LP Lookback: Temple of the Dog – On Tour Now

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I staggered from my bed late this morning, as is my habit on weekends, after the Rock Chick yelled my name with the cursory “time to get up…” The Rock Chick runs a very military style weekend with plans and agendas… I have a more leisurely approach to my Saturdays. I can’t help it if I have a sleep disorder. At least waking to the Rock Chick’s shrill cry is better than waking to my father’s miserable singing voice, as he belted out “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the moooooorning…” How very Ethyl Merman of him…Who says I don’t come from a musical family?

My Saturday morning ritual is a simple one: breakfast with strong black coffee and some hard rock. This weekend’s selection, as it’s been all week is Rage Against the Machine. I just felt like a little angry metal today… I’m feeling subversive. Blame it on the election. And as has quickly become part of my Saturday morning ritual, I checked “the Twitter” to see what was going on. I saw that the Temple of the Dog reunion tour had begun last night in Philadelphia. They played quite an impressive set list. Not only their own tunes, but some solo Chris Cornell, Mother Love Bone tunes (obviously) and an impressive array of cover songs including Zeppelin (“Achilles Last Stand,” are you fucking kidding me, how awesome!), Bowie and Free (who I’ve just recently gotten into). They even did a Syd Barret cover. To end the show they did “War Pigs” by Sabbath. Jesus, I hope they put out a live record after this tour.

For those of you not familiar with Temple of the Dog, it was a one-off “supergroup” of sorts. Although it would have been hard to call them a “supergroup” in 1991 when they formed as not many people outside of the Pacific Northwest had heard of Soundgarden or Pearl Jam whose members formed Temple. From Soundgarden, Chris Cornell did vocals and Matt Cameron (who later joined Pearl Jam after Soundgarden called it quits) mans the drums. From Pearl Jam you had both guitarists, Mike McCready on lead and Stone Gossard on rhythm. Also from Pearl Jam on bass guitar was Jeff Ament. An impressive line up in it’s own right, but they were also joined on a couple of songs by the then unknown Eddie Vedder, most notably on “Hunger Strike” where his vocal propels the song into the stratosphere. It’s one of his most impassioned vocals.

Temple of the Dog was formed as a one-off tribute to singer Andrew Wood. In the late 80s/early 90’s Andrew was the lead singer and frontman for Mother Love Bone. MLB was a great band with some great songs, “Stardog Champion,” “Crown of Thorns” and “Stargazer” just to name a few… I strongly urge anybody who hasn’t heard Mother Love Bone to seek out their music. As I am forced to write too often in the world of rock and roll, Andrew Young was found in a coma from a heroin overdose and died shortly after that. It was truly a huge loss, the man was meant to be a rock star.

Two of the members of Mother Love Bone, namely the aforementioned Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard decided to form a new band after Wood’s untimely death. They recruited a hotshot lead guitarist Gossard had seen play, Mike McCready and various drummers. It wasn’t until Jack Irons, erstwhile drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers passed them a demo tape of a singer from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, that the band coalesced under the name Mookie Blaylock… they were later to change their name to Pearl Jam, and the rest is history. The thing to remember here is that, without Mother Love Bone, there would have been no Pearl Jam.

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had his own unique connection to Andrew Wood. The two had shared an apartment. In the Pearl Jam documentary, ‘Twenty’ Cornell talks about how he and Wood would challenge each other to each write a song every day to compare who had the better song that day. It sounds like the two were very close friends.

And so, to honor their friend and former bandmate, the members came together under the banner Temple of the Dog and did an album. This was about a year before PJ’s seismic “Ten” came out so these guys were relatively unknown at the time. I don’t think anybody was prepared for how kick ass this album was. Prior to this Cornell’s work in Soundgarden was more screaming metal than classic rock. The “Temple of the Dog” album sounded more like Mother Love Bone than anything Soundgarden had done which, when you think about it, is really the tribute to Andrew Wood here. The fact these guys could write and perform like he would really stands out.

The album “Temple of the Dog” had two great singles, that most people have probably heard: “Say Hello 2 Heaven” (a beautiful elegy to Wood) and “Hunger Strike” featuring the incredible Eddie Vedder vocal. It’s a shame Vedder isn’t joining these guys on this tour, but he’s busy drinking with Bill Murray in Chicago celebrating the Cubs historic win… and who doesn’t wish they were with him but I digress. The album is much more than those two singles, it’s an amazingly strong album – these guys had a great chemistry and it shows how close-knit the community was in the Seattle music scene. “Reach Down” is an epic 11 minute jam, turn that one up loud. “Pushin’ Forward Back” is a great rocker. On the quiet side is “Call Me A Dog” and “All Night Thing” both great songs. “Four Walled World” is another great tune with a fabulous vocal from Cornell. You can tell these guys poured their heart into this record, but no one more so than Cornell.

They’ve recently rereleased a deluxe edition of the LP with a few unreleased demo’s and outtakes. I didn’t see or hear anything that made me want to re-buy the record, but if you have never heard or purchased “Temple of the Dog” I highly recommend you pick it up post haste and turn it up loud. While you’re at the record store, pick up Mother Love Bone’s album as well. Most of their material has been repacked and rereleased so it’s not hard to find. These are both great 90s bands and should be heard by any true music fan. With the setlists I’m seeing, I am really hopeful to hear something live come out of this tour… let’s hope they’re dragging a tape machine around with them.

It appears that TOTD is only playing a few shows and mostly on the coasts but if you’re near a place where they’re playing, do what you have to, scalp if necessary but get to one of these shows. It’s time like these when great bands are only touring the coasts that I feel like I live in “concert flyover territory” and I regret living in theMidwest… oh well, someday maybe I’ll get up the gumption to move but then I’d miss going to Chiefs games. Life is such a give and take…

Cheers!

 

Playlist: The BourbonAndVinyl Election Day Playlist To Relieve Election Fatigue

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And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom  

– “I Am A Patriot” – Little Steven

I think I speak for everybody in America and beyond, no matter what your political persuasion, your political party, right or left, when I say, I’m tired of this Election. I am suffering and have been for quite a while now from Election Fatigue. Just once I’d like to watch television and during the commercial breaks see a wacky local car dealer who mistakenly thinks he should be in his own commercials. Or I’d like to see a commercial for Cialis with the couple sitting in adjoining bath tubs holding hands, which I’ve never really understood, if you’re on Cialis shouldn’t you be sitting in the same bathtub (the guns loaded, you need to pull the trigger)? Who would have thought I’d miss those commercials? All I see these days is point-counterpoint. I often see opposing politician’s commercials in the same break. Politician A accusing Politician B of being a traitorous bastard only to have the next commercial accuse Politician A of being the real traitorous bastard. None of this shit gives me a very positive vibe. I don’t know exactly when we became such a divided nation, but it appears to be getting worse.

Putting all the bile aside is becoming increasingly more difficult. I have stopped watching the news altogether, it’s too depressing. I am just pleased that in a mere five days, this great National Nightmare will be over. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely lucky to have been born and raised in a free, democratic country. The fact that every four years the populace is allowed to stand in line and go to the polls for a peaceful transfer of power is one of the greatest things on the planet. Not only is it a great thing, it’s a God damn inalienable right. But as much as I love Democracy, it took a whole lot of bourbon to get me through this one.

Well, if you’re like me, although I’m five days early, the only thing besides bourbon that’s going to get you through this negative, spiteful election is rock and roll. I’m not a political person per se. I vote, I always have, in every election from Reagan to Obama. I’m not tied to any party, I’m just looking for the best guy at the time. I like to think of myself as a hedonistic, moderate, centrist independent who enjoys fermented liquids and loud music. Although to the right I look like a communist and to the left, well I don’t know what I look like to them. I am genuinely concerned about the state and direction of my country.

In reaction to this Election season B&V put together a little play list with tunes that I feel should be taught in high school Political Science classes. The lessons may not sink in, but what a fun class. There’s not strident stuff here. In music I always lean a little more to the hippy, freedom, peace thing. I feel like peace and freedom is something both sides in this quad-annual tussle can agree on. And if you can’t agree on that, you probably aren’t a B&V reader in the first place. As usual, my play list is all over the place – loud/quiet, metal/acoustic… The Rock Chick is probably right, I shouldn’t do play lists… So if I’ve missed any of your favorite Political Science songs, please make suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking to expand these things.

  1. Alice Cooper, “Elected” – What better place to start than some manic hard 70’s rock and it sums up what the goal seems to have become.
  2. Little Steven, “I Am A Patriot” – My favorite song about politics. Jackson Browne does a great version as does Pearl Jam if you can find it on one of their live bootlegs.
  3. Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” – That’s what it’s all about.
  4. Warren Zevon, “Disorder In the House” – “Helicopters hover over rough terrain,” great guitar solo by Springsteen.
  5. CSNY, “Stand And Be Counted” – Great hippy voting anthem.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, “Civilize The Universe” – Ozzy’s plea for world peace & one of the Rock Chick’s favorites.
  7. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – From the great ‘Sonic Temple’ LP.
  8. Green Day, “Revolution Radio” – “I wanna revolution, I wanna hear it on the radio.”
  9. The Doors, “Five To One” – “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” I almost went with “Peace Frog,” which is funkier.
  10. Credence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – Also love the Dead Daisies cover of this one.
  11. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – We probably will be…
  12. John Mellencamp, “Hard Times For An Honest Man” – Amen.
  13. Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own” – Damn right we do.
  14. Fitz & The Tantrums, “Dear Mr. President” – One for the kids…
  15. Jackson Browne, “For America” – I always liked this track.
  16. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Get Up Stand Up” – I could have included half his catalog…”Them Belly Full But We Hungry” springs to mind… I settled on this one.
  17. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – One of the greatest songs of all time.
  18. Little Feat, “A Apolitical Blues” – “The telephone is ringing, if it’s Chairman Mao, tell him I can’t talk right now.” Van Halen with Hagar did a great cover of this too.
  19. Pete Townshend, “Give Blood” – “Give blood, but soon you’ll find it’s not enough.”
  20. The Beatles, “Revolution” – There’s also “Revolution #1” for you more acoustically minded folks.
  21. Neil Young, “The Campaigner” – “Even Richard Nixon has got soul…” Did he? An acoustic gem from Neil.
  22. John Lennon, “Give Peace A Chance” – My hippy side is showing through…
  23. The Vaughn Brothers, “Tick Tock” – Stevie Ray with his brother Jimmy and a plea for a better world before the clock runs out. God we miss Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  24. Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” – A little something for the paranoid.
  25. John Mellencamp, “Love And Happiness” – One of his best hard rock, political songs.
  26. Bob Dylan, “Political World” – Yes, I could have put all of Dylan’s first three albums on the list but I was trying to stay away from the acoustic guitar/harmonica stuff.
  27. John Lennon, “Imagine” – Well, you knew this was going to be on here.
  28. The Eagles, “On The Border” – “I’m just tryin’ to turn this water to wine…”
  29. The Clash, “Know Your Rights” – Something everyone should know.
  30. Randy Newman, “Political Science” – The funniest song ever written about geopolitics.
  31. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On” – What the Hell is going on?
  32. Jackson Browne, “Lives In the Balance” – I double dipped on this record, one of my 80s favorites by Jackson.
  33. Bob Seger, “Long Song Comin'” – Great song about a blowhard politician. I can’t listen to one more speech.
  34. Cream, “Politician” – “Get into my big black car,” sounds more like a threat than an invite…
  35. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Things Goin’ On” – “‘Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.” Great obscure track from their debut album.

If this track list isn’t to your liking, put on something that you do like. Season to taste, as they say. We all need a little music these days. If the Election doesn’t break the way you want it to – celebrate Veteran’s Day (aka Armistice Day) on Nov 11th like my pal Drummer Blake, by playing some loud rock and roll (Although in Blake’s case he’s actually playing the instruments not the radio, like me). At least Veteran’s Day is something we can all agree should be celebrated.

These are dark times… pour something strong and turn it up loud… Cheers!

Get Out The Vote: The BourbonAndVinyl Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Ballot

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It’s that nasty time again, Election season… time to vote for your Rock And Roll Hall of Fame nominees. At least their are no threats to jail the nominees who fail to get elected… When the RnR Hall of Fame first opened I thought, like Ray Davies, “what a drag” to see the music of rebellion institutionalized. But the ceremonies have led to some great performances and jam sessions. I can’t help but think of Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Prince performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for George Harrison’s induction. Prince owns that guitar solo for me now.

This year’s nominees are a diverse set of acts, from punk to grunge to soul to disco to hip hop. There are a lot of deserving acts but in the end, you can only vote for 5 on the HoF’s website. The fans are allowed to vote on the website once a day with a Facebook address or an email address and the fan’s ballot is then treated as 1 of the about six-hundred that get sent out to Rock journalists, historians and performers. To date, BourbonAndVinyl has not been formally asked to participate in the process which frankly, chaps my ass.

You may cast your vote daily here:

https://vote.rockhall.com

Here are the five acts your humble blogger at BourbonAndVinyl feel are the most deserving and who we’ll be voting for daily. It doesn’t make a huge difference but at least we have a small voice in this thing:

  1. Pearl Jam – the Kings of grunge. These guys have been kick ass their whole career. If you’ve seen them live, you know what I’m talking about. “Lightning Bolt,” their last album was proof that they’re still going strong. Eddie Vedder is one of the greatest voices of all time.
  2. Depeche Mode – Dave Gahan and the gang are so influential I’m not sure why they haven’t been voted in already. Their new LP drops in 2017, entitled “Spirit.” I could listen to Dave Gahan sing all day long.
  3. The Cars – They could be voted in on the strength of their debut album alone. Consider “Candy-O” and “Heartbeat City” and these guys deserve to be in the Hall.
  4. Jane’s Addiction – Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro… Another very influential 90’s band. Perry also created Lollapalooza which should give Jane’s extra consideration. Who doesn’t love “Jane Says”?
  5. J. Geils Band – this fifth choice was tough for me. I almost voted in Tupac but I love Peter Wolf. The band’s earlier, bluesy stuff is what I feel qualifies them. “Musta Got Lost” is one of my favorite songs of all time.

In the spirit of democracy, I shall list the remaining nominees this year, and the reasons I didn’t vote for them:

  1. Tupac – the man is a legend. He’ll likely get in first ballot. I always loved the tune “California Love.”
  2. Chic – I love Nile Rodgers as much as the next guy, and he should get into the Hall as a producer, but Chic wasn’t my cup of tea.
  3. Journey – these guys are actually leading the fan vote now which disturbs me deeply. I mean, I saw Journey twice in high school – that’s high school folks, who didn’t make mistakes in their youth. I grew out of it. I always liked the Gregg Rollie era better than the later stuff. Steve Perry turned into such a dick. I fear people are voting for Journey in the hopes Perry will show up and sing with the rest of the band, but knowing Steve, I doubt it. And really, who wants to see Jonathan Cain get into the Hall….
  4. Bad Brains – I know zero about them. There are limits to even B&V’s music knowledge.
  5. Janet Jackson – it’s the Rock And Roll Hall, not the Pop Hall of Fame.
  6. Chaka Khan – One hit wonder.
  7. ELO – Oh, spare me. These guys were so derivative of the Beatles Jeff Lynne ended up producing George Harrison. They had a few good songs but were a bit twee in my mind.
  8. Joan Baez – I’ve never been able to stand this woman’s screechy, warbling. I blame Bob Dylan for her influence.
  9. Joe Tex – I know nothing about this guy either. With a name like Joe Tex, he might be a blues guy so I might have to do some home work here.
  10. Kraftwerk – this is a scary German synth band that people who want to sound cool cite as an influence. Don’t believe them, no one listens to Kraftwerk.
  11. MC5- Solid, if short lived punk band in the same vein as the Stooges… I considered these guys in J Geils place as well…
  12. Steppenwolf – Overrated…
  13. The Zombies – Not a bad band, solidly blues based, but Hall of Fame worthy?
  14. Yes – The prog rock giants. There were so many configurations of this band I wonder if the stage is large enough to hold them all. Guitarist Steve Howe looks like the Crypt Keeper these days. I liked Yes, but outside of “The Yes Album,” “Fragile,” and maybe “90125” I’d be hard pressed to name another Yes album.

There you have it folks, the B&V take on this year’s all important Election. Who will you be voting for? Let me know in the comments section who you like if you disagree with my take.

As always, take care of yourself out there, the actual Election for US President gets darker every day, which is something I thought would be impossible. Even my cat woke up hissing from a nightmare today, which seems biblical in it’s portent. It’s a dark time… put on some groovy music and pour some of the dark stuff. For me today it’s Bob Dylan and Buffalo Trace… Hunker down, that’s my advice.

Cheers!

 

Artists Who Changed Their Music to Escape Fame

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*Photo shamelessly borrowed from the Internet, gettyimages, Paul Bergen

I just love this photograph of Pearl Jam from their early days. The only guy who looks happy is the drummer, in the middle, and they fired him. Likely on the HR form it read something like: Reason for Dismissal: Cheerfulness or Enjoying the Fame.

My corporate overlords are asking me to travel quite a bit more and I haven’t been able to write as often as I’d like, my apologies. It has given me a lot more time to think about music… and lately I’ve been thinking about fame. Ah, Fame, it’s such a cruel, fickle beast. Bands often form, write music, tour and work hard to achieve financial stability and yes, fame. But once it happens many bands/artists don’t know how to deal with it. There are certain levels of fame that nobody is ready for. Not everybody can be the Beatles, who not only embraced their fame, seemed energized by it. Well, McCartney anyway, Lennon seemed somewhat unnerved by it all.

Fame has all kinds of effects on an artist and not always good ones. Many artists, feeling the pressure to repeat earlier heights of record sales crumble under the pressure. Many artists turn to drugs, alcohol or just plain break up the band. Or sometimes the effects of fame are even worse…bad juju indeed. There are as many reactions to fame as there are artists, I suppose.

Lately, I find myself thinking about those artists/bands who decided to take control, take the bull by the horns as they say, and purposely change the trajectory of their artistic arc. The artists who, commercially speaking, tried to take a dive. The goal seemed to be to thin the herd of rabid fans, hanging on every word. These acts literally altered their art (in my opinion) to reduce their fame…

Bob Dylan: After a two year period that saw Dylan “go electric” and record three classic masterpieces: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisted,” and “Blonde On Blonde” Dylan retreated to upstate New York to Woodstock (pre-festival fame Woodstock). This creative burst is beautifully documented on the box set, “The Cutting Edge” reviewed earlier in B&V. Dylan just wanted to get away, rest and spend some time with his wife and new family. Then, he had a motorcycle accident. Or did he? I’m not usually a “second shooter on the grassy knoll” guy, but I wonder if Dylan faked the whole thing to get a break in his crazy schedule. The guy was being touted as the “voice” of his generation. He was the appointed leader of the Hippy movement… heavy responsibility for a guy who is really just a singer… or a poet, depending on your outlook. After secluding himself in upstate NY and hanging out in a basement for a year with the Band, recording some pretty amazing music, but not really sharing it, Dylan emerged with a quiet, acoustic based “John Wesley Harding.” While considered a classic by critics, it was quite a dramatic departure from his three prior albums. It’s like Dylan rewrote the book on a career in music. He went on to record a country album, “Nashville Skyline.” He really didn’t recover commercially until “Blood On the Tracks” by which time his rabid audience had diminished and mellowed out.

Neil Young: Neil Young’s trajectory was similar to Dylan’s, perhaps without the messianic overtones… the 70’s were a more cynical decade after all. Young released “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” and then “After the Gold Rush” and joined CSNY. He was poised to explode. I don’t think he realized how big he was going to get when he delivered the mellow, extremely popular “Harvest.” You couldn’t get away from “Heart of Gold.” Neil said, on the liner notes of the excellent greatest hits package “Decade,” that he found himself in the middle of the road after “Harvest” and decided to steer his career into the ditch…he said he’d meet more interesting people there. He dismantled his following by delivering the live LP, “Time Fades Away,” which oddly seemed to declare war on his fans. Young was exorcising demons, but his fans were left to exorcise Neil.

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen’s career has been a study in the art of controlling your fame. He released “Born To Run” and ended up on the cover of Time and Newsweek… after a 4 year absence due to legal issues with his management, he delivered the grim classic “Darkness On the Edge of Town.” Punk was prevalent and so he probably rode that wave, plus he was pissed about the court stuff and the four year absence. Finally, in 1979 he released “The River” which gave him his biggest seller to date… rather than capitalize on that success he retrenched with “Nebraska” an album I still struggle to listen to without being put on suicide watch. He finally reached his peak potential when he released “Born In the USA” but quickly retrenched to “Tunnel of Love.” Release something that makes you huge, follow up with a quiet personal album to make the crowds go away…it’s the best of both worlds.

Fleetwood Mac: Nobody saw the huge success of “Rumors” coming. Lindsey Buckingham, fueled by the punk movement took control of their next album and drove the band in experimental, weird directions. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie apparently didn’t get the memo and continued to record solid mid tempo rock songs causing a very disjointed approach.”Tusk” is a masterpiece in my mind but it was heralded as a huge disappointment upon it’s release. I see it for what it was – Buckingham responding to the pressure of repeating “Rumors” by taking the band in a less commercial, artsy direction. When the LP doesn’t sell as much as the last one, you just say the audience didn’t “understand your creative vision.” It’s a great strategy really. Although Mick Fleetwood did drive out to Lindsey’s house after the reviews were in to say, “you blew it, mate.”

Prince: “1999” was such a breakthrough record for Prince. He, along with Michael Jackson, were one of the first black artists to breakthrough to a broad white audience. He followed up with the movie/LP “Purple Rain.” Prince, a control freak, whose goal had always been world domination, and who actually accomplished it, responded with the quirky, artsy “Around the World In a Day,” an album I bought the day it was released and sold a week later. Yeah, I was one of the fans Prince exiled from his fan base with that record. Prince never really regained his commercial/artistic mojo. That’s the risk when you purposely try to kill off your fame… sometimes you’re successful.

Nirvana: Kurt Cobain, almost 30 years after Dylan, was also tagged with that “voice of his generation” tag. Based on Dylan’s response to that in the 60s and what happened to Kurt, you might want to avoid that tag. After “Nevermind” seemingly destroyed everything that came before it and revolutionized music in a way that punk only dreamed of, Cobain felt painted into a corner. He had wanted to only be as big as say, Sonic Youth, not bigger than the Beatles. In response to the world-wide worship, Cobain and Nirvana delivered the abrasive album “In Utero” an album that was such an obvious attempt to drive fans away and yet it was still wildly popular. “Heart Shaped Box” is still my favorite Nirvana tune. Sadly Kurt never reconciled his fame and for a myriad of reasons ended up sadly ending his own life… the most tragic tale I’m gonna tell.

Pearl Jam: I read an interview with Eddie Vedder once, and he said they were playing a bar that had a free hamburgers in the parking lot while they were set to play. He got on stage in front of an empty room (everyone was eating outside), closed his eyes and when he opened them, the entire bar was full of enthusiastic fans. He went on to say that was how Pearl Jam’s world wide fame happened, seemingly in the blink of an eye. “Ten” was such a huge album and it’s follow up “Vs” despite the “us vs you” implied by the title, was just as popular. Finally PJ put out “Vitalogy” which I consider a classic but like “In Utero” it was a clear attempt to “thin the herd.” You only have to take one look at the picture above and you can tell these guys were uncomfortable with the fame that had resulted from their music. Eddie took these guys down a path that saw them stay a solid live draw, but their music has never sold like it did early in their career and I think that’s how Eddie wants it… Vedder’s only proper solo album was a ukele album…clearly not a guy looking for wide commercial success or additional attention…

That’s it for now folks. Did I miss anybody on this list? Please add your thoughts in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Have a great weekend! Cheers!

BourbonAndVinyl Turns 1 Year Old: Thank You!

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Yesterday, July 11th, BourbonAndVinyl.net turned 1 year old… Happy Birthday to us! I just wanted to pause and thank all of you who have stopped their busy days to take some time to read B&V. When I started this music blog with my Mission Statement a year ago, I never thought anybody would actually read this. It was just something to do in between drinking and putting albums on the stereo. My goal was to entertain. I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished that or not, but over 2,000 people have visited us over the last year. Well, it’s either 2,000 different people or my mother has just logged on 2,000 times… My Sainted Mother is very supportive… Anyway, thank you to all of you who have read B&V. I appreciate all the support and comments. I hope you’ll continue checking us out from time to time. If you like something we post, please tell a friend.

Thank you!!!

Review: Chris Cornell’s “Higher Truth” – Finally He Comes Through

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I always used to say Soundgarden was the Black Sabbath of the “grunge” era bands. At the time I was thinking more about the Dio-era Sabbath than Ozzy but I’m splitting hairs here. The thing that reminded me so much of Sabbath was Kim Thayil’s giant riffs. Every song had these dense slabs of guitar that Tony Iommi would certainly envy. The other key ingredient was the amazing vocals of Chris Cornell. I absolutely loved his voice. When Soundgarden broke up, naturally I thought Chris Cornell had a bright future.

The first solo thing I ever heard Cornell do was a song called “Sunshower” off the “Great Expectations” soundtrack in 1998. It was an acoustic based song but it just worked. His vocals were front and center, where they belong. As soon as I bought that song, it went into high rotation for the wife. Although I think her attraction to the song may be based more on the fact she considers Mr. Cornell very easy on the eyes. Chicks…

It was with great anticipation that I purchased Chris’s first solo album, “Euphoria Morning”. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was the fact that he was trying to totally break with his Soundgarden past but I was majorly disappointed by “Euphoria Morning”. “Can’t Change Me” was about the only tune I could connect with. Shortly after that Cornell joined Audioslave, a band I really enjoyed but it was an odd mix. Rage Against the Machine’s remaining members teamed with Cornell. How that combo actually survived to make 3 strong albums is a mystery to me.

After Audioslave, Cornell made a couple of forgettable, if not bad albums. His collaboration with Timbaland, “Scream” was particularly head scratching. It was quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever heard Cornell do. After that he got back together with Soundgarden for a very strong reunion album. I started to think that Cornell could only function within the construct of a band, that as a solo artist he was a washout, which was a real disappointment for a guy of his talent level.

A few years ago I read that Cornell had been approached by someone who said they loved Johnny Cash’s version of “Rusty Cage” (I mean, who doesn’t love that song or Johnny Cash for that matter?). The person told Cornell that he couldn’t really understand the lyrics of song until they heard the Cash version. Inspired, Cornell went out for a solo acoustic tour which resulted in the overlooked, great live album, “Songbook”. His voice in an acoustic setting, like “Sunshower” really worked. He sang songs from Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and his spotty solo career mixed in with a few choice covers.

When I heard the first single from his new album, “Higher Truth” I mentioned that it felt like the song was informed by that solo, acoustic tour. For once, and it’s rare, I was right according to what Cornell told Rolling Stone magazine. This is an acoustic based record which makes it sound like its a “mellow” record. Listening to it however, it doesn’t feel mellow. The way Chris Cornell sings, even ballads have an intensity. I will say, that after all the misfires on his solo career, Cornell has finally come through with a great album. Again, like “Sunshower” it focuses on putting his voice out front and surrounding it with acoustic guitar and some percussive elements. It’s not a folky album – although I was somewhat reminded of Bob Dylan’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan” which was a rock album without the instruments.

Luckily for “Higher Truth” Cornell didn’t rehire Timbaland but instead turned to a veteran producer of the “grunge wars”, Brendan O’Brien. Brendan has worked with a diverse number of acts including Pearl Jam, AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen. I really like this guy’s body of work and I must say it was a shrewd choice by Cornell. O’Brien knows how to bring out the best in any performer which just underscores how important the choice of producer is for any artist.

This is quite simply, the best batch of songs I’ve heard from Chris Cornell since “Superunknown”. Any of these songs could have been easily been translated into a Soundgarden song with the addition of some heavy electric guitar. But I like them better in this stripped down setting. For me it’s all about Cornell’s voice. “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” is just a classic. “Before We Disappear” is the best song on the album. The soulfulness of Cornell’s vocal on that one will haunt you. If I could have written a love song like “Josephine” for the wife, I would have done a lot better with her early on. I love the water imagery in the song “Circling”, I find myself returning to that song often. The album does get a little mellow toward the end but listened to as a whole it has a quiet intensity because of Chris’ singing. I highly recommend this album. These are simply put – beautiful songs, sung beautifully.

I remember hearing that Neil Young was the “Godfather of Grunge”. That may be true but the thing to remember about Neil Young is that there are 2 sides to Neil. The electric guitar drenched in distorted feedback of Crazy Horse and the mellow acoustic strummer of “Harvest”. Cornell has shown he can do the electric Neil in Soundgarden. With “Higher Truth” he proves he can pull off the acoustic side as well.

Pour something strong, turn this one up to “11” and enjoy! Cheers!