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SINGLES, CHRIS AND ME
5/24/17

by Simon Glickman

It’s almost unbearably bittersweet listening to Epic Soundtrax/Legacy’s new Deluxe Edition soundtrack to 1991’s Singles, the Cameron Crowe-helmed romantic comedy set amid the era’s Seattle rock scene. Not only because the film and its very influential ST meant a lot to me when I was half the age I am now, but because now it plays like a tribute not only to Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood (who died in 1990) and Alice in Chains Layne Staley (who left us in 2002) but also to Chris Cornell. The singer/songwriter and Soundgarden frontman, whose death last week sucker-punched us all, is the most prolific contributor to Singles, particularly in this new form.

The original set, reproduced on disc 1 of the reissue, includes powerful work by ’90s heavies like Alice, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Paul Westerberg, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and more, not to mention Seattle forebears Jimi Hendrix and Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (who duet here, as The Lovemongers, on a Led Zeppelin cover).

Cornell’s range is evidenced in the blazing Soundgarden track “Birth Ritual,” which showcases his pipes in full banshee fury, and the delicate solo song “Seasons.” Even this early in his career, Cornell was Janus-faced—a beguiling troubadour one moment, a rampaging rock deity the next.

On disc 2, which is packed with previously unreleased material, we go much deeper. The riches include a passel of Cornell demos grouped as “The Poncier Tape.” Here Cornell, accompanying himself on guitar and percussion, sketches out “Spoon Man,” “Nowhere But You,” “Flutter Girl” and “Missing.” A live “Birth Ritual” demonstrates how intense his onstage delivery could be, while he further exhibits his versatility as a composer and musician with the solo closing cuts “Ferry Boat #3” and “Score Piece #4.”

The rest of the disc expands the input of Alice, Westerberg, movie band Citizen Dick, Posies side project Truly and others. But the loss of Cornell feels like a huge shadow over this world. He was one of the greats.