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CD Review: Soundgarden - "Live on I-5"

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CD Review: Soundgarden - "Live on I-5"
Soundgarden
Live on I-5
A&M Records


Live on I-5 compiles 17 greatest hits-worthy tracks from Soundgarden’s late-’96 tour that ventured up-and-down the Pacific Coast, captured by a rented 24-track recording truck. While this was a schism-laden time between band members that sparked their downward spiral and eventual breakup in April 1997, the music packaged here doesn't show it. (Maybe that’s why they went with a live CD release rather than a DVD release.) Guitarist Kim Thayil is on his odd-time-signature game, offering Seattle-sludge riff after riff with standouts efforts on a rampaging “Jesus Christ Pose,” feedback-harnessed solos on “Slaves and Bulldozers,” and even a bit of wah-wankery on the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” and “Searching With My Good Eye Closed.”

Chris Cornell helps thicken the guitars by providing support throughout, but most noticeably on the heart-pounding opener “Spoonman” and mach-speed “Rusty Cage.” But Cornell’s presence on guitars is overshadowed by his spine-tingling heroics on vocals. His primal, blood curdling roars and signature falsetto screams are spot-on during showstoppers “Ty Cobb,” "Rusty Cage," and “Black Hole Sun”—which is nearly a cappella except for a lone guitar. However, Cornell excels similarly when he cleans it up and shows his dynamic range on “Burden in My Hands,” "Fell on Black Days,” and the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

The tracks are gathered from a handful of shows making the disc more of a live compilation than a true concert album, however, the music is cohesive, the performances are tight, and the overall collection is as powerful as Soundgarden ever sounded.
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