Chris Cornell

consider this a mini post, a thought really, or a teaser.

i don’t know why, but this week i was inspired to add to my collection of music involving chris cornell. i’ve been a fan since high school – i’m sure somewhere there still exists in my house a cassette tape of the album superunknown.

(i was really really into my walkman in high school. if you give me a moment, and another post to do so, i could probably recount to you every single cassette i owned. there was just a small window of time between when i got my walkman and started buying my own cassettes and when CDs became popular).

i followed chris from soundgarden and temple of the dog to audioslave. i only recently took the time to get into his solo album, euphoria morning, which i think happened because i expected it to be more along the lines of “sunshower” from the great expectations soundtrack, and it wasn’t.

i kind of like the idea of being able to track an artist’s true musical identity through his or her body of work, especially when that person has been involved in more than one project.

one could do a similar study on maynard james keenan (tool/a perfect circle), tom morello (and anyone else from rage against the machine/audioslave), anyone in crosby, stills, nash and young, eric clapton (almost too many to list), scott weiland (stone temple pilots/velvet revolver), damon albarn (blur/gorillaz/the good, the bad and the queen), jimmy page (also, almost too many to name). and maybe some day i will. but for now, i’m not even doing that kind of study on chris cornell, just talking about it.

what does strike me about chris’ voice, is that it doesn’t change, really. if you zoom in on just his vocals in a song like “sweet euphoria” compared to, for example, “hypnotize” there isn’t that much of a difference in the quality of his singing. his singular voice is captivating whether it’s layered over tom morello’s crazy guitar work, or over cornell’s own single acoustic.

listening to a number of groups an artist has been in, particularly in chronological order, is a real treat for the ears, almost a game, especially with a prolific catalog to sample. not only do you hear the artist grow as the years play on, but you get to hear their influence in the various bands that they perform in. right now my chris cornell playlist is 7 hours long (and i’m sure it’s far from complete).

another fun thing i like to do from time to time is start my ani difranco playlist from “anticipate” (the first track from like i said: songs 1990 – 1991) and go all the way to “red letter year reprise” (the last track from red letter year). this is a great activity for long winter days when you are snowed in to your house, when life stops completely, because my ani playlist is just over 20 hours long.

the difference between ani and chris, though, is that i’m sure the projects chris has been involved in have always been more collaborative than almost anything ani’s ever done. when you listen to ani, you always know that that’s her, through and through. a chris cornell playlist is like playing hide and seek. sometimes he’s right there, not really hiding at all, sometimes he’s wearing camo and hiding half in shadows. you can always find him, and the game of doing so is a joy.

What I Listen to when I don’t have to Listen to Anything

a really good practice habit that i got into years ago (even before the carpel tunnel and the tendonitis) was listening to the music that i was practicing. not while i was doing it, duh, but afterwards. i can remember listening to recordings of my competition pieces (not by me, but professional recordings) and my college audition pieces, for hours on end. on the bus to and from school, sometimes even while i was working (stocking shelves at the supermarket oh so long ago), and when i would sleep at night. it was really helpful, because i could listen to it and think about it without the distraction of physically having to do it.

then i got carpel tunnel and i just couldn’t practice as much as i wanted to. listening as an additional means of practicing became a very valuable tool.

so a lot of the music i listen to, i listen to for “work.” by the time this year is out i think i’m going to be sick of these 27 club songs (even though the doors have a permanent fixture on my “list of favorite bands, ever.”) simply because for maybe a week or two at a time, i am only listening to the same 10 – 15 songs. that’s a lot of time to be listening to the same songs.

so when i don’t have to listen to something, what do i listen to and why is it important? well, i happen to think it’s important because the stuff i listen to, when i don’t have to listen to it, still really influences my playing. some music more than others, of course, but they’re all still worth mentioning.

so here it is, in “as i think of them” order.

ani difranco. i’ve never actually sat down and done a tally, but i would estimate that i have somewhere around 85 – 95% of her entire discography. right now, a playlist consisting of only ani on my iTunes is about 20 hours long.
the rolling stones. i like the early to middle stuff that they did. the stuff they’ve churned out in the past ten years or so is still pretty good, but i like the gritty, bluesy, rocksy stuff they did when they were in their twenties.
led zeppelin. see rolling stones.
frank sinatra. this just brings back nice feelings about my childhood. i listened to a lot of frankie when i was a kid.
status green. if ever i need waking up, which is actually quite often, firebomb usually does it for me.
tori amos. only because she reminds me that keyboards can be sexy, cool, mysterious and intricate while still remaining on the borderline of the mainstream. remember when tracks from boys for pele was getting play on Z100? no? i do. it was craziness. that album, i’m pretty sure, kind of changed my life.
gogol bordello. this is the kind of punk rock i was born to listen to. it’s infectious, it’s gypsy, it’s freaking awesome. eugene is a master lyricist, and english isn’t even his first language!
voloshky. their vocal harmonies can halt a conversation in my household.
the beatles. i used to kind of not like them. i was going through a “rebelling against my mother” phase and my mother was a teeny bopper in the 60s who was crazy about the beatles. so for awhile, on principle, i refused to be crazy about them. got to college, sat through theory III with dr bob where he used pretty much only the beatles for listening examples, and i started to really grow to like them. probably when i’m over the 27 club thing, i’ll put together a beatles playlist.
the bad touch. see status green.
little dipper. i’ve been to more little dipper shows than i can count and i still can’t tell you what it is i like about these guys. they are just good. i am a fan of a number of their songs, and of course, the biggest fan of the one random song that they rarely play at a show because it’s a really slow one. does that give me more stret cred? that i like an obscure song by a local band?
rick barry. but don’t tell him. his ego is big enough.
weezer’s blue album. hands down this might be the best album, start to finish, ever written.
indie female musicians, mostly from new jersey. no, that’s pretty much the truth. i went to my tigerlily pink playlist to see if i could find a few that i really really like but i couldn’t even make a decision. so here’s the entire playlist, in ABC order: alix olson, amanda duncan, april smith, chelsea genzano, colleen coadic, cyndee lee rule, the dresden dolls, feathermerchants, gina catalano, the gutterbunnies, joanna burns, joy simone, judy aron, melissa anthony, rachel sage, sarah donner, seeking through silence, stephanie white and the new jersey philth harmonic, tegan and sara.

so there it is. what i listen to when i don’t have to listen to anything. sometimes, too, i just listen to silence. after a long day of teaching at the elementary school, with screaming kids and singing kids and crazy kids (i love em all), when i get in my car sometimes i don’t even bother turning the radio on.