I must start by saying that I'm a diehard card-carrying audiophile. I've loved great sounding music for as long as I can remember. I've had some form of "high end" audio system for almost as long. Sure, the equipment can be a marvel of engineering and very aesthetically pleasing, but nether trait equates to anything without enjoyable music. Thus, the reason I'm talking about the much hated MP3. I've loved great music, with or without great sound, forever. MP3 is a lossy codec that's "responsible" for removing much of the music from the music. However, when it comes to enjoying music, I'd rather listen to Pearl Jam on an AM radio than listen to some audiophile classics pristinely recorded and mastered at the highest sample rate and word length. This brings me to a well known, yet somehow unknown, MP3 "album" that's available for free. Yes, free as in beer
On September 7, 2006 Chris Cornell performed at the O-Baren club
in Stockholm, Sweden. The set was entirely acoustic and full of original and cover songs. The set was recorded and mixed by Andreas Bauman of Bauman Audio Media, yet never officially released as an album. Fortunately, a version of this recording titled Chris Cornell: Unplugged In Sweden is available for download from the Internet Archive at no cost. The issue for some audiophiles is the fact that the album is only available as a 192 kbps MP3 or ~90 kbps OGG download. I know this may seem depressing, but after listening to the music one can quickly forget it's only a lossy MP3.
About the music, first and foremost this album is known for the stellar cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. This version is leaps and bounds better than the officially released version
on Chris Cornell's Carry On album. This track alone is a great example of great music and great performances are far better than great / better quality by itself. Other great covers on this album include Redemption Song (Bob Marley), Peace Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello), and Thank You (Led Zeppelin). Chris also plays a couple Temple of the Dog tracks and Soundgarden tracks in addition to his own solo material. Overall this is a great album that I wish would be officially released in better quality. Nonetheless, it's still incredibly enjoyable in all it's MP3 glory.
I reached out to Andreas Bauman for details about the recording. I'll update this article if I hear back from him.
Here is a link to download the album - Chris Cornell: Unplugged In Sweden
I heard back from Andreas Bauman about the performance and recording. Here is his communication to me.
Thanks for your mail re the Cornell gig. Funny how this gig has acquired an almost mythical aura over the years. And sure, it was a very special night at O-Baren. Even now, almost 10 years after, people still come up to me asking how it was or tell me they were there and how magical they think it was. And
all of the bands and artists that has performed at O-Baren since (and we have something like 80 gigs a year) know of it and want the details.
I should tell you that O-Baren is a very small venue which makes gigs with artists like Chris Cornell very exclusive. The audience is limited to around 200 people and the place is just a small, dark bar with a unusually high stage. It's originally a backyard between 3 buildings that someone got the bright idea of putting a roof over and build a bar (sometimes in the 90's). O-Baren is located in the back of Sturehof, a high profile French restaurant, located at Stureplan downtown Stockholm. Very posh!
From technical standpoint it was a fairly simple gig. The recording was made on request from Sony Sweden to be aired on Scandinavian radio stations the day after. At the time I was still using my old trusted Yamaha 01/96v console with the version 2 software (now replaced by a Soundcraft Performer 2). Since I record a lot of the live performances at O-Baren, I have a permanent recording solution in the FoH rack. Back then it was an Alesis HD24 connected to an ADAT
expansion card in the Yamaha by means of optical ADAT
cables providing 24 channels of direct out pre eq
. Very convenient and reliable.
The recording was made on 7 channels as I recall. First the guitar recorded with a DI (Klark or BSS) and an AKG 451b pretty close up. For vocals there was a request from the tour manager/artist for a Neumann studio condenser (U87 or 47, can't recall), but I persuaded them to go for a more "stage friendly" alternative, namely the Neumann KMS105. CC also wanted a Shure In-Ear system, so there was not much in the stage monitors which made things a lot easier.
For audience recording I used the Audio Technica stereo mic (can't recall the modell) I have permanently placed in the ceiling mid-stage towards the audience, with 2 additional AKG shot guns to the extreme left and right of the stage pointed to the audience.
Since the recording was to be aired the next day, I went to the studio directly after the show and spent most of the following night mixing it as well as doing a very gentle mastering. At that time I was using Logic and it was mixed in the box using UAD plug-ins. The recording was done at 48khz/24 bits mixed down to 44,1khz/16 bits.
At one time Sony talked about a possible release, but it never came to be. Probably because CC was starting out solo (which we didn't now at the time. After all he came to Stockholm to promote the latest Audioslave album), and had other releases planned. It wasn't until long after I found that the
O-Baren version of "Billy Jean" was on CC's My space page and was voted no 1 song by the fans. So at least that got out to the public. Special since it was the very first time he ever did that song live. Whoever put the lossy version of the entire gig on the web I don't know.
Later in 2006 the decision was made by O-Baren to release a "Best of 2006" CD, containing 17 songs from the best 17 bands/artists (in our opinion) from the past year to promote the live scene there. Sony agreed to let us use one CC song and they picked "Wide awake" from the O-Baren gig. As far as
I know the only hi res release from that night, even though not a commercial one. I still have a few copies and could send you one if you're interested.
Since then I've made a lot of recordings at O-Baren, most notable is perhaps Band of Horses from 2012 which was released on Spotify under the name "the Spotify sessions". Check it out.
Not much else I can tell you about the Cornell gig except that the audience was a veritable "Who's who?" in Swedish music/showbiz including people like Max Martin. Also, Mr Cornell was obviously nervous and excited before the show telling me he hadn't played solo in front of an audience like this since the 80's. Now in retrospect, I think he really got the taste for it that night and that set him in a completely new direction. Like I said, a very special night.