“Singles” – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Deluxe Edition (1992 / 2017)

easystreetcornellUnless you’ve been living under a rock or the terms of your probation don’t allow you to access the internet, you know that Chris Cornell passed away a few days ago.  Chris was an icon in the Seattle music scene, first with OG grunge rockers Soundgarden and later with Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, and his solo projects.  He was a supremely talented man and music fans in Seattle probably feel his loss just a bit more deeply than do people everywhere else.  He was one of ours, born and raised.  I’m certainly old enough to have experienced the loss of other musicians who were part of my formative years, including more than a few local talents.  Cobain, Staley, Wood… But Cornell.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  He had survived the reckless years.  He’d won Grammy’s.  He did a James Bond theme song for Christ’s sake.  And he was back with Soundgarden and touring.  And then he was gone, choosing to exit the stage permanently.

Holly and I were playing Louder Than Love the evening he died, possibly right around the actual time his death occurred.  And we were already planning on heading out to the record store on Saturday to buy the new deluxe edition of the Singles soundtrack that was coming out that Friday.  So Chris was, even if a bit indirectly, in my thoughts this week, and perhaps that’s what I’ve been feeling so reflective about his passing.  Many of the others weren’t terribly surprising.  Heroin has taken its pound of flesh from the Seattle scene, and many of the previous casualties had struggled with the dragon for years.  But Chris had made it through.  But the scars were still there, and ultimately the pain was so overwhelming that in his mind there was only one resolution.

A piece of my remembered teenage innocence died with him.

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We watched Singles on Thursday night for the first time in a long time and it helped a little, putting a smile on my face and giving us a quick glimpse at a young Chris Cornell looking on as Bridget Fonda’s new stereo blows out all of her car windows.  And we went out to pick up the soundtrack on Saturday morning like we planned even though we knew the entire city was sold out of it on vinyl (♠), so we settled for the CD.

The first disc is the original soundtrack, 13 tracks that could almost be a Seattle best-of album in their own right had only Nirvana contributed a song (I can’t really explain how Paul Westerberg and Smashing Pumpkins ended up on it… though I have to begrudgingly admit that Westerberg’s “Waiting For Somebody” is, to me, the song that best captures the overall feel of the movie).  It’s an eclectic mix of tunes, though.  It opens with the menacing bass line of Alice In Chains’ “Would?,” a dark way to start the soundtrack of what is in effect a rom-com.  Pearl Jam gets us a bit more into the vibe of the movie with “Breath,” and then it’s Cornell’s turn.  I can remember originally buying this CD back in 1992 and being blown away by “Seasons,” a very un-Soundgarden-like song that was the perfect vehicle to showcase Chris’ voice, exposing a side of his musical talent that I’d never heard before.  I still think it’s the most beautiful song not he album, though “Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns” gives it a run for its money.

There were some intriguing selections on Singles and I respect director Cameron Crowe for staying with Seattle even when he goes back in time, using Jimi Hendrix’s “May This Be Love” in the scene when Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick play records together in Scott’s apartment and also getting Ann and Nancy Wilson (Crowe’s wife at the time) involved performing as The Lovemongers with their near-perfect interpretation of Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore”.  There was a real effort here to make this as Seattle-centric an experience as possible.

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Left to Right:  Chris Cornell (RIP), Jeff Ament, Matt Dillon, Layne Staley (RIP), Cameron Crowe

I’d actually forgotten that Mudhoney contributed a song to Singles.  Well, technically two songs, I suppose, but only one that made it onto the soundtrack.  They were given a budget of $20,000 to record “Overblown,” but as the story goes they hit up a local studio and paid producer Conrad Uno $164 for a day’s work, banged out their song, and walked out at the end of the day $19,836 the better for it (♥), which is a pretty punk move.  The movie’s fictional band Citizen Dick, fronted by Matt Damon, also performed a song called “Touch Me I’m Dick,” a modified version of the underground Mudhoney hit “Touch Me I’m Sick”.  Somehow this didn’t end up not he soundtrack (♣), but was eventually released as a 7″ single on Record Store Day back in 2015 and also makes an appearance on this deluxe edition, opening the bonus CD.

The original soundtrack was every bit as good as I remembered, but what I was truly excited about was the bonus disc full of extras – live tracks, demos, acoustic versions, you name it, a decent amount of it never-before released.  Cornell is all over this thing, contributing seven of its 18 tracks, one with Soundgarden and the rest as a solo artist, including an early pre-Superunknown version of “Spoonman” and the Beatles-esque “Flutter Girl”.  But the three live tracks, “Would?” and “It Ain’t Like That” by Alice In Chains and Soundgarden doing “Birth Ritual” (complete with the intro, “Cue musicians, go!”), are the highlights to me, well-recorded and capturing both bands in their more formative and energetic years.

And then there’s Paul Westerberg again, and dammit, I want to resent him for bing a non-Seattle musician on this soundtrack, but his songs are just so damn good I can’t do it.  The bonus disc gives us four Westerberg tracks – beautiful acoustic renditions of both of his soundtrack contributions “Dyslexic Heart” and “Waiting for Somebody,” as well as a pair of previously unreleased tunes in “Blue Heart” and “Lost In Emily’s Woods.”

The two biggest “surprises” on the bonus disc were tracks by Truly and Blood Circus.  If I’m being completely honest, I’d never heard of Truly before even though two of its three members came from Soundgarden and Screaming Trees.  I may have to track down some of their stuff if I can.  As for Blood Circus, I’d forgotten how grimy they were.  “Six Foot Under” is heavy, hitting you like a grunge version of a country song.

While I’m still a vinyl junkie, I have no regrets about buying Singles on CD as it was the bonus material that interested me the most.  It’s too bad they didn’t do the whole thing on vinyl, like a four record special edition box set – now that I probably would have bought.  But regardless, I’m very happy with the both the quality and price (got mine on sale for $15) and highly recommend it to any fans of the old school Seattle sound.

(♠)  The vinyl guy at Easy Street told me they’d ordered 200 copies and only got 20.  They’ll certainly have more, but given that all the bonus material is on CD, even with the vinyl release, I figured I’d just save myself $20 or so and buy the disc.

(♥)  Mudhoney:  The Sound and Fury From Seattle by Keith Cameron (2013), p. 157-58.

(♣)  It probably had something to do with the literal use of the word dick, along with the euphemism “little Elvis” and the repeated phrase “I won’t cum”.  Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center would have had field day with that song.

Jimi Hendrix – “Gloria” 7″

I came back from our long weekend in Los Angeles with way more vinyl that anticipated, enough so that I’m actually feeling mildly stressed out about how much stuff is sitting on my “I need to listen to this” shelf.  Not only is the entire LA haul there, but so are at least half the albums I brought back from Ireland, plus the records I ordered from Philly’s FDH label that arrived right before the Ireland trip.  And let’s not forget that I’ve picked up a few CDs along the way too, and even some tapes.  I could built a fort in the living room with all the stuff I haven’t listened to yet.

I started kind of small today.  I was working from home, which isn’t really conducive to absorbing new albums… but isn’t so bad when it comes to spinning a single or two.  So I kicked off my clean-up effort with this Jimi Hendrix one-sided 7″ that I picked up down in LA.  This record had a lot of things going for it:  (1) It’s Jimi Hendrix, (2) it’s a cover version of “Gloria,” and (3) the B side is just a checkerboard pattern that’s kind of cool.  So for a few bucks, why not.

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There are a lot of versions of “Gloria” out there.  The song was originally the B side of a 1964 7″ by the band Them that featured “Baby Please Don’t Go” as the main track.  That’s a pretty impressive little single.  The guy who wrote the song went on to much greater fame as a solo artist:  Van Morrison.  Perhaps the best known covers were done by The Doors and Patti Smith, though it seems like everyone and their mother has recorded it over the years.  I was pretty sure when I bought it that I’d never heard the Hendrix version before, and after listening to it I think that’s indeed the case, unless I happen to have randomly heard it on the radio somewhere along the way.

This sucker lists the run time at over 8 minutes, which seems about right; I’m not sure how they crammed all that music onto this little 7″ disc, though it does spin at 33 1/3 which probably helps.  It’s an excellent live recording featuring the normal Hendrix flourishes and crowd banter, all while still remaining recognizable for what it is. The record was originally included as part of 1979s The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two as an extra, and I’m pretty sure that’s the origin of this copy.  Normally I don’t spend much time looking through the 7″ section… so I sort of lucked out to find this a few records into the first row I looked at.

Record Store Day 2013

I have a love/hate relationship with Record Store Day.  I love that so much cool stuff is released on vinyl – from the re-releases to the limited edition versions on colored vinyl, different formats, rare b-sides, you name it, I get excited to see all of this coming out on vinyl.  It’s a huge boon for indie record stores as the crowds waiting in line attest to.  The selection is deep, and it’s fun.

But I hate waiting in insanely long lines, and perhaps even more so I really hate all the jostling and overall poor behavior as people try to get their hands on items as if they were starving and reaching for a loaf of bread.  Let’s get it straight – these are just records.  They’re completely unnecessary.  But from the looks of some rabid collectors foaming at the mouth you’d think a life or death struggle was underway.  The stores could perhaps do more to control this, but they’re outmanned – you’ve got a small number of employees who still have to do normal employee stuff, a relatively small amount of space and product, and a big group of people.  Mind you, only a handful are truly unruly or rude, but it can certainly sour the experience.  This isn’t the fault of Record Store Day, or even of the stores; this is more a comment on our society.

So… it was with some trepidation that we decided to head out to West Seattle to hit up Easy Street Records, which was opening its doors at the ridiculous hour of 7AM.  I had one item on atop my want list – the re-release of Mad Season‘s one and only album Above, a limited edition pressing (of 5,000) with a few new tracks sung by Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees.  I figured my chances of getting it were 50/50 – Easy Street was having Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready (former member of Mad Season) in for a signing later in the day, so I figured they’d secured a decent number of copies.  But I wasn’t planning on waiting in line to get in, so we got there around 7:30AM and I headed upstairs.

The vinyl section was a bit of a madhouse, but not terrible.  Unfortunately, however, the Record Store Day section was packed and those in the area were informing everyone around that Above was totally gone.  Some guy right next to me somehow found a random copy that made it into the Miscellaneous M section to my immense dismay, as I figured I was SOL at this point.  But then… about 10 minutes later, while I was still trying to shoulder my way into the RSD section, an Easy Street Employee next to me opened up a cardboard box and shouted, “Who wants Mad Season?  I got Mad Season!”  Bam!  I managed to get ahold of a copy, and it made the whole thing worth it.  While there I picked up a copy of the Bombino 10″ (edition of 3,000) and a newly released Soundgarden 10″ and got into line… where I slowly, over the course of an hour (no exaggeration), made my way to the register.  Along the way Holly and I chatted with a few people around us (one of who told us he arrived at 5AM… and was the 20th person in line, two hours before the store opened) and picked up a few CDs as we weaved through the aisles, most notably the new Depeche Mode and a three CD box set of early Wipers albums, plus a vinyl copy of The Zombies that someone evidently didn’t want and just put down randomly.  Knowing I had my copy of Above, plus the good company, made the wait tolerable, and overall the haul was a good one.

We were going to head down to Hi-Voltage in Tacoma next, but I already had my top three items, and a quick check of Facebook showed that the line waiting to get into Hi-Voltage was long, so we skipped it and headed back to Bellevue so Holly could run some errands and I could check out Silver Platters.  It was a lot less crowded there, and I picked up a few more decent items – a PiL 7″ (edition of 2,200), the Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe” 7″ (edition of 3,000), a Factory Records 10″ featuring Joy Division and New Order (edition of 1,000), and a sweet box set of Scientific Dub on three 10″ records, none of which I saw at Easy Street.  From there we made a quick stop on the way home at our truly local shop, Vortex, and while they didn’t have any RSD titles I wanted, I did find a used copy of Black Flag’s Jealous Again in the “New Arrivals” section, so it certainly wasn’t a wasted stop.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff after just having returned from Reykjavik with a huge pile of vinyl and CDs, but RSD only comes around once a year and I knew I’d be sorry if I missed it.  I sort of lucked out in getting my hands on a copy of Above, but that’s the way it works sometimes.  So now I have an even bigger backlog of vinyl to listen to… so I suspect the blog posts will be coming fast and furious over the next few months.  Stay tuned!