I’ve been listening to so much varied music, the task of choosing just one album per week becomes a difficult one, incurring into this unacceptable delay. I’m sorry, for sure!
Few weeks ago, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the release of Singles, this Seattle spirit invaded me for a couple of weeks and I started recovering a couple of albums from that time. on one hand the compilation album of songs by Mother Love Bone, , and on the other, this super band created to tribute the memory of Andy Wood, precisely the former leader of Mother Love Bone, who passed away in 1990, of a heroin overdose.
Recovering these albums from my teenage days, when I was turning 36 seems kind of a response to midlife crisis, huh?
To be honest, till I didn’t listen to Temple of the Dog, I didn’t know much about Mother Love Bone. In Pearl Jam’s universe, this band was a referent, and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard were part of it, same as Green River, thus they were something in the queue of compulsory listening, but not preferential.
If I had to relate this band to a song, I’d say Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns immediately, the song which was included in Singles’ soundtrack. This two-part song, evolved from Crown of Thorns, is simply epic, with a rising and growing structure I had never listened to something similar before. Not many songs have this kind of intensity. Of course, this was the theme which opened the gates to Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone.
This album, aka Stardog Champion, includes songs from their EP Shine and their album Apple. Unfortunately here’s not much more stuff available, as the band just lasted for two years, till Wood died from heroin overdose. Apple, their debut album was released after he passed away. The whole story was quite tragic, especially because he was trying to rehab, and he was just 24.
When you listen to Mother Love Bone, you realize there was actually a Seattle scene, and musicians from different bands, were also close friends, sharing their influences and style. This album is typically end of 80’s production and means the birth of a style, after the combination of rock and metal. You listen to Come Bite the Apple and Alice in Chains come to your mind, and Heartshine makes me think of Soundgarden too. Considering Alice in Chains dedicated Facelift to the singer, and Would? was inspired by him and others deceased due to drugs overdose, and Chris Cornell was Wood’s former roommate, it’s easy to find the boundaries.
Despite the quality of the band, formed by remarkable musicians nowadays, the soul of the band was definitely Wood. He had talent, and a voice, and his style was quite unique. I’d say what I like most was that he was elegant and very glam singing. I have no idea of his main influences but I’d bet David Bowie and Marc Bolan would be two of them. This glam combined to metal and rock, made the difference.
Temple of the Dog was the Bible, and it was a very expensive album and hard to find back in the day. I remember those who owned a copy, it was like their most valuable treasure, and we used to admire and envy them.
When we discovered this album, Pearl Jam were already one of the hottest bands in the world and in our lives, but Temple of the Dog was a tribute to Andrew Wood, conceived by Chris Cornell, no less. Thus, he recruited his drummer mate in Soundgarden, Matt Cameron, the former members of Mother Love Bone, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, the lead guitarist Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder, coming from San Diego for an audition with the ex-MLB, also provided lead and backing vocals. This project was actually responsible for the birth of Pearl Jam.
Hunger Strike, with both Chris Cornell and Vedder on lead vocals, became an anthem for many of us. I think whenever I sing it, I still do it as passionate as 20 years ago. The magic of music I guess…
Apart from this clash of titans, there are amazing songs included in this album, wonderful Say Hello 2 Heaven, written by Cornell for his friend, Call Me a Dog, Times of Trouble and Wooden Jesus are simply brilliant.
The Seattle scene, the grunge scene or whatever you want to label it, could be easily summed up in this album and Singles motion picture soundtrack. A different style, a pessimistic contrast to 1980’s careless attitude of LA hard rock bands, coming from a place where drugs were hitting the youth, and burying many of them, and the voice of a generation unable to fit in society. For some this was a fake attitude, an aesthetic movement, so was punk and still remains, and nowadays probably on a global scale, many who didn’t feel the current society was reflecting them still have the same opinion.
But do not talk about politics, society or frustration, just let the music do the talking