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Soundgarden - "Live On I5" (CD)

Soundgarden - "Live On I5" CD cover image

"Live On I5" track listing:

1. Spoonman
2. Searching With My Good Eye Closed
3. Let Me Drown
4. Head Down
5. Outshined
6. Rusty Cage
7. Burden In My Hand
8. Helter Skelter
9. Boot Camp
10. Nothing To Say
11. Slaves And Bulldozers
12. Dusty
13. Fell On Black Days
14. Search And Destroy
15. Ty Cobb
16. Black Hole Sun
17. Jesus Christ Pose

Reviewed by on March 16, 2011

"Grunge fans will find Soundgarden's 'Live On I5' to be a most excellent blast from their flannel-shirted past."

With grunge-era greats Soundgarden returning to stage and studio after more than a decade apart, the band has opened its vaults with "Live On I5" to tide us over until the new material arrives, and give us a listen to what one of the band's live shows was like back in the day. Recorded in cities along Interstate 5 in Oregon, Washington, and California in the mid-1990s just prior to Soundgarden’s breakup, the album captures the band's Zeppelin-esque tight-but-looseness in its best moments, while also feeling a little greatest hits heavy. Then again, who really wants a "deep cuts live" album?

Chris Cornell's powerful vocals are at the forefront on "Live On I5," with vocal performances on tracks like "Slaves And Bulldozers" and "Black Hole Sun" that equal or exceed their album versions. On the other hand, Cornell struggles to reach the notes on "Let Me Drown," which robs the song of most of its power. "Spoonman" also suffers from some vocal weirdness, with the backing vocals in the call-and-response verses not quite lining up as they should.

Kim Thayil's guitar playing gains an appealing looseness in the live versions of "Fell On Black Days" and "Head Down," while the crushing "Outshined" riff grows stronger with the roar of the crowd. A nine-minute take on "Slaves And Bulldozers" has the band going into full-on Zeppelin territory.

The set list is basically culled from the band's three best-known albums, "Badmotorfinger," "Superunknown," and "Down On The Upside," with only "Nothing To Say" taken from one of the band's earlier Sub Pop-era releases. The then current "Down On The Upside" especially feels a little over represented, with tracks like "Ty Cobb" and "Dusty" not adding much to the mix. That said, other than "Let Me Drown," there really isn't a bad song to be had here.

Grunge fans will find Soundgarden's "Live On I5" to be a most excellent blast from their flannel-shirted past. Here's hoping the material from the band's upcoming studio disc measures up.

Highs: "Slaves And Bulldozers," "Outshined," and "Black Hole Sun"

Lows: Poor vocals on "Let Me Drown" and "Spoonman" are a bit distracting.

Bottom line: A mostly great sonic snapshot of one of grunge's greatest acts in the band's touring prime.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)