Chris Cornell | No One Sings Like You Anymore | (UMe stream)
4 out of 5 stars
What does the music of Janis Joplin, Prince, John Lennon, ELO, Guns ‘N Roses and Ghostland Observatory have in common? Seemingly nothing…other than all have songs covered by Chris Cornell on this, his last studio sessions before his tragic 2017 suicide.
Regardless of whether you enjoyed the riff heavy acts Cornell famously fronted like Soundgarden and Audioslave, there is no doubt his authoritative, throaty voice was intense and instantly recognizable. Like his Seattle area peers Eddie Vedder and Mark Lanegan, Cornell’s deep, emotional bellow commanded attention whether he was singing over thrashing power chords, dark electronics or subtle acoustic guitar.
He also loved other great singers too, as is evidenced by the choices on this short but sweet ten track set. The album is truly a solo endeavor;the only musicians are Cornell and producer/mixer Brendan O’Brien navigating and helping with overdubs. Cornell apparently recorded in this stripped down fashion to play these tunes live, without a band.
The program, which was also sequenced by Cornell, mixes relative obscurities like Terry Reid’s “To Be Treated Rite,” performed over predominantly acoustic guitar with some electronic strings added for flavor. And Ghostland Observatory’s techno “Sad Sad City” where he infuses a more rocking attack, emphasizing its sing-along chorus. Joplin’s “Get It While You Can” should have been a knockout but is hamstrung by a cheesy synth line, thumping programmed drums and a cluttered arrangement that never catches fire. Cornell doesn’t do much with Harry Nilsson’s pounding rocker “Jump Into the Fire” that improves it over the crackling original. But it allows him room to display his thunderous voice, treated with a delayed echo, and he is clearly having fun.
He tears into Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” with a barely restrained sorrow that matches, and sometimes even betters, Sinead O’Connor’s hit version as he accompanies himself on acoustic guitar enhanced by taut synthesized strings. And Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” goes folk-rock with Cornell’s emotional vocals on a song with lyrics about slowing down, getting away “from the merry-go-round” of the music industry that clearly resonated with his own life. ELO’s “Showdown” is a terrific tune but the chilly electronic accompaniment doesn’t do it justice and the strings so essential to the original are MIA.
Cornell grabs two soul nuggets performed by singer Lorraine Ellison, “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love” and the closing “Stay With Me Baby,” thoroughly owning them and displaying how passionate his voice could be. The latter is the collection’s most riveting moment as Cornell opens the stops to howl the chorus in a hair raising, electrifying performance that will convince even doubters that the singer was as committed to this material as he was to his lauded work with his other bands.
Why it took three years for this to finally make it to an official release is unclear. Since it is, at least initially, available as streaming only, his label seems to be hedging their bets. But these versions show a seldom seen side of Chris Cornell’s talents. They deserve to be heard by both existing fans and especially those unfamiliar with his stunning vocal talents.