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For those who don't know and/or haven't heard of him, Chris Cornell is an American vocalist who is most well known for being in the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave.
I was a huge Soundgarden fan in the mid-90s when I was a grungy teenager, and to this day they probably remain my favourite band of all time. I have always adored Chris's singing and songwriting, so I was really pleased when I discovered that he was releasing this.
Songbook was released in November 2011 and it is an album featuring songs recorded by Chris during his acoustic tour of the US in Spring 2011. No bass, drums, backing vocalists or any other instruments - it is simply Chris and a guitar.
The album features 16 songs in total:
01. As Hope And Promise Fade
02. Scar On The Sky
03. Call Me A Dog
04. Ground Zero
05. Can't Change Me
06. I Am The Highway
07. Thank You (Led Zeppelin cover)
08. Cleaning My Gun
09. Wide Awake
10. Fell On Black Days
11. All Night Thing
12. Doesn't Remind Me
13. Like A Stone
14. Black Hole Sun
15. Imagine (John Lennon cover)
16. The Keeper
The album features songs from Chris's solo albums, along with tracks by Soundgarden, Audioslave, and the collaboration he did with members of Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog. Also featured are a Led Zeppelin and John Lennon cover. Therefore fans of any era of Chris's career will find songs here that they know or are familiar with.
I was never particularly a fan of Audioslave, but the songs by them on this album, such as Like A Stone and I Am the Highway are stripped down and transformed. In my opinion they sound a hell of a lot better done acoustically than they ever did on record, and it would even tempt me to go back and listen to their albums again to see if I enjoy them any better.
I am not fussed on the cover of Imagine. Chris performs it brilliantly (the man could sing the 'phone book and make it sound good), and it's not the performance that I don't like - it's simply the fact that Imagine is a pretty unoriginal song to cover and in my view has been done to death. Chris has done some other cover versions which deserved to be on this album much more; for example I'd thoroughly recommend checking out his cover of Ticket To Ride which can be easily found on YouTube.
The other cover on Songbook is the Led Zeppelin song Thank You. It's one of my favourites on the album - this rendition of it is so simple and beautiful, and I actually prefer it to the original!
I adore the versions of the Soundgarden songs Fell On Black Days and Black Hole Sun - it's just a huge shame that more Soundgarden tracks weren't included on this. I appreciate that Chris has a large body of work to draw from, but only 2 songs by the band that you are best known for seems very sparse indeed. It is bizarre to me that there are more Audioslave songs on here when they weren't even half the band that Soundgarden were (and are)... pffft!
When it comes to songs from Chris's solo career, I have the same gripe. He has done better solo tunes that the ones included here, for example Seasons from the Singles soundtrack. One brilliant inclusion was The Keeper, which is a song he wrote for the recent Gerard Butler film Machine Gun Preacher. It's a gorgeous song.
I love this album and I listen to it a lot. Like I said, I am a massive fan of Chris Cornell - I think the man's a genius and I'd buy anything that featured him. I just think that the track-listing is sadly lacking in so, so many brilliant songs that could have and should have been included. Then again, I suppose it's a measure of how good he is that so much fantastic stuff had to be left off. I was lucky enough to see one of Chris's UK gigs last month as part of his Songbook tour, and the setlist he played that night completely blew the tracklisting on this album away. I guess it all comes down to personal preference.
I'd recommend Songbook if you are a fan of great vocalists and acoustic music. You really don't need to know any of these songs to appreciate this album - the talent of Mr Cornell should be enough.
I suppose because of my moaning about the tracklisting, by rights I should only be giving this 4 stars. But I can't contemplate giving this anything less than 5.