It still seems barely real that we lost Soundgarden/Audioslave mastermind Chris Cornell in May 2017. The music community and fans have needed a bit of time to grieve, and now we have a phenomenal-looking concert at the Forun to help us all remember the brilliance that was Cornell. Foo Fighters, Metallica and Ryan Adams will all perform, as will members of Cornell's bands Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, while Jimmy Kimmel hosts.
It promises to be a very emotional event; and to preview it, here's a list of Cornell's 10 best tunes.
1. Soundgarden, “Big Dumb Sex”
Louder Than Love was the second Soundgarden album following 1988’s Ultramega OK, though the band’s first for A&M Records. Other songs from Louder Than Love, such as “Hands All Over” and “Full on Kevin’s Mom,” just fell short for this list, but “Big Dumb Sex” is a shoo-in. A typically witty and cynical blast of sing-along hilarity, the song remained a fan fave throughout the band’s career. It was semi-famously covered by Guns N’ Roses on The Spaghetti Incident.
2. Soundgarden, “Rusty Cage”
The third album, Badmotorfinger, was and is a masterpiece. We restricted ourselves to just three picks from that album but it could have filled the list. From the Mark Dancey (of Detroit band Big Chief) cover artwork to the close of “New Damage,” the record is a killer. “Rusty Cage” kicks the whole thing off, the brain-drilling intro leading into a monolithic riff and Cornell’s echoed vocals. It’s the perfect album opener but also a magnificent stand-alone track.
3. Soundgarden, “Outshined”
So much awesomeness here. “Rusty Cage” leads directly into “Outshined,” and more chugging guitar from the great Kim Thayil before a burst of subtle sunshine in the bridge and the climatic vocal chorus. This was also the second single from Badmotorfinger – and the United States, and indeed the world, at least within the heavy-music communities, was now fully aware of who Soundgarden were.
4. Soundgarden, “Jesus Christ Pose”
Some will say that by opting for the three singles from Badmotorfinger, we’ve copped out and gone for the obvious choices. We say, in this case, there’s a good reason that these three songs were picked to be the singles. “Jesus Christ Pose” was the first single off the record, and it remains our favorite Soundgarden song. From that vivid and controversial video to the incendiary vocals, this was a far-from-safe choice for a mainstream introduction to the band, but it worked. Cornell’s voice crossed boundaries and blurred genre lines. People called it grunge, as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains exploded at around the same time, but it was really just great rock & roll. A savior was born.
5. Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun”
Some fans felt that Soundgarden’s fourth album, Superunknown, was a bit too commercially aware, and it did come out a tad more polished than previous efforts, but the quality songs are still there. “Spoonman” was an excellent lead-off single but it was “Black Hole Sun,” with the mildly disturbing face-warp family, that blew up on MTV. Subversive and biting, Soundgarden were sparring with the establishment from the inside.
6. Soundgarden, “The Day I Tried to Live”
Starting with what sounds like a whale song courtesy of Kim Thayil, “The Day I Tried to Live” is an emotional roller coaster and, post–May 17, 2017, a tough listen. It’s a beautifully crafted glimpse into Cornell’s psyche and an open and honest letter to his fans.
7. Alice Cooper, “Stolen Prayer”
Alice Cooper and Chris Cornell aren’t necessarily two names you would automatically put together but they co-wrote this gem for the 1994 Cooper album The Last Temptation, and it proved to be one of the record’s highlights. Cornell exchanges vocal blows with Cooper in the chorus and, by the key-changing final chorus, he’s in full-on wail mode. “Stolen Prayer” is one of the most criminally overlooked moments in Cornell’s career.
8. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”
Cornell wrote this incredibly powerful song for the Seattle rock supergroup that also included members of Pearl Jam. The band re-formed for some dates in 2016 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their only album, so fans were able to hear this tune blasted live again. On record, it’s the vocal interplay with Eddie Vedder that raises hairs.
9. Chris Cornell, “You Know My Name”
There were plenty of people who didn’t like Cornell’s attempt at a James Bond theme (for Casino Royale) when it came out in 2008, but it’s one of his most underrated tunes. In typical and vital Bond tradition, the song is orchestral and epic, but none of the bluster dampens Cornell’s gorgeously emotional and rich vocals. The chorus is one giant hook, and in the context of the movie, it works perfectly. Even Bond aficionados are revisiting the song and giving it a retrospective thumbs-up.
10. Audioslave, “Cochise”
Eyebrows were raised when three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine (the same three who are now in Prophets of Rage) joined forces with Cornell for the Audioslave project. It got weirder on tour, when Cornell would give “Killing in the Name” a shot. But their debut album, in particular, featured some great hard-rock songs, none better than the opening “Cochise.” The intro harks back to Led Zeppelin's “Kashmir,” and that’s no bad thing. Ultimately, Cornell and Tom Morello did something artistically interesting together that didn’t embarrass either one.
This list was originally published in Denver Westword.