What is Higher Truth?
Not many people ever see success playing in a rock band. Even fewer become one of the gods of grunge in the early nineties without succumbing to the madness of a meteoric rise to fame constantly surrounded by drugs and pressure by greedy record executives. Still less go on to even survive this lifestyle and cultivate not only one, but two great bands. The unbreakable Dave Grohl might be an exception to that, but if you include Temple of the Dog, no other musician of the era has enjoyed such success with three bands, swaying through the winds of change, managing to stay relevant, and never letting it get to his head in quite the way Chris Cornell has.
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Now he has offered up his soul on a platter for all to take a piece of, in the form of a solo album, titled Higher Truth. Freed of any creative restraints that come from being part of a band, Cornell gives us a glimpse into the deeper thoughts that cross his gifted mind, drawing on years of writing music, delivering it in styles that range from bluesy to exotic, his unmistakable voice calling us along the journey as he explores themes of nostalgia, memories, regrets, and wishes.
I have been a fan of his ever since I saw Soundgarden’s “Blackhole Sun” video on MTV back in the nineties, when they actually played music videos, so perhaps I am a bit biased, but when I first heard “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” on the radio, I instantly wanted to hear more. It is unlike any other song on the station’s playlist, Cornell joined by multi-instrumentalist Bryan Gibson on mandolin, the sound trotting along like a horse on a carousel, while Chris recounts a sad tale of the recurring pain of his broken heart, invoking painful images of eyes burned by the sun, lips cut by words, and the sting of love betrayed.
“Misery Chain” also invites the listener to relate to sadness, Cornell’s vocal range put on full display as he pulls off a Billie Holiday-like performance that pulls the listener into that dark place where melancholy dwells, that bubbles just below the surface of everyday life.
Not all the songs are so bleak, however, “Josephine” rings of an old time ballad, as if written by Eric Clapton or Robert Plant. If this song were done by a full orchestra, it would be the wedding song of this century. (I take full credit for that idea if it happens, though, and would be happy with just a sliver of the revenues from royalties.)
As mentioned before, Cornell seems to be exploring themes on this album, and the predominant one that carries throughout all the songs is a wistful recollection of the past. Tracks like “Dead Wishes”, “Murderer of Blue Skies”, “Before We Disappear”, and “Bend in the Road” thoroughly explore this motif from a multitude of angles, covering aspects of regret, loss, wishful thinking of what might have been, the latter taking on almost a gospel feel, complete with a choral backup.
The title track “Higher Truth” may never be heard on any airwaves on any corporate-owned radio station, but I can see this on the big screen on the soundtrack during the part of the love story where the guy loses the girl and finds himself. It evokes emotion, tugging at your heartstrings as Chris belts out his desire for true honesty, his rich voice filling the corners of any mind receptive enough to catch his vibes. (I will also take credit for the soundtrack idea, thank you world)
Overall, if you are looking for upbeat, happy music that brings a smile to your face, then this is not the album you are seeking. But if you are contemplating your own existence after the loss of a loved one, struggling through a messy breakup, or in the mood for deep, meditative music that has a soul, albeit a slightly dark and bitter one, then this is definitely the album you want. Cornell’s vocal style perfectly compliments this broody masterpiece, and the variety of musical styles displays the breadth of his musical genius.
Higher Truth, produced by Brendan O’Brian, who has worked with Chris for years producing records for Audioslave, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and many other alternative acts through the years, and features such talent as Brendan O’Brien – guitar, bass, keyboards, hurdy gurdy, drums, percussion, Patrick Warren – piano, Matt Chamberlain – drums, and Anne Marie Simpson – strings has been on sale since its release date of September 18th, 2015, and can be found on Itunes:
Cornell is touring to support his new album, hitting cities such as Miami and Saint Petersburg this fall, as well as an Australian tour afterwards. For more information, check out this link: http://chriscornell.com/tour (p.s. if you are hoping to see him soon, the Florida dates are both this October, so hurry and get your tickets!)
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