Albums are re-released for various reasons; perhaps a record label take-over results in more marketing budget being dedicated to an album that wasn’t originally pushed that hard. Oftentimes, the latent resurgence of an artist’s popularity facilitates a re-issue – usually incorporating outtakes, unplugged, extended, previously-unheard cuts which can be satisfying but are typically cynical inclusions which fall short of giving the fan that “something special” from the archives.
Chris Cornell’s debut solo offering, Euphoria Mourning (or “Euphoria Morning” as it was originally released in 1999) probably falls between these two categories and you can be sure that the Soundgarden faithful would have been blind-sided by this one. That said, spreading his wings as a singer-songwriter exploring his new-found, post-grunge freedom, Cornell produced a very decent piece of work with more twists and turns than an intestinal probe.
“Euphoria” isn’t instantly hummable and takes a few spins to get used to but sometimes not being catchy makes things more interesting. With unexpected chord changes, juxtaposed melodies, occasionally symphonic and certainly unpredictable arrangements, Cornell weaves an almost bewitching tapestry of tunes which vacillate from the pop sensibilities of album opener “Can’t Change Me” to the quasi-accessible “Preaching The End Of The World” via the guitar-twang of “Mission”.
As evidenced by some of his later solo work, Cornell is a thinking-man’s musician – there’s no verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, reprise, fade to end formula here. Inevitably, of course, an element of over-complication creeps in and the album loses your attention about halfway through making “Moonchild”, “Wave Goodbye” and “Sweet Euphoria” more forgettable than formidable. But if your bag, as a song-writer or listener, is synchopated rhythms and whimsical musical plots, you’ll dig this album.
Conventionality makes a surprise appearance with the bluesy/gospel lament “When I’m Down”, probably the album highlight along with the first cut and the epic closer, “Steel Rain” with its very cool, guitar-meandering crescendo.
Cornell has ideas bursting out of him like a busted sofa and as someone once said, “beauty in music is too often confused with something that let’s the ears lie back in an easy chair”. Not many would argue that Cornell has a very fine set of pipes and can seduce as well as holler but be warned, this album will make you work to like it. Nothing at all wrong with that but it means this album will appeal more to the “Cornell purists” than Joe Public. **1/2
Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw
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