Album Review: Chris Cornell

(universal music enterprises)

Chris Cornell, he of the oftentimes downright frighteningly powerful vocals in Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, has been out this year on a major tour showcasing many songs old and new in an acoustic, 'Unplugged' style. This LP, Cornell's fourth solo release and his first live offering hit the stores as of this Monday (21st November).

Songbook is a brave undertaking - taking what originally were highly produced and often fairly heavy tracks and stripping them down to their core. One voice, one guitar and that's it .... There is nothing here but the songs. This bare, the quality of the songwriter's talent has two chances; to shine or not. For the vast majority of Cornell's album, luckily, the songs in themselves more than live up to expectations. Take for example Cleaning My Gun:

Cornell seemingly effortlessly works though a good number of his solo songs, alongside half the album material coming from more well-known tracks from his times as frontman for Soundgarden (Fell on Black Days, Black Hole Sun), Audioslave (I Am The Highway, Wide Awake, Doesn't Remind Me, Like A Stone) and Temple of the Dog (All Night Thing).

I have to award 10 out of 10 'Rock-Kudos' points for the inclusion of a nod to what is probably the greatest acoustic rock album of all time - Led Zeppelin III. The cover of Zep's Thank You is truly wonderful, and has much of a Cornell-flavour to it as it does a Zeppelin-flavour. A brilliant choice to put on the LP. Simlarly, John Lennon's Imagine gets a 'Lo-Fi' treatment to cap off the album. Although essentially 'just another 2-chord major-9th driven ballad', it's hard not to just take the song at face value and appreciate it for what it is - A pleasure to hear.

Finally the album is brought to a close with a brand new studio track: The Keeper, which with it's laid back acoustic feel doesn't seem out of place on Songbook whatsoever.

In conclusion - I really wasn't expecting to like this LP at all, and my first listen confirmed my fears that this was a collection with no highs or lows and not really very exiting. OK, in terms of diversity of style there's nothing major here - but, as I found on running through a second (and more) time - I don't think that's the point, so am happy to stand corrected. It's a great album - Does exactly what it says on the tin and does it very well indeed. Cornell's vocal talent in this case frequently causing hairs on the back of the neck to stand up - but in a good way ...

Songbook Full Track Listing:

  1. As Hope and Promise Fade
  2. Scar on the Sky
  3. Call Me a Dog (Temple of the Dog cover)
  4. Ground Zero
  5. Can't Change Me
  6. I Am the Highway (Audioslave cover)
  7. Thank You (Led Zeppelin cover)
  8. Cleaning My Gun
  9. Wide Awake (Audioslave cover)
  10. Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden cover)
  11. All Night Thing (Temple of the Dog cover)
  12. Doesn't Remind Me (Audioslave cover)
  13. Like a Stone (Audioslave cover)
  14. Black Hole Sun" (Soundgarden cover)
  15. Imagine" (John Lennon cover)
  16. The Keeper

Songbook is available from iTunes, Amazon and most other outlets. Plus there are also extended versions of the album at chriscornell.com/songbook that have 10 alternate versions of some of the tracks, recorded at different venues.