I’ll try to keep this relatively short and sweet. Not because it looks like the sun is coming out and it’s my day off today, but because I named Soundgarden as an all time favourite of mine in my article in the ‘When I hit rewind’ section of this site, and there is a frankly amazing interview by Pete Makowski with front man Chris Cornell in the ‘Interviews’ section. Soundgarden are in danger of taking this site over and they’ve barely lifted a finger as a band since 1997!
That said, Soundgarden’s first live album and first commercial release since ‘97’s greatest hits ‘A-Sides’ deserves a mention. It’s a collaboration of live tracks taken from their 1996 tour of the U.S which turned out to be their last until recently reforming. According to the sleeve notes, the whole tour was recorded on analogue equipment – 3 sets of 24 track mobile trucks with 24 track machines running 20 seconds apart so as not to miss a note when a tape ran out. A pretty big effort, but well worth it.
The songs captured on here show the band at their best. The sound is massive and shows the many different faces of Soundgarden: the heavy, slow, grinding Sabbath-like side, the scuzzy, punky side, the psychedelic guitars, the apocalyptic drumming, and the much talked about voice of Cornell which sometimes defies what one persons vocal chords should be capable of.
These influences are affirmed by a cover of The Stooges ‘Search And Destroy’ and The Beatles ‘Helter Skelter’ which leads straight into Soundgarden’s own ‘Boot Camp’. Two great choices as it can be easy to just lump Soundgarden’s sound with Led Zeppelin which would be very short sighted as this CD, along with any of their albums show that there is so much more to them.
All the classics are on here and they offer something more than the studio recordings. ‘Black Hole Sun’ is done as a solo effort from Chris Cornell, and ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ is frantic, fast paced, immense and enough to wake the dead! The band thunder thorough ‘Nothing To Say’ and make these huge live shows seem like a walk in the park. ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’ would put most bands live efforts to shame, such is the tightness of the bass and drums, the quality of Kim Thayil’s guitar and those incredible vocals. ‘Fell on Black Days’ and ‘Rusty Cage’ are two more fantastic songs played fantastically well live, as are ‘Burden In My Hand’ and ‘Dusty’ from the bands last album ‘Down On the Upside’.
In short, this live album successfully spans the career of Soundgarden. It’s shows the musical ability of a band at their best in the same way The Who‘s ‘Live at Leeds‘ showed just what they were capable of live. It shows that the songs translate live just as well as the studio recordings. It makes me pray that they play in the UK so I can tick them off on my wish list of bands to see before I die.
Not very short and sweet in the end! But hey, you can’t just listen to an awesome album and say ‘Yeah it’s good, go and buy it.’