There aren’t many things that Chris Cornell hasn’t accomplished in his career, and Songbook acts as witness. Songbook was recorded while Cornell was on tour following the 2010 Soundgarden reunion. This album contains acoustic versions of some of his most famous tracks and features selections from every step in Cornell’s career. Everything is fair game for this disc: From Soundgarden and Audioslave to Temple Of The Dog to solo and cover work.
Leading off is “As Hope And Promise Fade,” previously known as “Two Drink Minimum,” a hidden track off of Scream. It tells the story of a man that decides to abandon the bottle because of all the trouble it causes him, similar to how Cornell himself recently gave up drinking. Many of the songs, in fact, tell beautiful stories, like how “Ground Zero” is advice on how to move on from the infamous 9/11 attacks, as well as “Can’t Change Me,” which is pretty self-explanatory.
The hits are still strong as ever on this album. “I Am The Highway,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Like A Stone” are all still great, but the real gems are Cornell’s previously unreleased works. “Cleaning My Gun” has been played on tour for many years, but was never released, and “The Keeper,” the album’s final track, is an unreleased studio version. Both are fantastic. Cornell also pays homage to Led Zeppelin and John Lennon with covers of “Thank You” and “Imagine.”
As a whole, Songbook is a perfect balance of the well-known and unknown beauties from the lifework of this great singer/songwriter. Thank you, Chris Cornell, this album makes me want to go home, peruse all my old Soundgarden albums and pretend that I was lucky enough to understand what “good music” was back in the ‘90s.
In A Word: Retrospective