ALICE IN CHAINS – The Essential Alice In Chains

ALICE IN CHAINS - The Essential Alice In Chains


Columbia Records
Release date: September 5, 2006

User Review
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What the hell is going on here? Did certain individuals on the board over at Columbia or Legacy incur heavy stock losses and now need a way to get themselves back in the multi-millionaires bracket? Just a thought no matter how ridiculous. Okay, being serious for a moment now, how many Greatest Hits/Best Of…/Compilation/Essential sets etc. can one band have out there with only five studio albums to their credit? Now, if you want to get even more technical, two of the five LP’s were EP’s. Even more shame to the music companies trying to cash in and anyone else for that matter trying to get a piece of the pie. This argument can go on forever, but until fans stop buying these so called GH/BO/C/E sets (see above), it never will. The only people who benefit from all of this are most likely those who have nothing better to do than slow down data lines and cause traffic on Web sites, chat rooms, instant messages, blogs, etc. by typing to each other and bitching about it back and forth. Stop buying things that aren’t worth having in the first place.

Okay, this probably doesn’t sit well with most people out there, but be truthful to yourself. Follow the logic here a bit more. Assuming that you are a true Alice In Chains fan of any sort, you probably have the five items referred to above (Facelift-’90, SAP [EP]-’92, Dirt-’92, Jar Of Flies [EP]-’94, Alice In Chains-’95). If this is the case, you don’t need to buy this Essential set. Why? Because you already have it for the most part. Do you really need to purchase this entire compilation for a few songs, at best, because you don’t have them or because they weren’t available on the other compilation sets? You can download and purchase the missing songs from your collection and then have them all. The other side to all of this is that you are new on earth and have never heard of Alice In Chains or are just getting turned on to them for the first time. Well that changes everything then. Whole new ballgame! Here might be a good time to purchase The Essential Alice In Chains release. You can get a quick five-year overview of the band in one shot and see if you like them.

To get into this double CD set and see what it has in store for all fans, right off the bat the five studio albums are covered. Also, thrown into the mix are a couple of tunes from each of the following: Last Action Hero Original Soundtrack (’93), Unplugged (’96), and Music Bank (’99). “What The Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter” are two non-album tracks from Last Action Hero. “Over Now” and “Nutshell” from Unplugged. “Get Born Again” and “Died” from Music Bank. These two rare songs were recorded during a brief reunion in 1998. Dirt seemed to fare the best on this compilation by having nine of the twelve songs from the album appear here. It just so happens that it was the bands best selling piece of work as well. The one problem with this 75% showing was the selection of songs to be chosen. How can “Rain When I Die” and “Hate To Feel” show up (not that these aren’t good songs by any means) when “Down In A Hole,” “Sickman,” or “Junkhead” are missing from the lot. For a minute there was a frightening thought that “Would?” was also missing. It turns out that it is accounted for by being the very last song on the second disc. Again, why this lunacy? Don’t fool with Alice In Chains fans like that; they’ve been through enough. Why isn’t it included in the set list from the Dirt LP where it belongs with the rest of the Dirt songs?

Facelift is accounted for in a decent manner. Four songs from the original twelve are included in this compilation. There could have been room made for “Bleed The Freak,” however. Mostly the entire SAP EP is on this double CD for some reason. The only song missing is “Love Song” from the original five tunes. Jar Of Flies has two of seven songs represented. “No Excuses” and “I Stay Away” are the two decided upon to represent this fine compilation. It’s hard to imagine only two songs from this EP being chosen for this compilation, considering it was the first EP in history to debut #1 in the charts. To be honest and fair, it should be mentioned that a third song from Jar Of Flies is actually represented but from another LP/CD. It was decided upon to use the Unplugged version of “Nutshell.” Alice In Chains is lightly represented with three songs from the original twelve. Again however, to be honest and fair it must be noted that the “Over Now” version from Unplugged was used instead of the original from Alice In Chains.

Released on 9/5/06, this double CD compilation set is a testament to the strong fan build-up or resurgence of Alice In Chains fans around the world. Perhaps there is only one band as popular or better known than AIC, especially during the Grunge movement, and that is Nirvana. However, in terms of sheer power and strength in their music, there is no band out there that can touch AIC on these terms. It is true that Nirvana in itself did write some fine music and incredible songs. They also had deep meaning to most of their songs through the lyrics they wrote — that was one of the key elements to their popularity. AIC, on the other hand, had a deep, dark, and mysterious side to lust about everything they did that couldn’t be produced or duplicated by anyone who tried. Layne’s voice was ideal for the purposes of the band and was very apparent by the final results. His low-keyed monotonic drawl had an eeriness and darkness to it that made his style so unique and unmistakable, it was Alice In Chains’ signature. At times he sounded as if he were struggling with inner demons while trying to sing. The power from the bass and guitar that this band created was also unique in itself and again had an unmistakable sound to it. What is hard to fathom was that Alice In Chains was as acoustic as it was electric. Jerry Cantrell is one of the few musicians in this world who could make his acoustic guitar sound as scary as if he was using his electric guitar. It didn’t matter which one he chose since he was a wizard with both. Jerry is so consistent in taking you to another place when listening to him play or when he comes in with one of his many incredible solos. Mike’s acoustic bass sounds so heavy in mostly every song (when used). He adds such an incredible sound to the overall finished product.

One could go on for pages about the types of musicians Alice In Chains was blessed to have in the band. The same can be said for the songs created by them and what was truly meant by the lyrics, especially since Layne was such a deep and interesting person to begin with. His inner battles from everyday life, not to mention his addiction had to influence him in a way no one will ever know or understand.

There is one definite and positive thing to note here. It is certain that any LP released by Alice In Chains is a masterpiece any way you look at it. This double CD, The Essential Alice In Chains, is no exception. If you buy it you will like it without a doubt. If you have AIC’s first five LP’s (actually 3 LP’s and 2 EP’s) you really don’t need it you will find out.


  • George Fustos

    George was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He has engineering degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering. He favors Metal, Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Blues, and even some Jazz and Motown (depending on the tune). He used to dabble with the bass quite some time ago. His most influential bassists are Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Geddy Lee, and John Entwistle (RIP Ox). Band-wise he's really into Rush, Tool, early Metallica, Pink Floyd (including Waters and Gilmour as solo artists), The Who, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Halford, Joe Satriani, certain Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins (Blues guitarist), Motörhead, and a German band called Skew Siskin that Lemmy says in an interview as being "the best band out there today."

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