Review Summary: A vintage performance from some of the best musicians of their generation.
There are many examples of Rock N' Roll superstars joining forces to form larger-than-life bands commonly known as 'supergroups' (e.g. CSN&Y, Chickenfoot, Them Crooked Vultures,...). Most of those are fabricated units often backed by egotistic or financial agendas. But Temple of the Dog was different. They were an organically grown group of guys who, coming from similar backgrounds, shared many interests and motives. And the biggest mutual motif that had Temple going was paying the last respects for their fallen friend, Andy Wood.
Make no mistake, even though Temple was a group of all talented musicians who knew their trade, it was clear from the off who is running the show. Wood's roommate and closest friend, Soundgarden's frontman with a gargantuan set of pipes and lungs - Chris Cornell. He wrote all the lyrics and most of the music, thus orchestrating the direction of the record. That being said, it's a bit surprising how different Temple sounds than any of the Soundgarden releases. Instead of the murky, grunge-layered, heavy metal pounding a la Loud Love or Beyond the Wheel, we get a set of bluesy, soulful hard rock numbers. And Cornell feels at home with them, showing a whole new side to his already renowned versatility and prowess. His voice sounds powerful on both the strenous mid-range blues of Call Me a Dog and the wuthering heights of the superb Say Hello 2 Heaven climax, surely the highpoint of the album. Many even regard it one of the best male vocal performances in all of rock.
The album has a jamming feel to it, leaving room for the guitarists to cover much of the ground. McCready's Hendrix influences are clear all over the place, but not as rip-offs, more like tricks he uses his own way. He especially shines throughout the latter part of Reach Down, unleashing one blistering solo after another. Whilst, on the other hand, Stone indulges in his trademark groove rhythms that stand against McCready's hard rock leads, creating an intricate sonic structure that actually flows very naturally. All this creates the perfect foundations for Cornell to wail over.
Another important mention is Matt Cameron, who is worshipped by the underground as one of the best drummers of his generation. He unquestionably leaves his handprints on this record. He excels in his familiar territory, the faster numbers, where his aggresive style of play really comes to terms. But, the mid-tempo sluggers also serve well to showcase his nack for providing a strong backbeat and keeping a song entertaining. Wooden Jesus is a prime example.
Conclusively, Temple of the Dog, in it's uniqueness stands head and shoulders above most of 90s recordings, as a monument to not only Andrew Wood, but to the entire Seattle scene which rose to dominance in years to come.
Standout tracks: Say Hello 2 Heaven, Hunger Strike, Call Me a Dog.
Temple of the Dog are:
Chris Cornell - vocals, banjo, harmonica, guitar
Mike McCready - lead guitars
Stone Gossard - rhythm guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar
Jeff Ament - bass guitar
Matt Cameron - drums, percussion
Eddie Vedder - backing vocals