Each rock god is allowed a misstep. For Chris Cornell, 2009's Scream served as his ill-conceived blunder, a lapse in gumption that many deemed a career killer. While the oxhide-throated warbler has yet to disavow the Timbaland-produced R&B "joint" or show any remorse in public, you get the sense that he has seen the error in his ways. He has since reformed Soundgarden, and in late 2011, he released this set of live performances. You should know that I'm a fan of Chris Cornell, the solo artist. 1998's Euphoria Morning is one of my favorite albums of all time, although 2007's Carry On was incongruent at best. Songbook includes tracks from both records, but it also touches on Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.
To be clear, Songbook amounts to nothing more than Chris and an acoustic guitar. That's all it needs. I have to chortle at the parental advisory sticker. There are only swear words on two cuts. During stage banter, at that! Actually, that's something that hinders the whole shebang. Chris sounds uncomfortable in between numbers, so he emits f-bombs to diffuse his awkward delivery. It makes it difficult to play the CD at family gatherings. But hey, fuck your family! It goes without chirping that Songbook is exceedingly relaxing. I can definitely fall asleep to it, but then again, I can fall asleep to Autopsy.
Okay, the highlights. Oddly, a leftover from the Scream sessions winds up being a candidate for Best Rock/Pop Vocal That Makes Me Want To Cry/Drink (this is Chris Cornell's first nomination). The tune, "As Hope and Promise Fade," opens Songbook with plaintive chords and heart-rending melodies. "Call Me a Dog" is fucking amazing. If you don't recognize the title (you pitiful bastard), it's a Temple of the Dog ballad that exploits the entirety of Mr. Cornell's range. The guy is 48 years old, and he can still murder those high notes. His stirring rendition of Audioslave's "I Am the Highway" might be my favorite song. I dig the little ad-libs here and there.
"Scar on the Sky" and "Wide Awake" are superior to their studio counterparts. "Cleaning My Gun," a brand new ditty with country tinctures, gets an honorable mention. I do tune out toward the end of Songbook. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing "Like a Stone" and "Black Hole Son." The cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" is just pointless. Sorry, but I despise it, unless we're talking about A Perfect Circle's deviceful retooling (no pun intended, motherfucker). On the whole, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Songbook, especially as a stocking stuffer. Chris Cornell's voice is in rare form, and the selections are well-selected. For the most part. This is a canorous companion piece to King Animal.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 10:24 PM