I reckon Chis Cornell quite simply has the best voice in rock today. For those of you who are unfortunate enough to not know who Chris Cornell is, he was the lead linger and front man for Soundgarden (with their breakthrough hit “Black Hole Sun”) back in the 90s. And more recently he had the same role for Audioslave (“Like A Stone” and many others).
Most people don’t realize that Chris Cornell was the mastermind and primary song writer of these bands. His vocal talent is second to none, and in my opinion so is his songwriting.
He has had several solo albums now that most people would never have heard. Most of the songs range from deeply melodic ballads, right through to the typical Chris Cornell signature sound of rock. On one of his albums he went outside the box, having Timbaland produce it for him so a lot of the rock guitar sounds are replaced by electronic sounds. It wasn’t my favorite album, but the amazing Cornell Voice still shone through.
I was lucky enough to go see Chris Cornell play live on stage, just him and a bunch of acoustic guitars on his world wide Songbook Tour. When his mouth opened and sung the first note of the first word in the first song on that night, I almost felt like crying in happiness. That voice that I had grown to love so much over the years was not only as good as it sounds on his albums, it was heaps better. Hearing him stripped back, busting out his amazing vocal range he is so well known for with nothing more than an acoustic guitar around his neck was amazing. I kinda made it sound like he was naked there did’t I? Just confirming, he definitely was not naked.
Ok, so that was the world wide Songbook Tour. His gigs were recorded live and all the best tracks were chosen and put on to an album and released as “Songbook”. The songs varied from show to show, so the ones on the album aren’t exactly the ones I saw him play live although quite a few are the same. The reason they varied is because he would basically ask the audience what they wanted to hear. People would yell out the title of their favorite Soundgarden song, or a song of Cornell’s solo album Scream, and he would play it for us. It was a really cool concept to get the crowd involved.
I can’t pick a bad song on the album. But I can pick out a couple of favorites.
“I Am The Highway”. This was already my favorite Audioslave song, so hearing it acoustically was an absolute dream for me. If you wanna see a fully grown man cry, turn the lights off, put a bourbon in my hand and crank this song up loud. It’s hard to put into word show good this song is. It is smooth and melodic, which allows Cornell’s voice to sit in some kind of angelic like way. The tone of Chris Cornell’s voice is just awesome in the chorus. It’s all about tone. He had a little “whoopsie” on guitar in the second verse, but that is common for Cornell and completely excusable because his voice is so god damn good.
“Cleaning My Gun”. I got to see him play this song live. It was the first time I had ever heard it, because he had never released it. I liked it immediately and was glad to see it appear on the Songbook album. It’s one of those songs that takes you on a roller coaster journey, melodically and lyrically. Great song.
I’m going to finish by sharing with you a song that I believe should have made it on to the “Songbook” album by Chris Cornell, but didn’t. It’s a song that is a future hall-of-famer. It’s called “When I’m Down”. I saw him play this live. It was mind blowing. It’s such an innocent little song, but towards the end he turns on the after-burners in his vocal pipes like only Chris Cornell can do.