?Artist: Chris Cornell
Release Date: Out Now
There's no denying Chris Cornell has one of the gnarliest voices in rock. His upper-register howl is powerful and primal, helping to plant Soundgarden at the top of the '90s hard rock heap. There's not a lot Cornell can't sing, and there aren't a lot of singers who can sing Cornell (when was the last time you heard a kickass Soundgarden cover?), but his voice is at its best when he's wailing over the top of grooving, loud, metal, or subsequently, when he's nuanced and restrained.Like a lot of live albums, Songbook is uneven, largely because of Cornell's spotty output as an artist. As you'd expect from a solo acoustic record, there's not a lot of Soundgarden material. Only "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell on Black Days" make the cut, the latter of which is one of the highlights. The Audioslave material is the weakest here, as those songs lack the power of the Soundgarden stuff, while also not possessing the melodic movement of his solo work or the pair of Temple of the Dog tracks that appear.
The album's brightest spot is John Lennon's "Imagine," which lets Cornell showoff both his wail and his warble, as he segues seamlessly into the falsetto parts at the end of each verse. The arrangement even heads into Jeff Buckley-esque territory as it hits the final verse, though it's hard to imagine Buckley doing the American Idol-style vocal run Cornell throws in at its conclusion.
Fans of Cornell's solo material ought to dig this most, and there's one track, "Cleaning My Gun," that hasn't appeared anywhere else previously. Songbook may not be an ideal career retrospective, but it does shine a light on at least part of what makes Cornell one of the best frontmen of his generation.