the time…”
I love the album version but there are stripped back live versions that are even more painfully beautiful:
Other standout tracks include “Mission” (with the repeated lyric: “I have nothing but then, the have is not as good as the want…”) and “Pillow Of Your Bones” (opening lyrics: “The embers of the saint inside of you, Are growing as I’m bathing in your glow”). This is an album that is worth paying attention to and wrestling with the lyrics: my appreciation grows with every listen.
If you haven’t guessed already, it is worth saying that it is not exactly a jolly album. Perhaps that’s why there was a concern about “Mourning” being in the title. If so, it was a misplaced worry. The songs may be downbeat but they are not dirges. Euphoria: perhaps. Mourning: not exactly. Worth hearing? Absolutely!