Aspiring, surviving

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Remember when people made big, ambitious records playing big, ambitious music with big, ambitious production? Chris Cornell does. A veteran of the Seattle grunge scene and former lead singer of the group Soundgarden, Cornell has always had a penchant for bold musical statements. On his solo debut, he distills his grandiose rock posturing into a mature musical statement. Echoing the Zeppelin-meets-Beatles persona of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun CD, Cornell sees fit to reveal his softer side in a contemporary singer-songwriter mode. On the leadoff track, "Can’t Change Me," his voice is both dynamic and radio-friendly. With a host of talented musicians including pop-savant Jason Faulkner and Soundgarden compatriot Matt Cameron, Cornell’s recording is a showcase of diamond-hard production values and a wide emotive range. Transcending the legacy of a depressive, gloom-ridden Pacific Northwest, Cornell is a musical survivor of the post-Cobain era. His music is still moody, but the nihilism of ’90s Seattle that fueled so many destructive impulses seems to have mercifully passed over the vocalist.

With the track, "Preaching the End of the World," Cornell comes perilously close to the realm of the dreaded power ballad. On the haunting "Follow My Way," he reaches back for some of the high-register wailing that made his tenure with Soundgarden so compelling. Still, for those yearning for the grunge of yesteryear, you may be disappointed. There are some heavier tracks like "Disappearing One" and "Mission," but for the most part, Chris Cornell is looking toward the middle of that hard-rock road.

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