First released on November 24, 2014, Echo Of Miles is a 50-track collection of Soundgarden’s B-sides, outtakes, cover versions, and rarities. Personally hand-picked by guitarist Kim Thayil, it’s an exhaustive and imaginative compendium and an essential adjunct to the Seattle grunge titans’ overall body of work.
As the collection’s subtitle, Scattered Tracks Across The Path, suggests, the music contained within is drawn from a variety of sources, while the songs are diligently arranged across three discs, with a running time edging towards four hours in all. Designed by Josh Graham, the packaging is extremely eye-catching, with the anthology’s three discs housed in clear plastic slipcases with three separate mini-jackets, each sporting its own unique art, a booklet, and inserts. As Thayil said of the project: “As album sets go, this one has been fun to collect and compile over the decades!”
Presented thematically, Echo Of Miles offers three discs, labeled Originals, Covers and Oddities, respectively. Kicking off with the lairy, Stooges-esque “Sub Pop Rock City,” from 1988’s Sub Pop 200 collection, Originals is laid out chronologically and offers enduring classics such as the intense “Birth Ritual” (taken from 1992’s Singles soundtrack) through to the monolithically heavy “Blind Dogs” (recorded for the 1995 film Basketball Diaries) and 2010’s purposeful “Black Rain” – the track which reignited the reformed Soundgarden’s creativity and acted as the catalyst for their impressive 2012 comeback, King Animal.
Elsewhere, Originals also nets the majority of Soundgarden’s B-sides, including tracks from 1990’s Loudest Love EP, the blistering, Badmotorfinger-era “She’s A Politician” and “Spoonman”’s engrossingly weird, Beefheart-ian flip, “Exit Stonehenge.” All are of merit, but it’s the inclusion of several previously unreleased tracks – most notably 1995’s “Kristi” and an angular, dynamic 2014 makeover of one of the band’s earliest tracks, “Storm” – that help to make Echo Of Miles’ first disc such a compelling proposition for the discerning grunge completist.
Disc Two, Covers, reveals that while Soundgarden may have been bona fide rock stars they were also music fans with voracious appetites. Throughout their career, the Seattle quartet enthused about artists as disparate as Gang Of Four, Elvis Costello, and Metallica, and their tastes imprint themselves on the songs they covered live and for radio broadcasts. Yes, Black Sabbath’s remorselessly heavy “Into The Void (Stealth)” is tailor-made for Chris Cornell and company to cover, but they’re equally deft at molding Devo’s quirky “Girl U Want” and Sly & The Family Stone’s funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” into their own image, and even work up a celebratory version of Spinal Tap’s innuendo-laden “Big Bottom.”
By its own admission, Echo Of Miles’ third disc, Oddities, is a collection of assorted miscellanea: a selection of remixes, instrumentals, and obscure tracks hidden away on singles during the 90s. But it harbors plenty of value. Imaginative remixes, such as Steve Fisk’s mind-bending, trip-hop-esque “Spoonman” and Moby’s smart, sample-heavy “Dusty” still stand up to scrutiny, while the proggy “Twin Tower” and noir-ish instrumental workout “Night Surf” show that even Soundgarden’s seemingly scattered seeds could often blossom into enviably rare and exotic flowers.