While this album is the first time that the core members of what would become Pearl Jam — former Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, guitarist Mike McCready, and surfer-dude vocalist Eddie Vedder — got together in a studio, and also served as an unofficial preview of the group’s post-Binaural line-up (with then-Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron), this album is primarily about Chris Cornell. He formed the one-off group with Ament and Gossard following the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood (Cornell’s friend and roommate), wrote all of the album’s lyrics, and wrote the music for all but three songs on the album.
For people that only knew Cornell’s work from Soundgarden — remember, the group had yet to record Badmotorfinger — the strength and breadth of his songwriting on Temple of the Dog must have come as quite a shock. The rock-god poses he strikes on the album’s two direct tributes to Wood (“Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down”) are nothing new, but this time around they come with a sense of humility and self-awareness. Meanwhile, slippery tracks like “Wooden Jesus” and “Your Savior” offered a glimpse into the interesting detours Cornell would soon take with his other group. This isn’t to say that the Pearl Jam part of the Dog didn’t make itself known. Apart from Vedder’s vocal turn on “Hunger Strike,” the Gossard/McCready connection gets made during the lengthy breakdown section of “Reach Down,” and “Pushin Forward Back” (with music written by Ament and Gossard) offers a inadvertent preview of what Ten would soon offer to 10s of millions of listeners.