Melding four into one in a live setting
'Songbook' is the fourth full length album from ex-Audioslave/current Soundgarden artist Chris Cornell. Known for his unique vocal style and being heavily involved in hard rock, alternative, pop, and even grunge, Cornell needs very little introduction at this point. 'Songbook' is more of a live compilation- a live 'best of' even- of Cornell playing a multitude of songs from his days in all past and present bands completely acoustically.
Few artists do this properly and manage to sound good when they do it, but Cornell displays an excellent ability to play guitar and sing at the same time (only Aaron Lewis of Staind seems to rival him on that front with his own acoustic shows). Cornell performs the more successful pieces of his career such as "Black Hole Sun" from Soundgarden, "Like a Stone" from Audioslave, "Call Me a Dog" from the relatively known days of "Temple of the Dog", and even a few new pieces of music that were unreleased, so those who have heard all his music from before and just need that edge to seek something new- even if it is one track- will find that here. "The Keeper" shows off a bit more of Cornell’s folks side, although after 13 former tracks of acoustic work, all the tracks on 'Songbook' sound folky and very stripped down to a clean, pure tone where all that matters is the guitar and voice. Cornell definitely provides both.
On the downside of being a multi-talented artist in this acoustic session, performing everything at the same level tends to take away the original individuality of the tracks. If one was hearing this for the first time, they might think that the music of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog all sounded exactly the same.
The heavy, grinding power of Soundgarden is completely gone, so the same energy fans might have been expecting to hear something from them live will be disappointing here on 'Songbook'. The same can be said for Audioslave, which was more of an alternative, anthem driven band that could put out decent hits that appealed to both the pop rock world and the alternative metal one. The closest thing Audioslave ever really did that can be compared to on 'Songbook' is "Doesn't Remind Me", which has been often joked by fans as 'the campfire song'. Having everything melded together to sound the same does show the core roots of the music but, as far as variety goes, listeners will get the most out of this album only if they adore Cornell for his voice or if they love acoustic renditions of artists and can bear to lose the 'heaviness' of the original versions. Still, whether or not one will be upset that the music is heavy or not, one cannot discount Cornell's ability to play music and sing. His voice is remarkable with its somewhat slightly crooning tone at times, but those who have followed his projects already know this.
The live atmosphere of the album could have benefited greatly from a little more crowd interaction but Cornell quips the usual thanks and brief introductions about certain songs at the beginning and end of each track. True, this isn't the kind of live album to get one pumped like Lamb of God's 'Wrath Tour', but listeners can instead settle back and just relax to this one without feeling rushed or overly challenged, which is definitely not a bad thing.