Chris Cornell‘s career has spanned the spectrum of rock and roll, from his start in Soundgarden to the beloved Temple of the Dog, to his supergroup Audioslave and his solo work. Earlier this year, Cornell went on a quick solo tour playing an acoustic set in various intimate settings. To those unfortunate enough to miss the shows, they are now a part of his solo acoustic live album, Songbook.
Every musical project that Cornell has had a part in is featured in this album. Audioslave is toned down with the haunting “I Am the Highway”, Soundgarden’s distortion is intricately simple on “Black Hole Sun”. From his solo album Scream, there’s “As Hope and Promise Fade”, a heartbreaking, personal track where Cornell is “never more than two drinks away from crying.” There’s a few covers like “Imagine” and the tear-inducing “Thank You”. There’s even “The Keeper”, a catchy number that was written for Marc Foster’s film Machine Gun Preacher.
The fitting song selection isn’t the only thing that stands out here: The album sounds fantastic. The sparseness of the recording comes shining through with Cornell’s emotive voice sounding crystal clear, the mood and clarity resonating with each strum of the strings. Normally live albums get bogged down with loud audience chatter or too much talky-talk from the performers. Not in Songbook. It sounds sharp and the audience only appears in atmospheric hoots and hollers that don’t compete with the music. As for Cornell, while he does talk, he sets up the scene and lets it get on its way.
Songbook is more than a worthy addition to any Cornell fan’s collection; it’s a beautiful showcase of his career that any music lover should have. When his voice strains with emotion during “Cleaning My Gun” and Temple of the Dog’s “Call Me a Dog”, you feel everything he feels. And it’s wonderful.
Essential Tracks: “Cleaning My Gun”, “Call Me a Dog”