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Audioslave

Maybe some other straight guys share this feeling, but I've long nurtured a serious man-crush on rock singer Chris Cornell. There, I said it.

Since hearing him back in the 1980s with the mighty Seattle band Soundgarden and the one-off project Temple of the Dog, and right through his recent work with Audioslave, Cornell's panther-in-heat yowl has defined the classic hard-rock sound for me as much as did Robert Plant's wail in Led Zeppelin. Having built an artistic persona that balances cock-rock strutting and sensitive-guy thoughtfulness, he works that old formula: Women want to be with him, and men want to be him.

Although the first two Audioslave albums earned their praise, Cornell's vocals and the warp-drive blues-rock of the power trio (former members of Rage Against the Machine) finally have melded seamlessly.

One wonders about the state of Cornell's private life, especially considering that the CD begins and ends with what are essentially pissed-off kiss-offs. You might figure "Revelations" is about enlightenment, but Cornell sarcastically sings, "Such a shame that I wouldn't know by now your revelations." And on "Moth," he tells a former object of desire, "I don't fly around your fire anymore."

Guitarist Tom Morello especially shines, building towering stacks of power riffs, occasionally not unlike those of Jimmy Page, but also integrating his trademark imitations of turntable scratching on such tunes as "Original Fire" and "Broken City." And on "One and the Same," Morello unleashes the wickedest wah-wah leads heard since perhaps the 1970s. Brad Wilk also does a sweet job of re-creating John Bonham's heavy-footed groove on the drums, further establishing Audioslave as the 21st-century Led Zep.

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