Nearly a year-and-a-half after Chris Cornell's death, a career-spanning retrospective collection captured the breadth of his varied career as a solo artist and vocalist of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog. That massive vinyl box set was pared down into a tight greatest hits simply titled Chris Cornell. Arranged in chronological order as a highlight reel of his iconic career, this self-titled compilation offers a bittersweet reminder of just how much Cornell accomplished in roughly 30 years on the scene, from a '90s Seattle grunge icon to a fearless late-era singer/songwriter. Front-loaded with his mainstream alt-rock touchstones, Chris Cornell starts close to the beginning with "Loud Love" from Soundgarden's 1989 sophomore effort, Louder Than Love. While his signature vocal delivery was still in its nascent stage, hints of his inimitable howl can be heard percolating beneath the towering, metal-influenced attack of his bandmates. Yet once "Outshined" (from 1991's Badmotorfinger) kicks in, the power of Cornell's growls and wails are properly cemented. From here, it's a play-by-play of all of his major eras. Temple of the Dog's singular 1991 hit, "Hunger Strike," is paired with a soaring rendition of that band's "Call Me a Dog," which was recorded in 2011 for Cornell's live album, Songbook. Respectfully, the collection doesn't lean too much upon his time with Soundgarden: aside from 1994's Grammy-winning classic "Black Hole Sun" and 2012's swan song "Been Away Too Long," debut Ultramega OK and 1996's platinum-certified Down on the Upside are ignored. A pair of Audioslave's early-2000s alternative chart-toppers -- which have aged well in retrospect -- also appear, but the collection mostly sticks to his solo work. From his first solo song ("Seasons" from 1992's Singles soundtrack) to his very last recordings, these offerings are the true attractions on Chris Cornell. Additional soundtrack selections include his 2006 Bond theme, "You Know My Name," and the Grammy-nominated 2017 single from the film of the same name, "The Promise." Each of his albums is granted at least one inclusion, even 2009's oft-misunderstood collaboration with Timbaland, Scream, whose "Long Gone" is featured here as a "rock version" stripped of the hip-hop producer's signature sound. In addition to that deep cut, other highlights include a searing cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" (from 2007's Carry On); the folksy plucking of "Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart" (from his fourth and final solo album, 2015's Higher Truth); and a heartbreaking acoustic cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U," which delivers the biggest gut punch on the album. The grand finale, previously unreleased song "When Bad Does Good," is a mournful dirge wherein Cornell sings with a weary rasp, "Standing beside an open grave/Your fate decided, your life erased." It's an all-too-real end to the collection, both cathartic for mourners and an unfair taunt to those still processing this heavy loss. Chris Cornell is a reverential capstone that charts the tortured artist's highs and lows, providing an ideal first step for anyone wishing to dive deeper into the impressive catalog of one of rock's loudest and most emotive voices.
Review by Neil Z. Yeung