Sunday, July 1, 2007

I picked up Chris Cornell's new solo album, Carry On, the other day. In was inevitable, I'm a loyal Cornell fan. I'm too young to have caught Soundgarden when they were at their height, so Audioslave's first album was the first Cornell I had heard that I could identify. (I had heard "Black Hole Sun" a couple of times on the radio, but didn't know who it was.) I was driving down the Goo Giant back in the 'Shire headed toward Columbia when "Show Me How to Live" came on the radio. Oh, it was sweet! Made sweeter by the rest of the crap that was on the radio at the time. So, I can't share the disdain that a lot of people have for Audioslave. I probably wouldn't have stumbled into Soundgarden otherwise. So Audioslave first, then A-Sides because I didn't know where to start with Soundgarden, then I picked up Badmotorfinger and Superunknown and Down on the Upside all together. Now there are some good tracks on Badmotorfinger and Down on the Upside, specifically I'm thinking of "Pretty Noose" and "Burden in My Hand" which are simply sublime. But it's Superunknown that really stands out as a superb album.

Then Audioslave's second album came out. Ouch. The singles from it, not bad, but the album as a whole just doesn't work for me. Revelations was considerably better, several catchy tracks, good driving music, still nothing near Superunknown.

Anyway, I got kinda excited when I heard Cornell was splitting from the Rage portion of Audioslave. The guitar riffs going on forever and forever were starting to grate on my nerves. (Sorry, Rage fans.) But I really didn't know what to expect from another solo album. I like Euphoria Morning, it's pleasing music, but it doesn't have the religio-philosophical qualities that I really admire from the best of Cornell's music. And, honestly, Out of Exile was just painful, so it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I tore the shrink wrap off of Carry On in the Best Buy parking lot.

I'm digging the more acoustic sound to the album. It's got a lovely folky feeling to it, which is highlighted by the graphic design of the album and liner notes. The vocals are a mixed bag. His voice has aged considerably and rapidly -- he just can't hit the notes that he once could. My sister pointed out that when he keeps to what his range is now, his voice works fine. It's not the same voice from the nineties, but he's still got a good voice. And the raw edge works very nicely in several of the tracks. The cover of "Billie Jean" is an example of a case of the aged, roughened voice fitting perfectly with the song. "She'll Never Be Your Man" has a nice melding of vocals and instrumentals. On other tracks, the attempts to hit high notes just don't work.

Lyrically, this album doesn't have the elements first hooked me with Audioslave and that have Superunknown enshrined forever in my rock pantheon. That said, I've stopped listening to the radio because I can't deal with the sheer amount of whining from groups like Blue October. These lyrics remain at least a head, and in some cases head and shoulders, above the rest. Maturity is only to be expected since Cornell has considerably more life experience than the average rock god, but it's still refreshing (even to an immature little thing like me). Overall, I like "She'll Never Be Your Man." It's catchy. There's a part of me that really wants to see Amanda Palmer or some other female singer do a cover of the song in answer to the premise. It other tracks, Cornell contains to conjure up interesting imagery -- a concreteness that is sorely lacking from the current radio fare.

Overall, this album isn't a let down. I've stopped expecting anything like Superunknown and there are many things to like about this album. Mature lyrics. A great folk rock sound to the majority of the tracks -- a few don't strike the right balance between rock and folk. I can dig it.

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