It was 1 year ago today that I, and the rest of Canada found out about Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis. We have all had a year to let it sink in. The band did their last Cross Canada goodbye tour. Gord released a solo record and raised the awareness level of the plight of Native Canadians. Perhaps even though Gord is still near and dear to us, time has caused us to put the awful news we got into the back of our minds. So hopefully this Top 10 may bring Gord back to the forefront where he belongs.
All of Canada loves you Gord. You Are Ahead By A Century.
I woke this morning to the texts and emails. Chris Cornell had died the night before. What a huge kick in the choda. The guy may go down as one of the best rock vocalists of all time. Certainly Top 100. Many would say Top 10 material. He was the voice of the 90’s generation as much as Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley or Scott Weiland. Unfortunately, now he joins that illustrious group of amazing singers in death. There were R.I.P posts flooding in to my inbox, so I thought I might review an album to honour him in my own way, so here we go.
Andrew Wood was the lead singer of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. He lived with Chris Cornell early on, and when Andrew died Chris Cornell wrote 2 songs in his honour, Say Hello To Heaven and Reach Down. Those songs were presented to Ament and Gossard to make into singles. Matt Cameron, Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder were asked to join, and the work together became this album, and what a fitting tribute it is ( I can only hope some musicians can do the same for Chris as well). If anything good came out of the death of Andrew, it is this album. This album was recorded in only 15 days, and was produced by the band themselves. I find that nothing short of amazing.
Say Hello To Heaven – What a wonderful song to begin an album. Chris’s voice is in peak form here. He is both quiet and biting at the same time. Easily top 10 Chris vocal performance. The pain and anguish is evident in his voice, and the guitar work is just sublime. Soak it up with a sponge. Please Mother Mercy indeed.
Reach Down – The first impression I get from this song is the guitar work. I am quite sure that the Temple boys were listening to AC/DC’s Let’s Get It Up before recording. MY MY MY. That is totally fine in my book. That is one of my favourite Acca Dacca tracks so I say go for it. The guitar work goes from 3 chord Angus into crunchy and cool wah pedal awesomeness. Arguably the best work Stone Gossard and Mike McCready have ever done. Chris has some angry frustration to get out, the drums pound away and the bass thumps. The a capella vocal harmonizing near the end is really cool. Oh, and did I mention how amazing the guitar work is. A really awesome song.
Hunger Strike – There’s not much more I can say about this song that hasn’t been said. In my opinion it is Eddie Vedder’s best song by a long shot. Sorry Pearl Jam fans, but I have never really been a big fan of his. However, his inclusion on a song with Chris Cornell rockets his status way up there for me. I can understand every word he sings too. The song moves along nicely with Eddie in charge, and then the song seems to liven up with Chris’s trademark screams. The tone of the song hardens as well. This single was one of the songs that introduced me to the whole Seattle thing. It didn’t get a ton of attention in early 1991, but was re-released in 1992(as was this album) after Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and the whole Seattle scene became huge.
Pushin Forward Back – The guitar work again borrows a bit from another great band. It has a definite The Cult edge to it. It has that mix of post-punk, harder rock and even goth that early The Cult seemed to thrive on. This song could easily have been on my favourite The Cult album, Electric with Chris Cornell as guest vocalist. In other words, it’s pretty awesome.
Call Me a Dog – Softer guitar and vocals begin this song off. Chris’s voice is tender and exposed for all the world to see. As the song progresses the guitar shrieks and Chris starts to scream. Call me a sleeping dog with a bite.
Times of Trouble – This song almost has a slight country rocking blues flair. The softer flavour really accentuate Chris’s voice here. Other than the vocals, this song kind of reminds me of a Izzy Stradlin solo song, and a big plus for me is the awesome harmonica work of Chris Cornell. Up until I read the credits here today, I did not know Cornell even played harmonica. Wow. Now I’m even more impressed.
Wooden Jesus – The percussion and the amazing guitar work are the stars for me. If they are the stars, then Chris’s screams are the sun and moon. Lighting the sky for us to see. Also, the inclusion of Canada in the lyrics is the icing on the cake.
Your Saviour – Joe Bonamassa must have loved this song almost as much as me. I can only assume he borrowed the main riffs of the song on his song Bridge To Better Days. I love both songs so I am ok with it though. The guitar and drum work are ace, and the echoey vocals near the end are really cool.
Four Walled World – The guitar wails and the bass jumps from the speakers and hits you down low in your gut. The slide guitar work and wah here is real cool. A really great guitar performance.
All Night Thing – An army corps drum beat, a mellow bass, and some amazing organ work accentuate Chris’s voice. A fitting album closer. Slow and steady wins the race.
A special note for the production work (only his 2nd time producing), the piano and organ work of Rick Parashar (RIP). He went on to produce many great albums, but this may arguably be his best.
I now own this album on cassette, cd, and vinyl. There is also a deluxe 25th anniversary 2cd version with bonus tracks or even a super deluxe with live footage on dvd and blu ray I may also consider. It takes a special album to make me want to buy it 3, 4 and maybe even 5 times. This is a special album though. My vinyl version is mastered wonderfully, and it sounds amazing. The packaging and photos are beautiful and the 4th side etching may be the coolest one I have ever seen. The band members stand in front of a peaceful lake with trees, birds and mountains in the background. They stare out as if trying to get a glimpse of their long lost friend. Today, we can picture one of those bandmates missing, off to join Andrew. This weekend I’ll go to the lake and see if I can catch a glimpse of them. So long Chris. Thanks for the music and your ability to make me smile.