Chris Cornell

Carry On

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Chris Cornell's first solo album, Euphoria Morning, was released just after Cornell had shaken the shackles of Soundgarden and he was making a definitive break from their heavy heavy sound by indulging in bucolic singer/songwriter clich├ęs. It went nowhere commercially but led him toward Audioslave, where he spent three albums pushing and pulling against the core of Rage Against the Machine. If Euphoria Morning was breaking from the past, Carry On is about reconnecting to it, returning Cornell to music that feels more comfortable than Tom Morello's staccato riffs. Right from the beginning, he pushes out arena-filling riffs that feel more at home on a Soundgarden record -- not as heavy and certainly not as tortured, but something more mature and more recognizably of Cornell's lineage than much of Audioslave. It sets the stage for a record that's seems like a rare hard rock maturation, but soon Cornell returns to the singer/songwriter mannerisms that seemed appropriate on his first debut -- he was stretching his legs after Soundgarden, after all -- but now feel anemic, particularly because they're executed with quivering sensitivity and a near belligerent tunelessness. These are the songs that feel forced -- as affected as his coffeehouse cover of "Billie Jean" -- but when Cornell loosens up and gives the music backbone (and a backbeat), he not only comes alive as a performer but the writing is sharper and better, pointing a way toward an artistic middle age that's richer and more compelling than what's heard on the bulk of Carry On.

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