Chris Cornell, “No One Sings Like You Anymore”
No One Sings Like You Anymore
Surprise-released and “personally selected and sequenced to celebrate artists and songs that inspired him,” a Chris Cornell album of cover versions is truly the gift that continues to give. A passionate vocalist with a famed four-octave range and a super alt-rock pedigree of time spent in Soundgarden and Audioslave (to say nothing of a series of solo albums invested in acoustic pop and nu-soul), having Cornell tracing over familiar lines such as those laid down by songwriters like John Lennon or interpreters such as Janis Joplin is to work the magic of true transformation.
What’s nice about No One Sings Like You Anymore is that this is not a portrait of the vein-popping Cornell screeching his way through a rager such as “Spoonman.” The ten tunes here are subtly sung numbers—frank, but soft and poignant—focused on often-unsuspectingly melodic gems (like Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience,” done here as a dramatic mid-tempo ballad) with a quieter ensemble as backing. Not that he ever had to fight to be heard over Kim Thayil’s guitar army of lace and metal—Cornell could always sing loud enough to (literally) beat the band. On No One Sings Like You Anymore it’s clear—he doesn’t have to tangle in battle, and he sounded as if he was loving that ease of motion.
While Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” is played and sung like the grooviest chamber soul with a few twists and turns for rapt theatricality, Lennon’s latter-day “Watching the Wheels” is done humbly and straight, reverent to the ex-Beatle’s longing for normalcy, with just a supple kick to remind you of Cornell’s heft. Harry Nilsson’s riff-happy “Jump Into the Fire,” a favorite rocking cover of Cornell’s Temple of the Dog, is given an oddball, epic French horn break in its bridge.
If you want more epic, Lorraine Ellison’s “Stay With Me Baby,” done here with a souped-up organ whirring below him, allows Cornell to dip, dive, swoop, and soar without screeching. This is the true high point of the package, and one familiar to those (few) fans of Martin Scorsese’s HBO show Vinyl. If you want another epic with a sympathetic horn line, “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love”—from songwriter/producer Jerry Ragovoy and nearly forgotten R&B vocalist Carl Hall—is Cornell’s passionate passageway into ragged vocal display.
Ragovoy and Mort Shuman’s bluesy “Get It While You Can,” scuffed up and scowled over by Janis Joplin, is made into a synth-pop track for Cornell to do his own gruff and soulful thing over. Same with Jeff Lynne’s slick, bluesy “Showdown.” Cornell and his band give the track an electro sheen and rhythmic tick, along with some noisy guitar. With so many colors and moods for Cornell to rise through, it’s such a damned shame he didn’t stick around to see this arc of his life, this chapter and verse of his career, made real.