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November 26, 2013 at 5:00 AM
Soundgarden, ‘Screaming Life/Fopp’ (Sub Pop)
In 1990, Soundgarden’s first two EPs were combined in one release; this reissue adds “Sub Pop Rock City,” from the 1988 “Sub Pop 200” compilation, for good measure (all the tracks have been remastered as well).
Surprisingly for this multi-million selling band, these records had been out of print for some time. The “Screaming Life” tracks were first released in 1987, and provide an intriguing foretaste of what was to come, especially on “Nothing To Say,” with Chris Cornell’s commanding voice ringing out atop the slow heavy grind of a music that had yet to be defined as “grunge.”
Cornell’s falsetto made Robert Plant comparisons inevitable, but Soundgarden was developing a distinct style of their own as well, in addition to having a penchant for off-the-wall covers. The Ohio Player’s “Fopp” wasn’t an obvious choice for a hard rock band, but Soundgarden easily nails the funky groove (and producer Steve Fisk gets to have some fun in a “heavy dub mix” of the song). They also give a tip of the hat to Sub Pop label mates Green River by covering that band’s rollicking slice of braggadocio, “Swallow My Pride.”
And Soundgarden’s sense of humor is fully on display in “Sub Pop Rock City,” a satiric poke at the label that mixes in sound bites from co-founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman.
October 21, 2013 at 4:12 PM
After walking on stage to a standing ovation Sunday night at Benaroya Hall, Chris Cornell humorously recalled that nobody seemed to like him when he was a boy.
“I just seemed to annoy everyone,” he said with a chuckle as the audience burst into a roar.
The sold-out solo concert was a boisterous homecoming for the lead singer of Seattle rock band Soundgarden, which reunited several years ago after a long hiatus (and Cornell’s stints as a solo artist and member of the group Audioslave).
But even without the backing of his powerful band, Cornell was a dynamo, powering through the nearly 30 songs featured on his retrospective, semi-acoustic “Songbook” tour. Some were dark, gritty and urgent, others melancholy and reflective. But each carried an emotional punch.
He opened with “Silence the Voices,” a post-9/11 song about terrorism, violence, war and the internal voices that prevent normal people from committing terrible acts (a vinyl LP and turntable provided the instrumental accompaniment).
The 2½-hour concert included such gems as “You Know My Name” (which Cornell wrote for the James Bond movie “Casino Royale”), “Misery Chain” from the soundtrack to the upcoming film “12 Years As a Slave,” and a smoldering version of the Soundgarden classic “Black Hole Sun.”
Cornell was joined by several guests, among them Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd, who accompanied him on “Halfway There” (from Soundgarden’s current album, “King Animal”) and “Fell on Black Days.”
Opening artist Bhi Bhiman, a Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter, played acoustic guitar with Cornell on “Hunger Strike,” one of several songs in the set by Temple of the Dog, the 1991 tribute band dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone.
Thanking fans for their support over the years, Cornell dedicated the title song from “Down on the Upside” to his Soundgarden bandmates (the album was the group’s last recording before its 1997 breakup).
Opener Bhiman met the band last year on the British TV show “Later with Jools Holland” and was subsequently hired to accompany Cornell on tour.
Dubbed “the Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie” by his record label, the talented Bhiman performed such songs as “Guttersnipe” and Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” accompanied by concertgoers who whistled the latter song’s distinctive melody.
August 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM
HBS, ‘In Deep Owl’ (INgrooves/Fontana)
“HBS” is Hunter Benedict Shepherd — better known as Ben Shepherd, Soundgarden’s bassist. He’s been involved in a few side projects (including local acts Hater and Wellwater Conspiracy), but “In Deep Owl” marks the first time he’s ventured out as a solo act.
Shepherd began the album in 2009, before Soundgarden reformed. And once Soundgarden went back to work, there was a chance that Shepherd’s album could have remained in the well-populated purgatory of unreleased records. But its long gestation has led to what was initially supposed to be a purely acoustic work evolving into something harder and darker.
Though not a concept album per se, “In Deep Owl” does have a decidedly narrative arc. Shepherd starts out crooning in a moody baritone to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar.
The intensity steadily rises, building to the hypnotic drone of “Veritas” and the fuzzy workout of “Baron Robber,” and then settles back down into a calm and quiet acoustic realm. Drummers Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam) and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam) add the power; Shepherd adds the heart and soul.
Gillian G. Gaar, Special to The Seattle Times
Other new releases
Big Sean, “Hall of Fame” (Def Jam)
Robbie Fulks, “Gone Away Backward” (Bloodshot)
Avenged Sevenfold, “Hail to the King” (Warner Bros.)
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