4 weeks ago
In the wake of Chris Cornell’s shocking suicide, distraught fans can find solace in the eerie timing of a new batch of the singer’s rare, or never-before-issued, tracks.
It’s a last chance, of sorts, to hear his voice.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the “Singles” soundtrack, which skimmed the cream of the Seattle rock scene, Legacy Records has issued an extended version of the album, graced with those lost Cornell tracks.
If the album’s coincidental timing seems odd—coming so soon after the May 18 suicide of the Soundgarden frontman—that’s right in line with the accidental resonance of the original release of the soundtrack for the film that opened on Sept. 18, 1992.
“Singles”’ director, Cameron Crowe, completed his valentine to Seattle rock more than a year before the city became rock’s new ground zero. At the time, Warner Brothers Films was hemming and hawing over how to market Crowe’s loose and loving movie about a rash of musical screw-ups. In the months since the film wrapped, however, the bands featured on its soundtrack suddenly became music’s new gods.
Sitting in the vaults were exclusive tracks from three of grunge’s most admired acts: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Cornell’s own Soundgarden. The result? A double-platinum, Top Ten smash.
The silver anniversary edition of the soundtrack corrals two discs: One recycles the original 13 track “Singles,” album which, it seems, has held up remarkably well. The other set offers an 18-track suffix, featuring six under-exposed, or unreleased, Cornell songs, plus one covert Soundgarden concert recording.
Four of Cornell’s solo songs comprise the music housed on a fictional home tape, credited to the lead character in the film, Cliff Poncier (played by Matt Dillon). These tracks include Cornell’s original demo for a song that later became a monster for Soundgarden—“Spoonman.” In this early version, Cornell performs as a convincing one-man-band, featuring prominent percussion from – what else? – spoons. The album also includes Cornell’s solo take on a more obscure song that Soundgarden later cut, “Missing,” where he nails its killer chorus and nagging riff on his own.
Tracks like these re-emphasize that, even in the Soundgarden’s early days, Cornell had the chops and ambition to launch his own career. He provides a literal sneak-preview in “Flutter Girl,” a complex, psychedelically-infused ballad Cornell fleshed out on his debut solo album “Euphoria Morning,” in 1999.
More obscure is “Score Piece No. 4,” an instrumental piece lovely and evocative enough to hint that the star could have had a third career writing music for films. The most arresting of the previously shunted songs is “Ferry Boat No. 3,” which shows the depth of both Cornell’s talent and his demons. It starts as an instrumental, anchored on an achingly lovely guitar interlude, then develops into a heart-tugging ballad. “Help me before I fall to ruin,” he sings. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
His sadness begs for a catharsis, which the album provides with a live version of a song found on the original set, “Birth Ritual.” This new take preserves Soundgarden in all their live glory, with a vocal by Cornell that captures his most rousing role – as one of the top rock peacocks of all time.
That track couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Watch video below of Chris Cornell playing “Seasons” from Singles during a 2012 concert.