Chris Cornell

Carry On (Suretone/Interscope)

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Chris Cornell Billie Jean Audioslave
Chris Cornell can't dance. If he could, he wouldn't have transformed "Billie Jean" into a funkless piano-and-guitar dirge, a trick he pulls eight tracks into his second solo album.

Handing Zack De La Rocha his walking papers in favor of Cornell was the best move Audioslave ever made. Cornell has one of the great voices in modern rock -- gruff, yet powerfully melodic. Frequently trafficking in unexpected imagery, his lyrics jump out amid the hard-rock clichés smothering contemporary radio. And on this album, he's got a solid backing band with another secret-weapon guitarist: the maniacal noise-sculptor and avant-gardist, Gary Lucas of Gods and Monsters. This dude throws one curveball after another at a set of otherwise conventional rock songs.

There's a lot of radio fodder on Carry On. "She'll Never Be Your Man," "Disappearing Act," and "Finally Forever" could cross over to country fans, while "Killing Birds" and "Your Soul Today" are reminiscent of Soundgarden's later, weirder albums. But ultimately, it doesn't hold together as an album, because there's no concept beyond "Here's a bunch of songs I wrote" -- plus that bizarre Michael Jackson cover.

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