Having long-since passed into legend, 1991’s Temple Of The Dog is a rare beast indeed, a genuine rock’n’roll unicorn. An album with its genesis rooted in tragedy – the heroin-overdose death of Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood – its original 10 tracks were a kind of catharsis through music.
Wood’s close friend Chris Cornell wrote two tracks to begin with, Say Hello 2 Heaven and Reach Down, before the tribute turned into a full album with Mother Love Bone’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron and Eddie Vedder all contributing.
Recorded with no commercial expectations over a handful of weekends at the end of 1990, it’s music made purely for the sake of it – stress-free and simple. It captured a nascent Pearl Jam before Ten shot them to stardom, and before Soundgarden went stratospheric with Badmotorfinger, and still represents some of the finest music those bands ever recorded.
This 25th-anniversary mix has a touch more clarity and dynamic punch, and, naturally, there’s an abundance of extras: new alternative mixes of Say Hello 2 Heaven, Wooden Jesus and All Night Thing, and a second disc of mostly previously unreleased demos and out-takes. The two most interesting tracks are the ropiest-sounding: demos Angel Of Fire and Black Cat, the latter’s spare hypnotic rhythms presumably deemed too much of a clash with the sparse percussive drive of Wooden Jesus to make the final cut. All together, Temple Of The Dog is a landmark release that’s now even more indispensable.