Before Pearl Jam, before Soundgarden hit it big, there was Mother Love Bone. A cross between glam rock, punk and classic rock, the band was poised to break through to the big time. Then singer Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose.
In his memory, two members of Mother Love Bone (Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) got together with singer Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron of Soundgarden for a tribute project. An unknown surfer/singer named Eddie Vedder and guitarist Mike McCready was starting to record with Ament and Gossard at the time, so their work was added to some of the songs.
After the record's release, Ament, Gossard, Vedder and McCready formed Pearl Jam and went on to sell millions of records, including the masterpiece Ten, the best album of the 1990s. Soundgarden recorded their own classic music and grunge broke through to the mainstream...the way Mother Love Bone was trying to do.
They called this project and their quickie band Temple of the Dog, and it is a fascinating listen, the sound of two about-to-be-superstar bands finding their sound and paying tribute to a fallen friend.
The music sounds a lot like early Pearl Jam, but upon its release nobody really bought it. Then Pearl Jam hit big and the record company release "Hunger Strike" off this disc, which became a rock radio hit and gave both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden some exposure. Of note is the harmonizing of Vedder and Cornell and the socially-aware lyrics.
One has to take the music here with a grain of salt; it's definitely a product of the early 90s and the grunge movement, so much of it has not held up well over time. "Say Hello 2 Heaven," "Times of Trouble" and "Wooden Jesus" all sound decent, in a time-warp way, but are hardly classics. On the other hand, they were never meant to be; it was just the sound of friends playing together in honor of losing one of their own. (Pearl Jam would re-record "Times" and call it "Footsteps").Aside from "Hunger Strike" only two of the tracks really click. "Call Me A Dog" is a mournful blues number which sounds unlike anything either band would ever do again. But the real gem is "Reach Down," an 11-minute epic that is the most explicit tribute to Wood. It's a sprawling number with a catchy riff, some slow bluesy lyrics by Cornell and a drawn-out guitar solo in the middle. Scattered throughout are harmonies from the guys backing up Cornell's passionate words. It's darn near soulful.
Temple Of The Dog is more interesting for what it foreshadowed than what it actually is, but it remains a touchstone of grunge culture and is worth seeking out for fans of the genre or either of the big-name bands.
|While it is true that Temple of the Dog is best remembered today for who played on the album more than the actual song content, I like the songs too! "Reach Down" is waaayyy too long for competent but relatively unadventurous guitarists like Gossard and McCready. I find myself skipping that track about halfway through because the boys run out of fuel so quickly.|