Album Review: Chris Cornell, "Songbook"

This is an acoustic live album, but of course you don't get a voice like Chris Cornell's by just singing acoustic. As demonstrated by Cleaning My Gun, a perennial live favorite now making its recorded debut, this is a voice that has been honed, bruised, burnished, and beautifully scarred on the sharp, angular surfaces of Rock and the pummeling, sonic flow of Roll in one of the great rock careers of the last quarter century.

Even if the electricity is off, each song is haunted by the ghosts of Soundgarden's anthemic grunge and Audioslave's meaty rock, and I don’t just mean in the choice of songs, which range freely over Cornell's whole career. No, he could be singing "Hickory Dickory Dock" and you’d still know it was a monster rock voice.

One of the appeals of this album is that it allows you to place the monster under the microscope and listen to it in an atmosphere of intimacy. Under these conditions songs like Call Me A Dog and Black Hole Sun, which always had a soft side, emerge as new-minted masterpieces as well as tunes that could earn a hobo busker a hearty meal at the diner.

27th January, 2012
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