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For those unfamiliar with their rock stars, Chris Cornell is famous for being the lead singer of excellent bands 'Soundgarden' and 'Audioslave'. He's been about for a while now, a big part of 'Grunge' in the early 90s with Soundgarden. 'Euphoria Morning', released in 1999, was his first solo album and, in my opinion, a cracking solo debut.
The album emerged on to the scene with praise from the critics but little commercial success which I cannot, for the life of me, understand. I utterly adore this album. Every time I hear it I almost feel like I'm listening to it for the first time, again. I cannot get enough of it and I feel like I get something different from it each time. Firstly, I am in love with Chris Cornell's voice. He has an extraordinary vocal talent. There is a reason he was voted 4th place in a list of Heavy Metal's All-Time Top 100 Vocalists (in American magazine 'Hit Parader'). He has an astonishing vocal range (although someone told me this range diminished as of late), killer vibrato and the ability to sing both harsh and soft. I really can't get enough of his voice. However, not only is he a really powerful singer but a powerful songwriter too and I really believe this album shows this of.
I have read that, rather interestingly, this album was heavily influenced by Jeff Buckley, who Cornell was a friend to in the later years of his life (he tragically drowned in 1997). You can certainly hear this influence. Euphoria Morning seems like quite a departure from the heavy sound of Soundgarden and Audioslave. In places, it seems like he's taking elements of the delicate and beautiful style of Buckley and combined them with his own. And I'm not complaining - it had stunning results...
I could attempt to single out the 'highlights' of this album but for me every song is a highlight. I love every song, albeit some more than others. It has very quickly become one of my favourite albums...
1) Can't Change Me
Now I say that I adore every song on the album but the opening track was definitely a 'grower' for me. It has an interesting sound. It sort of seems like a bridge between Soundgarden and Cornell's solo sound. It took me a good number of listens for me to get into it but I've grown to really enjoy it, even if it does get less plays than other songs on the album. It appears to be Cornell's description of being with this 'perfect' girl and that either she is trying to change him or that he feels he needs to change for her for her to like him. I may be wrong but who knows what was going through Cornell's mind when he wrote it and I can hardly say my poetic and lyrical analysis is spot on. All I know is that from the outset, the lyrics of this album really strike me as rather personal and/or heartfelt and I really appreciate this in an album. I mean, how can an album be truly great if it fails to touch a chord with the listener?
2) Flutter Girl
This is the song was the first song to 'woaw' me on this album. There's something so utterly infectious about it. Like a number of the tracks, Cornell's voice is quite soaring and has a fantastical sound, even strangely uplifting. This probably shouldn't be the case considering that it basically a song about a guy telling a girl that she'd be better of with out him because he'll do nothing but harm her ('Tonight my tears might stain your wings/ so flutter home/'cause you're better off alone than with me...') And if Cornell sung this to me I would consider it rather cruel and torturous - I would find it hard to keep away from him with a song as alluring as this...
3) Preaching the End of the World
This is a very sad slow acoustic track which has loneliness stamped all over it. Goodness knows where Cornell's head was at when he wrote it. I can relate to this song a lot. It reminds me of that feeling of just striving for someone who truly understands you and connects with you. Someone who will see you through to the end of the world...
4) Follow My Way
(The gem of an album which already sparkles)
I don't even have the words to express how much I love this song. I enjoy just sitting back, closing my eyes and letting the music and words wash over me. It's very soothing melodically. Again, it's a very personal song, where Chris seems to be singing about his fragility as a human being. Even after the hundredth time of listening to this song, the emotion and power of it overcomes me. Personally, I feel like it transports me somewhere else entirely, just one step away from being shunted into the astral plane. Like 'Flutter Girl', there is something otherworldly about this song. It's pure escapism - pure euphoria itself.
10/10 (and then some!!!)
5) When I'm Down
I love the bluesy-ness of this number and I have this interesting image of Cornell next to a piano with a bottle of gin on the side, singing his woes. And sing he does - the vocals on this are very soulful. I love it!
This song is probably my least favourite on the album. It is definitely one of the rockier tracks on the album. It's a still a good solid song but it fails to excite me like the other tracks do.
7) Wave Goodbye
I find this song to be a quite harsh, almost bitter account of the loss of a loved one, expressing the grief, the frustration and other difficulties of dealing with such a situation. The bitterness made me belief that it was about the break up of a relationship and it certainly could be interpreted as this. However, this song was written as a tribute to Jeff Buckley himself and undoubtedly expresses Cornell's own grief at losing this close friend. It is a song I belief should resonate with anyone who has lost someone they were close to.
This song returns us to a kind of otherworldly-ness and the title 'Moonchild' adds to that. It has a sort of psychedelic feel to it. At first I thought it was a tad bit pretentious and indulgent but I love it now. Like 'Flutter Girl' and 'Follow My Way' this song feels brilliantly escapist.
9) Sweet Euphoria
There's something really pleasurable about this song. It's really quite simple - just Cornell and a guitar. It's a song that manages to sound both happy and sombre, a euphoria tinged with a darkness - like he's resigned to suffer the bad with the good. Again, I'm not entirely sure what the song is about but I really enjoy how soft he is on this track and then towards the end belts out 'save my love' in his trademark singing style. Brilliant.
10) Disappearing One
I really like the sound of the guitar in this one. A very melodic, soothing, if depressing track.
11) Pillow of Your Bones
I adore this song. It has some pretty dark lyrics which I don't really understand (drug addiction maybe?) but it has a really strong melody. I particularly enjoy the bridge before the chorus where is sings: 'Colorful and falling from your mouth/ Like a painted fever in recoil/ like a lie without the pain.' There is something utterly hypnotic about how this sounds, almost like he's under hypnotic influence himself.
12) Steel Rain
Again, I don't entirely understand the lyrics in this song. It quite possibly is about the nature of society - corporations, politics and things like that. It is a rather melancholy track and I guess I have to be in the right mood to appreciate it. However, it does seem nice to end the album on a down beat albeit powerful song like this.
If there is one thing I can say about this album is that it lives up to it's title. In one word, euphoric. It is a very different album to Audioslave and Soundgarden - with those two bands you could have a good ol' headbang but this album is so different - so much more chilled and relaxed. Lyrically it is beautiful. The album is immersed in Cornell's vulnerability and honesty which really appeals to me. Musically, it is genius - his voice is on top form, the guitar is brilliant and the melody really draws me in and captures my imagination.
Now don't get me wrong, I could go on and on about how wonderful this album but I would say that it may not be everyone's cup of tea - a few of the songs don't hook you in right away and it can take some time to appreciate them. However, I cannot get enough of it. It seems a shame that it seems to be hidden away like it has, like rock's best kept secret. Euphoria Morning is a stunning album, utterly sublime musically, vocally and lyrically. I urge you to give it a listen.
Overall: For sheer enjoyment and the number of plays it has racked up on my itunes, it cannot get any less than 10/10!
You may like this if you like: Audioslave, Soundgarden, Jeff Buckley.
Also listen to: The Japanese bonus track 'Sunshower' (on youtube) - Why do the Japanese always get the interesting extras??
Avoid: The French version of 'Can't Change Me' - embarrassingly clichéd and unnecessary.
*~Thank you for reading my review :-) x~*
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Can't Change Me - Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider, Alain Johannes
2 Flutter Girl - Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider, Alain Johannes
3 Preaching The End Of The World - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
4 Follow My Way - Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider, Alain Johannes
5 When I'm Down - Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider, Alain Johannes
6 Mission - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
7 Wave Goodbye - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
8 Moonchild - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
9 Sweet Euphoria - Chris Cornell
10 Disappearing One - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
11 Pillow Of Your Bones - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
12 Steel Rain - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneider
13 Can't Change Me - Alain Johannes, Chris Cornell, Natasha Shneide