25 years ago, Alice In Chains released their third EP, Jar Of Flies. It is an acoustic album that features the band’s incredible range. Blues, soul, country, instrumental, grunge and alternative rock could all be used to describe the EP’s music.
I have loved AIC since the first track of Facelift (“We Die Young”) acoustically and metaphorically hit my eardrums. As a student at Rutgers College, I eagerly awaited new releases, and felt a thrill whenever I found a “bootleg” recording to acquire.
Recently, I challenged myself to earnestly listen to the band’s 3 newest albums. In previous attempts to listen to this material, I was holding myself back. Holding back out of an unprocessed grief after the death of the band’s lead singer, Layne Staley, in 2002, and the band’s bassist, Mike Starr, in 2011.
The band persevered, thankfully. As I read about the anniversary of Jar Of Flies, I was able to find a new sense of gratitude for AIC’s survival. Jerry Cantrell, the band’s guitarist and co-lead vocalist, has spoken and written about grief and loss and survival. Alice In Chains has an on-going story to tell, and a sound that has evolved into something both familiar and new.
The music, and my newfound appreciation for the band, inspired me to create a “Best Of” playlist on Spotify. I selected tracks from 8 albums - 6 LP’s and 2 EP’s spanning 1990 to 2018. The tracks are in chronological release order for three voyages through the albums. I hear a story of pain, despair and addiction. I also hear a story of relationships, loss and survival, insight, wit and newfound purpose.
I end with 8 tracks I felt could not be denied inclusion on this playlist. “River of Deceit” is from the ‘superband’ Mad Season, and demanded incorporation for Layne’s honesty and haunting vulnerability. “Nutshell” has a second version added from AIC’s Unplugged concert to acknowledge my muse for rediscovering the band.
When I worked the closing shift at the Rutgers Recreation Center, I would signal the late-night gym-goers that they needed to wrap up by blasting “Would?” on the facility’s AV system.
I hope you enjoy! Here is the link to the playlist.