The fifth and final studio album from Chris Cornell, No One Sings Like You Anymore is songs chosen and sequenced by the singer himself. It was recorded in 2016, a year before his death, with the aid of multi-instrumentalist and producer Brendan O’Brien, and it indicates new directions that the former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman intended to take: a range of covers, songs originally made famous by artists as disparate as Harry Nilsson (Jump Into The Fire), electro-dance duo Ghostland Observatory (Sad Sad City) and Prince (Nothing Compares 2 U).
It’s near impossible to listen to without the pointed barb of the album title (drawn from a lyric in Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun) prickling the listener. A melancholy, bittersweet listening experience indeed.
Forget Cornell’s scream for one moment. The dude could sing. He had soul in abundance. Forget the Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin comparisons. The artist this posthumous collection recalls most is Otis Redding – another singer who died too early. Like Redding, Cornell had the knack of taking songs – famous songs at that – and making them his own.
Some he sings straight and powerful: the Prince cover, which is far closer to Sinead’s raw rendition; Lorraine Ellison’s almighty torch song Stay With Me Baby. He also had the breadth of vision (some might term it audacity) to mess with the form – so the Janis Joplin song (Get It While You Can) becomes a quirky new-wave synth-fest, ELO’s Showdown is turned into a soul stomper, Lennon’s slightly cynical Watching The Wheels becomes oddly translucent, upbeat, refusing to be cowed by the depression that clearly plagued Cornell.
Like the classic bluesmen of old, like the first wave of hard rock bands that drew directly from the blues, Cornell inhabits his songs. His vocal on You Don’t Know Nothing About Love is extraordinary – as far-reaching and (in all the best senses of the word) shrieking as Soundgarden at their considerable height, with horns and guitars adding layers of emotion.
While Showdown and the Lennon cover feel almost jaunty in their lightness of touch, his cover of Guns N’ Roses’ Patience is a broody, brooding acoustic ballad, lonely and haunting.
His family have said this record is his last fully completed studio album (while revealing that a second collection of covers is already in the works, drawn from the same sessions). Whether or not anyone sings like Chris Cornell any more is irrelevant. What matters is that he is no longer around.