At his final Manchester show in April 2016, Chris Cornell played ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ Back’ – a re-working of Bob Dylan’s original, which was written in a time of political upheaval, it seemed a very appropriate choice for our current times. Cornell’s skilful re-writing of the lyrics to reflect the authoritarian and populist changes that he saw – in contrast to the liberation Dylan wrote about – seems all the more appropriate in retrospect, after the Brexit vote, Trump’s election and recent crackdowns and violence across the world. Dylan’s song is also the soundtrack to the striking opening credits of Zack Snyder’s 2009 film ‘Watchmen’, which charts the glory days and fall of a band of heroes – which now so poignantly reminds me of the often-tragic ends of so many of the great talents to come out of the Seattle scene in the 1990s.A colleague just asked me what I was listening to – I described Chris Cornell as “big in the 90s; went on to be a Golden Globe winner, two-time Grammy winner and 15-time nominee. Arguably one of the greatest voices in music – certainly in rock/metal.” I’m not sure that does him justice. Little over a year since his untimely and upsetting death, Cornell’s widow Vicky, working with a number of Cornell’s musical collaborators, has sanctioned the release of a career-spanning retrospective. In common with modern flagship releases, this best-of comes in a number of packages: a 17-track CD / double LP featuring one previously unreleased song (When Bad Does Good, which is available to listen at ), a 64 track 4-CD box set and even a super-duper CD/ DVD/ vinyl/ poster/ slipmat/ book/ facemask/ limited edition tiny cloth/ lithograph/ shower gel/ biscuits extravaganza (I made some of that up – but not as much as you might think). Of the 64 tracks on the 4-CD set, there are eleven unreleased songs as well as a couple of very early songs and more obscure / live tracks which might not be familiar to less die-hard fans. I’m excited to hear the new material, but also hoping that the eleven extra tracks are going to be in there on merit, rather than a b-side barrel-scraping exercise to give the album another selling point…Unfortunately, I only have access to disc one of the 64 track box set, with some early Soundgarden (if you don’t know it, think Nirvana’s Bleach meets Led Zeppelin); the excellent solo ‘Seasons’; two Temple of the Dog Songs (the two you would expect); the two singles each from Soundgarden’s ‘Superunknown’ and ‘Down on the Upside’. It also features a song I haven’t heard before: ‘Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun)’ – a Jimi Hendrix cover by Cornell and members of Pearl Jam, which sounds exactly like you would expect it to. I think it’s the solo stuff that is really going to sell this album – and that’s where the majority of the ‘unreleased’ material is drawn from – so it’s a shame I can’t actually tell you more about it. A couple of the unreleased live cover versions on the compilation were real highlights at the 2016 Manchester show [ ] – covers of the Beatles ‘Day in the Life’ and U2/Metallica’s ‘One’ (Metallica’s vocals over U2’s music). I am glad they make it on. The new song ‘When Bad Does Good’ builds slowly from Cornell vocals over a doleful organ to a punchy full-band arrangement. It’s got a catchy hook, and the songwriting is much more subtle and refined than his early material – it shows how much more accomplished Cornell was in his later years in traditional songwriting, as was also showcased in 2006’s ‘You Know my Name’ and 2013’s ‘Misery Chain’. ‘When Bad Does Good’ is not really setting my world alight but it is a hell of a lot better than what’s on the radio in the other room at work. Musically, this compilation is great to see. It’s nice to have so much previously unreleased material, and it’s a timely reminder of what we so tragically lost, given the high quality of material from three decades (the 80s stuff is meh). In terms of the musical curation, though, it seems a bit of a shame to me that everything has just been chucked on in chronological order, rather than making an effort to group songs thematically or emotionally – although in fairness, there is such a range of sounds that it would be a huge challenge. There are also songs that I miss, particularly from the Soundgarden days (‘Ty Cobb’, ‘4th of July’, ‘Limo Wreck’ and ‘Fell on Black Days’, for example), and I would especially have liked to hear the Cornell rendition of ‘Times They Are a-Changin’ (Back)’. That said, though, about half of the tracks from the Bridgewater Hall concert [ ] appear on the compilation, so this is certainly representative of the songs Cornell himself was fond of. While £270 for the Super Deluxe is for money-spaffers and dedicated collectors only, if you’ve never heard of Chris Cornell, if you stopped listening to music in about 1999 for some unknown reason and you’re wondering what happened to that lanky grunge guy or if you are the quintessential millennial music pirate deciding it’s time for the poacher to become gamekeeper and finally get hold of legitimate copies of all your favourite tracks, then any of the standard versions (£9.95-£44.95) are surely among the best compilations available this year.

An Artist’s Legacy: Released 16th November 2018

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Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.