A year and a half on since the music world lost a legend and man who set the bar, a man Alice Cooper called “The Voice”, a certain Chris Cornell. An outpouring of emotions from fans around the world, his friends and family came out to show love for the man. Bands like Guns N’ Roses performed “Black Hole Sun” during their world tour, Chester Bennington, his long-time friend sang at Chris’ funeral…sadly losing this gentleman too. Prophets of Rage, made up of Chris’ Audioslave brethren, asked fans at their live shows if they know the words to sing to “Like a Stone”, if they didn’t know then say a prayer for peace. During Eddie Vedder’s solo tour of the UK/Ireland and Europe, he reached out emotionally with his music while being surrounded by like-minded people in mourning as Chris left us during Eddie’s solo tour.
A career retrospective of forty, yes forty, tracks, we at Moshville Times are allowed to listen to part of this deluxe record of 17 tunes which are in my grasp, my hands. Time to sit down, turn it up and feel the Chris Cornell spirit.
I was going to break down each song but this isn’t a review, it’s a celebration of the voice. It’s a journey through our lives with him and the band, especially with “Hunted Down” and “Kingdom of Come” from Soundgarden’s 1987 EP Screaming Life via Seattle’s very own Subpop label, showing their heavy beginning with influences of the UK rock scene of the 70s.
“Flower” from 1988 debut record Ultramega Ok flows into “All Your Lies” from Louder Than Love, the record just before Badmotorfinger. These early tracks of Soundgarden and hearing the already raucous vocals of Cornell is heart-warming, mainly due to the foresight of what will be heard in the future from Chris Cornell.
“Say Hello 2 Heaven” from the tribute album Cornell created with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam on behalf of Mother Love Bone frontman and Cornell’s best friend, Andrew Wood, who died via addiction. Cornell’s emotional vocals hit a nerve while telling a story of the lost souls taken from this mortal coil because of substance abuse. “He came from an island and died from the street”. Wood came from a small town and found his death from drugs from the corner, we hear Cornell’s broken heart on record with Gossard and Ament’s aide who both formed Mother Love Bone.
“Hunger Strike” from the same record gives grunge rock fans a time to orgasm as Cornell is joined on vocals with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder complimenting each other working well. It’s a lump in the throat. Many years back in London I saw Cornell live in London. Chris said, “I’ve got a friend coming out for the next track,” and the riff to “Hunger Strike” began. Many of us patrons screamed, we went ape and Chris with a wry smile said, “Think out the box”. Eddie didn’t come out but at that moment I felt Chris had us all in the palm of his hand, Kermit the frog could’ve come out and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Badmotorfinger was my first real foray into Soundgarden and it completely took my breath away and, on this record, “I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota”; “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage” both felt like someone let the dogs out, “As the grass is always greener where the dogs are shitting!” Lyrics mixed with heavier rock stands the test of time “I’m feeling kinda sober…even though I’m drinking,” a quote many of us can live by.
Remember the movie Singles by Cameron Crowe? No? What is the matter with you lot? Chris’ solo tune “Seasons” is the closest you’ll get to a ballad. Singles based in Seattle during the grunge explosion, covering Matt Dillon’s fictional band Citizen Dick, featured members of Pearl Jam. Throughout this film, we have glimpses of Cornell, Layne Staley and Seattle. Back to “Seasons”, a genuine tune. During Chris’s acoustic Songbook tour, he appeared at the London Palladium. I was there, three rows from the front and a member of the audience shouted “SEASONS”. Chris smiled, said, “Yeah, I’ve not played that for a while,” and played it to us all. His words flow with the wind. ”And I’m lost behind / The Words I’ll never find” a sentence of harmony holding my attention.
Seattle has provided musicians who changed the game, a certain Jimi Hendrix has been given the Chris Cornell attention with “Hey Baby”. A tune he tried with his pals from Temple of the Dog in the form of M.A.C.C. Cornell can style a song like he owns and hearing his versions of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” or Prince/Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” are areas that have an emotional lump in my throat, these last tracks appear later in this deluxe edition.
Two of Soundgarden’s commercial successes are “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” from their 1994 Superuknown record, an album that had no such thing as a filler. Coming at an end with “Dusty” and “Burden in My Hand” both taken from their 1996 Down on The Upside record….1996? that is crazy, it still feels like five years ago.
I’m breathless of pure joy hearing his creations. Even though I already have his music, this enables peace of mind and the moment I hear Chris Cornell it hits me with selfish sadness that I’ll not witness him play live again. For a fan like me, I get to hear his majestic every day or whenever I want to. His music is spine-tingling, it gets me through those moments my inner self tells me I’m on my own as music from Soundgarden and the genre they helped create help gives many people a reason to smile, to feel connected to realise they may not be alone and this deluxe record is a memory adding to our box to cherish his statue, his uniqueness, his qualities and his amazing talent.
Thank you to the Cornell family for sharing with us your heart and soul.