Errols Weekly Music Update.

May 22, 2017

A Tribute To Chris Cornell

Image result for Image of Chris Cornell

It’s been almost a week since our world was turned upside down when we woke up to the news that Mr. Chris Cornell had passed away. My brother had sent me an early text and when I opened it I was bracing for bad news, I thought it was something to do with my immediate family. It turns out it was very sad news and even though I never met Mr. Cornell, I considered him part of my family and have been grieving since. And I mean this with no disrespect because recently there have been many artists who have passed on with just as much shock and disbelief—this untimely finality is something that I am having a hard time shaking. For me (and I was born one year after Chris), the lyrics to “American Pie” by Don McLean have never hit me the way it did last week- “…when I read about his widowed bride… something touched me deep inside… the day the music died.” My heart aches for his wife, children, family & friends.

How can someone I never met have an impact on my life? It’s easy—music. His music (along with much help he had along the way with his various bandmates) was injected into my blood stream in late 1994 and became essential for me almost as much as food & water. “Superunknown” was released in March 1994, I had heard so much buzz about this album that I ran out to the local store in Ringwood N.J. and I purchased it, put it on and subsequently tossed it to the bottom of the pile of CD’s that I owned. I wanted to go back to the store clerk and tell him the buzz was not worth it. But as it goes, I was sadly mistaken because a few months later (and since that time), I have held the belief that “Superunknown” was by far the best album of the 1990’s and in my opinion is one of the greatest albums ever recorded in the history of music. I was all in and just like when I boarded the “band-wagon” late for Metallica, I went back through Soundgarden’s catalog and embraced it all.

I remember the first time I saw Soundgarden as a headliner at the New York Armory in June 1994, there were no windows, no air-conditioning and to give you an idea of just how hot it was, the NYC subway system was a breath of cool air when the show was over, if you can believe that. I was there by myself and remember wanting to get as close as I could to the stage to see this man with the golden voice—who sings like Chris Cornell? Are you kidding me, no one comes close. I wanted to body surf but with a baby coming in December and no one else there to save me, I decided to move closer. I set up shop near the right speaker—dark as well you know what—and then here it is—“Jesus Christ Pose”—the screeling (is this a word?) sound of the guitar, the pattering of drums sounding like they are coming in nine different directions as the crowd starts to body slam each other with such force I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Then this high pitched voice comes screaming through the microphone—“And you stare at me…in your Jesus Christ Pose”— there he is—Chris Cornell—closest I ever came to meeting him in person. And like he was for me since that time- a larger than life figure, he simply took over the room with his vocal prowess and I’m thinking he could have commanded us to do what he wanted because we were under his spell. You could smell, taste and feel the energy in the room similar to that of a vicious tornado ripping through your town and despite the absolute craziness going on around me, I was at home.

Two years later “Down on the Upside” is released and I am thinking that there is no better band on the planet. The first time I heard Chris’s vocals on-“Burden in my Hand”—I knew I would follow him anywhere, including a desert because I was thirsty for more. The passion in his voice is something to behold and despite the dark lyrics on most of his tunes, I was drawn to its beauty- yes beauty. Now many would say how can something bleak be beautiful? I asked the same question and then Chris Cornell came into the picture and I never asked that question again. Like many families which experience turmoil, the Soundgarden members were stressing & fighting as the bar they created rose to a level that was probably too much to take and then…I will never forget the day- April 9, 1997—I hear on the radio that Soundgarden has broken up. What? How can they? A part of me died on that day, no exaggerating.

As I stumbled from the news, wondering where I was going to get my Chris Cornell fix from there was news that he was working on his first solo album- “Euphoria Morning”- and it was to be released in the fall of 1999. During that year I made some huge personal maneuvers including leaving a company I never thought I would leave as well as moving away from Ringwood N.J. which had become some much of a home, just like Brooklyn N.Y. because it was “family” to me. As I settled into a new job and a new state (CT) Cornell’s first solo album is released and I will tell you that his album helped me adjust to my new life. He had to adjust to life without Soundgarden and his first solo effort solidified that he could move forward on his own two feet and you may not believe it but that inspired me to move forward with the changes I had made.

His music continued to inspire me because of the deep lyrics (and for those who know me I am typically not a lyric guy) which if you looked closely there are signs of beauty through the darkness. “When I’m Down” is the perfect example—when I heard this I did not move, I was frozen—here is such a deep song that is seemingly depressing –“…I only love you when I’m down… I’m only near you when I’m gone…” However, he lets her know—“…one thing for you to keep in mind, you know… that I’m down… all the time..” This is a dark beautiful tribute that tugs at the heart. As a side note, I was able to see Chris perform this song at the Town Hall Theater in NYC in 2011 and I felt like I was lifted off the ground to hear him sing it the way it appeared on the album. I had tears in my eyes that night and then last Thursday morning as I was watering my lawn looking up to the sky wondering why or how this could happen. (And again thinking about his wife & children).

After “Euphoria” I waited patiently for the follow up album which did not come for a while as he hooked up with the members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. This combination produced some excellent songs over the three album history but for me it wasn’t the same. I wanted Chris to be the solo artist that I knew he was- different, unassuming, not pretentious, melodic with lyrics that hit your heart. Home is where the heart is, heart is where the home is.

As with friends or even family one loses touch as one learns to adjust to things that the heart wants but is not having for some reason that is out of one’s control. I waited and was rewarded with the unbelievable release- “Higher Truth”- in Sept. 2015 which took me back home again. They say that a fine wine takes time and it is worth the wait when it is a diamond in the rough. As soon as I heard “Let Your Eyes Wander” there was a feeling of warmth that took over my body just like a hot cup of cocoa or soup on a windy snowy cold day. I knew I never had to read any other reviews on this album because I knew this was something that was waiting to come out of Chris for a long-time and is a masterpiece, in my mind.

Chris, if you can hear me through my tears, please know how much your music meant to me and at least I have your songs to keep me moving forward. If your wife & children could hear me please know that my heart bleeds for them and I wish I could take all the pain away. They say time heals wounds and this will take some time. I know your heart is in their hearts. Again- home is where the heart is, heart is where the home is. Thank you for always taking me back home and maybe we will meet at another home someday.

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December 6, 2015

An Appreciation of Scott Weiland

As I think back to the late 1980’s with MTV at its height of popularity with hair bands and rap stars totally dominating the air waves of this now faded cable station, I realize now that a change was needed because it was nauseating to see the same Poison or Winger video for the 10th time in one day. That’s the way it was and despite most people thinking that MTV was the greatest thing since sliced bread, again one knew something was going to change. And then it was… Nirvana turned MTV on its head as Tom Petty once said not only did it knock those hair-bands off the air but it almost seemed like a whole genre was wiped out, never to be heard from again except recently with the advent of outdoor festivals which like a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Brother circus rides through a town every summer and reminds those of us who are of age, what it used to be like.

The genre of “grunge” basically blanketed the earth with its dark lyrics, gloomy guitar riffs with a heaviness that some of us riding the “hair-band” float gravitated towards as it was something different, (something scary to be honest) and the glamour in the music and videos disappeared into thin air like one’s breath on a cold winter’s day. The playing field was leveled to just Nirvana. But just as flowers bloom every spring, here comes Pearl Jam on to the horizon and seemingly just behind them is Soundgarden and Alice-In-Chains (“AIC”). Some people may have a different order of who came first but we all agree that these were the four bands that now popularized the grunge era.

So now enter two brothers- Dean and Robert DeLeo creating those “STP” riffs we are all know within a few seconds of hearing their music, along with Eric Kretz on drums and the man called Scott Weiland who release an album called “Core” in 1992. We all knew from the first 15 seconds of “Dead and Bloated” with only the vocals of Mr. Weiland that there was a new entrant into the world of grunge with an exclamation point! We should all open our arms and let them in, right? But no, for reasons I still don’t understand today, they were criticized heavily from every direction that they sounded too much like Pearl Jam or AIC. As we all know decades later that there is a clear difference between the music that Pearl Jam makes (made) and the Stone Temple Pilots, there is no arguments anymore on that front. And I could never understand why the new kid on the block was like the can one used while playing the childhood game of “kick the can”- from every angle they were kicked like a crushed can but thankfully this band had the fortitude and hunger to separate itself from the pack earning their stripes to the point where they are now considered as one of the pioneers of this genre we call “grunge.”

Where were you the first time you heard-“Sex Type Thing?”- you knew you had to find out who this voice was and the band that created these electrifying guitar riffs. Like a dog that smells a piece of liver we searched and pounced on this classic album which is still selling today to add to its eight times platinum status, making it the bands’ most sought after album. Three minutes and forty seconds of pure head banging bliss that keeps you thirsting for more. Who is this guy singing? We finally see the band behind the music and say how can a guy that skinny possess the vocals that he does? What? Are you kidding me? Next comes “Wicked Garden” and if those were the only three songs on the album, it was an instant classic in my mind—not too many albums with a one-two-three punch that Core packs. But of course it does not end there as anthems such as “Creep” and of course, arguably their most popular song ever-“Plush” puts them in a rarified air as “Core” is arguably the greatest album of the 1990’s. (By the way- “Crackerman” is my most favorite on Core). I was in- no turning back- I became instant fan and hoped that the band would not listen to all the noise coming from its distracters. Carry on boys and so they did.

“Purple” is released in 1994 and I knew I couldn’t wait for it and of course it does not disappoint. The driving “Meatplow” leads into one of their classics still today-“Vasoline”- which Scott performed at his last show with the Wildabouts just about a week ago. Then “Interstate Love Song” which was referred to by the NY Times yesterday as almost a country song today but we all know is still an anthem where we all sing along. In their first album and a half- STP had stadium anthems that are played endlessly on the radio still to this day. Purple is where Scott’s lyrics and songs started to sink into me and leave an impact in my life which will never die. “Still Remains” was released into my bloodstream and to this day keeps the blood flowing—“pick a flower, hold your breath and drift away”—which is exactly what I do when I hear this song. The passion and magic that he puts into the vocals is really the first song from them that knocks me out. And then “Pretty Penny”—c’mon who would have thought a grunge/alternative band would put out a song like this? These two songs, like cement being poured into a house foundation, reached into my soul and never let go.

At the time of their third album- “Tiny Music..” it became apparent that Scott was having issues with drugs and the band had to cancel most of their tour for that album- which I believe is a good album but was missing that “Pretty Penny” sound that infiltrated my body. Then in 1999, STP releases “No. 4” and wow they are back—back with a vengeance and arguably their best effort ever. The opening licks to “Down” grabbed me by the throat and made me stand up and pay attention. They were back, I was back—Scott’s opening vocals- “Pleased to meet you..nice to know me” was like the carrot aroma that made Bugs Bunny sleep walk in the air as the smell took him to the “Core.” I could go on for days about “No. 4” but the songs that I believe everyone needs to have in their music library is “Church on Tuesday” “Heaven & Hot Rods” “Sour Girl” and “I Got You”- with the last two mentioned as arguably two of the best songs that Scott has ever created. “Sour Girl” takes me to another stratosphere and is on my top 25 songs ever- his vocals are stupendous, there are no words for it. His music, along with his bandmates, has made my life better. “I Got You” – wow how personal is this song- brings tears to my eyes as I listen and type to try and capture the pure beauty of a dark situation—how can I love this so much when it is so dark? The passion and humanity in his voice is something that only a few in this world can put into a song, it gives me goose bumps as I ponder the situation.

Then in 2002, the album that forever changed my life -“Shangri-La-Dee Da”-and I can’t thank this band enough for making this gem. Now most of the fan base ran away from this album because it was too “poppy” or whatever. Instead of embracing change and not wanting the same sound on every album (aka  “Kill ‘Em All” only Metallica fans) the album was cast aside like something one would put in their “junk draw.”  I always wondered what was wrong with “Days of the Week?” This song is fantastic and something one can’t get out of its head. The melody is infectious and you can’t help but sing along. But I want to get to the songs that changed my life forever—“Wonderful”- wow a song that is so powerful that the tears are streaming down as the lyrics get you right in the gut. Scott we will all hold on as you were the wonderful in everything that’s wonderful. “Black Again” is another amazing song that you need to familiarize yourself with. As the album comes to an end, he writes a song for his son-“Noah” in the heart warming “Song for Sleeping.” If anyone out that just had a baby boy this is the song for you. How can a grunge labeled band perform a song like this? This is why Mr. Weiland was such an amazing writer/singer/performer because he could blast them out with the best of them, then take it down like no other. These three songs are the best songs, in my opinion, that STP ever created and serve as a lifeline for me.

Mr. Weiland (and his bandmates) I’m not sure what my life would be without your music but I do know there would be a void. Scott, I didn’t know you personally but you made an impact in my life that you could have never known. I know I am not alone in that sentiment. Hopefully you are now at peace and my thoughts and prayers are with your family and friends. Your music will fill our souls for generations to come.

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