The Deal: One of the most recognizable voices in rock tries his hands at a cross-genre amalgam.
The Good: Let me get this out of the way – I don't care if he's singing the phone book, Chris Cornell simply has one of the most amazing voices in music. The former Soundgarden and Audioslave front man is downright incomparable behind the microphone, and his solo work has only expanded on that. His latest solo effort was produced by Timbaland, who fused as many hip-hop rhythms into the music as he can. It's an interesting fusion of rock and hip-hop that makes you rethink the idea of genres. There's an edge to the Middle-Eastern vibe of "Take Me Alive," which feels a bit offset by the backing vocals of Justin Timberlake. The vocals of "Ground Zero" are fantastic, if only they were set over an acoustic guitar to showcase the soul in them instead of being hidden behind a techno beat. The absolute highlight of the album is the hidden track "Two Drink Minimum" featuring Cornell with a solo guitar and harmonica – it's what fans were looking for during the first 13 tracks.
The Bad: The album flows seamlessly from track to track, but you wonder how any of these songs would fit into a concert with a live band. He performed one last year at Projekt Revoultion, but it sounded nothing like this. The use of Autotune on "Sweet Revenge" was like nails on a chalkboard. There's a reason the album art shows a number of smashed guitars – you'll find it difficult to hear one played on the new album. "Never Far Away" could have been a fantastic track without the techno-fication of the chorus. And for the love of all things holy, did he have to get Timberlake to appear on the album and venture so far into the world of hip-hop?
The Verdict: I appreciate the need for an artist to expand boundaries and break new ground, but many will view this album as the day grunge died, again. The funny thing is, it's not a bad album – Cornell's vocals are the saving grace – but when you look at it as a Cornell album, it's painful and cringeworthy. The album needed a bit more of Cornell's style in the music instead of leaving nearly all instrumentation to Timbaland.