Chris Cornell - 'Songbook' (Universal) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Ben Hughes   
Monday, 21 November 2011 05:30

Chris-CornellWhen I first heard that Chris Cornell would be doing a solo acoustic tour in intimate venues earlier in the year the first thing I though was "wouldn't a live acoustic Chris Cornell album be a great thing" and lo and behold, here it is in my stereo as a type. Acoustically his material has always shined, since first hearing the beautiful 'Seasons' from the 'Singles' soundtrack I have always yearned for more acoustic material from the man. So to finally have in my hands a full acoustic live album from one of the greatest vocalists in rock music it's like Christmas has come early.


An album primarily released for the fans who witnessed the Songbook Tour, this stripped down, live acoustic album from the Soundgarden and ex-Audioslave vocalist is a testament to how good a man and his songs can be, taking the songs back to their original form just Chris and his acoustic and a bunch of great songs. It's something the fans have wanted, and he has delivered.

All parts of his career are covered here; Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and the solo material, plus a couple of covers for good measure. The songs were recorded during April this year on various dates across America and Canada.


'As Hope And Promises Fade' opens the album, a song I was unfamiliar with and it took me a bit of Google action to discover its origins, I can tell you. Turns out it was a hidden track on the 'Scream' album titled 'Two Drink Minimum', a basic blues song and very different from the Timbaland produced album. Here re-titled with the opening line of the song it's a melancholy opening that sets the tone for the album, showcasing the depth and power of Cornell's voice from the off, it's great stuff. Next up 'Scar On The Sky', the lone song from 'Carry On', works well acoustic, but it's track three I really have been looking forward to hearing; 'Call Me A Dog' is one of my favourite songs of all time, here acoustic and laid bare it fits the mood of the original song and still has the power to stir emotions and bring a tear to the eye...sublime indeed.


More highlights? There are many, of course the maybe obvious Soundgarden tracks are present and correct, 'Black Hole Sun' and 'Fell On Black Days' are excellent as they should be. Audioslave are represented with personally their strongest and most Cornell-like songs 'Like A Stone' and the fantastic 'I Am The Highway' which always has me singing along, it's another 'goosebumps' moment. The lesser known 'Wide Awake' and especially 'Doesn't Remind Me' benefit from the acoustic treatment and sounds far superior to the original.


The solo material stands up well against the classics, 'Can't Change Me' from the underrated 'Euphoria Morning', an album he still hasn't bettered, is good here; it's a good mix of old and new, something to please everyone.


He adds a couple of covers here, a fairly standard take on Zep's 'Thank You' works well, and, introduced as "a good Easter song", Lennon's 'Imagine' is one of those classic songs that should not really be fucked with, but if anyone can get away with it, it's going to be Chris Cornell, but does he pull it off.....? Well actually he does it justice, but it ain't the original.


Vocally there are no mistakes, the odd bum guitar note just adds to the live feel, and keeps it 'as it was' so to speak. His voice never falters on this album, jesus, when he hits those high notes you feel it from your head to your toes. The power and delivery are inspiring and puts many singers to shame.


Unlike the recent, and frankly disappointing, Soundgarden live album 'Songbook' doesn't suffer from skipping from show to show, the songs do fade in and out but it is not something you really notice. Although the mood is generally melancholy throughout it is far from dull, it has the same feel that the Temple Of The Dog album has and that can only be a good thing.


Tagged on the end seemingly only because it features in the new film 'Machine Gun Preacher' is the original Cornell composition 'The Keeper' which actually keeps faithfull to the mood of the album, reminding me funnily enough of the Eddie Vedder soundtrack album 'Into The Wild'; it's an upbeat, sweet acoustic countrified tune that rounds thing off nicely.


Any fan of Chris Cornell past or present should be happy to have this in their collection. It's a thumbs up from me.