Exploring New Music 2018: Chris Cornell

This is now my fourth instalment of my 2018 resolution to listen to different types of music and for this month, I’m taking inspiration from Alfie again.  In a recent Instagram chat from Hong Kong, Alfie was listening to Chris Cornell, former lead singer with Soundgarden and Audioslave and I thought this would make an excellent choice for April.

Cornell sadly passed away in 2017 but was one of the leading lights of the grunge movement that came out of Seattle in the late eighties / early nineties and the early music of Soundgarden certainly reflects that, as well as the heavy metal and rock roots that are present throughout Cornell’s music.  Before I began listening to Soundgarden for this piece, I have to say that I wasn’t altogether aware of much of the band’s music…or rather, I was aware of the general sound (like Alfie, this music was a big part of my later teenage years) but not of Soundgarden in particular.  I definitely couldn’t have named any Seattle based bands other than Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and my only knowledge of Cornell was You Know My Name, the theme for 007’s Casino Royale.

I began by listening to 1988’s Ultramega OK and the sound instantly transported me back to my student clubbing days – guitar riffs, raw, powerful vocals and the driving rhythm that makes you dance.  Cornell’s vocals remind me of Robert Plant at times but he really comes into his own on the blues tinged Smokestack Lightning:

Moving onto 1994’s Superunknown, the music and lyrics become much darker and touched by feelings about depression and are quite bleak.  The album allows Cornell’s vocals to shine through much more (he has regularly been voted best rock vocalist by peers and fans alike) and as a whole, hangs together than previous albums.  Black Hole Sun and Fell on Black Days are great tracks, along with Day I Tried to Live.

Before coming back to Soundgarden, Cornell formed Audioslave with members of Rage Against the Machine and their self titled album first album was released in 2002.  When listening, I felt that this album was much more cohesive as a sound, with my favourite tracks being Like A Stone, I Am The Highway and Be Yourself.  Although I can appreciate Cornell’s music and voice through his collaborations with others, it’s his solo work that really shows his talent.  In particular, I liked Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart and The Promise:

I can hear Alfie singing many of these songs, as he definitely has the voice for rock (looking forward to finding out about Boston Pops) but it would be even lovelier to hear his take on these two solo songs.

Cornell’s solo album Higher Truth and others are available here:

If you would like to recommend any music to aid my 2018 resolution of listening to more music, fill in the form!

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