Jar of Flies: Alice In Chains

Rating: 85%

alice_in_chains_jar_of_fliesReleased in 1994, “Jar of Flies” was another EP by Alice In Chains. This EP boarders the same style as the 1992 EP release “Sap.” It’s a collection of mid tempo songs that are acoustically based with some electric guitar. It features more musical influences besides the genre of Grunge. One will hear more Blues as well as a touch of Country music that is clearly heard on “Don’t Follow” and “Swing On This.” The instrumentation of electric and acoustic never takes away from each other.

This EP is very soulful with regards to the melody of the music. The slower and mid paced tempo is such a great touch. Overall, this EP is good. The flow of the tracks to the production of the entire album really showcases the talent each musician. Musically and lyrically, this album is very dark, but at times, the music tempo that is more upbeat such as “Swing on This” is a welcomed change in pace.

Vocally, Layne Staley is so good. He has a decent range with his vocal style. You will notice that on the song, “Don’t Follow.” Jerry Cantrell again, just nails the nail on the head. He proves that acoustical is just as good as electric. His leads are beautiful on this EP. Again, I love the harmony of the vocals between Jerry and Layne. Mike Inez’s bass lines and Sean Kinney drums are also spectacular.

Track Listing:

  1. “Rotten Apple” 6:58
  2. “Nutshell”   4:19
  3. “I Stay Away” 4:14
  4. “No Excuses” 4:15
  5. “Whale & Wasp” [instrumental]   2:37
  6. “Don’t Follow” 4:22
  7. “Swing on This” 4:04

Sap: Alice In Chains

Rating: 90%

alice_in_chains_sapEarly in 1992, Alice In Chains released an EP called “Sap.” This small EP contains four songs, although a fifth song is a hidden track on CD. Alice In Chains has been one of my favorite Grunge bands since I first heard them on the airwaves of 98Rock. I love the fact that this band has done some outstanding electric and heavy songs to more slower acoustical songs such as those you hear on “Sap.”

The musicianship of “Sap” is great. Layne Staley is on top of the world with his unique vocal style. How he and Jerry Cantrell can harmonize the way they do is beyond me. These two are an amazing duo. This is one feature of Alice In Chains that makes them such an interesting and a great band. So vocally, this album is fantastic. Jerry Cantrell who plays the acoustical guitar and electric solos is fantastic. His style is just great and proves that heavy riffs aren’t needed to make great songs. He also plays bass on “Love Song.” Michael Starr’s bass sounds awesome on this EP. He also plays the guitar on “Love Song.” Sean Kinney steps back from the normal with his drumming. He sets some of the easy keeled tempos for this record. As an added bonus, Ann Wilson from Heart is a backing vocalist on “Brother” and “Am I Inside.” Then Chris Cornell from Soundgarden provides backing vocals on “Right Turn” and “Love Song.” Mark Arm from Mudhoney also provides vocals on “Right Turn.”

Production of this EP is really clear. I totally get what Alice In Chains is doing. I like the melodies, the harmony of the music and vocals. The song structures are really good. It’s not heavy and yet, it’s not easy listening either. I like the carnival funhouse sounding, country style and weirdness of “Love Song.” The songs “Brother” and “Got Me Wrong” are great songs that feature great acoustical instrumentation and fine sounding electric guitar solos. This is a good Alternative Rock EP that isn’t really so much Grunge to me, but it does fit that genre. “Sap” would be the prelude to Alice In Chains’ second album “Dirt” which was released shortly after this EPTrack Listing:

  1. “Brother” 4:27
  2. “Got Me Wrong” 4:12
  3. “Right Turn” 3:17
  4. “Am I Inside” 5:09
  5. “Love Song” (Hidden Track) 3:44

Boggy Depot: Jerry Cantrell

Rating: 80%

Boggy_Depot.jpgReleased in 1998, Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains made his solo debut. It features Jerry Cantrell on lead and backing vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, clavinet, organ, piano, and the steel drums. Other musicians such as Alice in Chains band mates Sean Kinney on drums and Mike Inez on bass were featured on the album, although Kinney drummed throughout the entire album. The album also features Les Claypool, Rex Brown and John Norwood on bass, splitting up that position on various songs.

This record sets the stage for Jerry Cantrell, although, he would’ve preferred to have recorded this as an Alice In Chains record. But with Layne Staley in ill health, Alice In Chains had to be put on hold. So what could Jerry Cantrell do? Try and take a stab at being a solo artist.

Musically, this album sounds very much like an Alice In Chains album, but with various bass players on the record, brings in some new influences to Jerry’s music. The album still retains that classic vocal harmony that was so great in Alice In Chains. Three songs on the album, “Cut You In”, “Jesus Hands”, and  “Devil by His Side” feature all of the members of Alice In Chains members minus lead singer Layne Staley. These three songs are Alice In Chains and is why many consider this solo album to be the lost Alice In Chains record.

With that being said, this album features many new influences one would not hear on an Alice in Chains record. This to me allows Jerry Cantrell to be noticed as solo artist rather than just a guitarist with another band. Now let’s stop comparing this to Alice In Chains and focus on the artist. Jerry is a very talented songwriter and musician. There are many great guitar riffs on this album as well as guitar solos. With regards to Jerry’s vocal work he is very strong. Song structures are more drawn out and the album features many different tempo speeds.

Each musician that has worked on the album is very talented and each contributes something different. I like the fact that bassist Rex Brown from Pantera and Down plays on the majority of the songs. I also, like that Primus bassist Les Claypool contributes to “Between” and “Cold Piece”.

Bottom line is, what we have here is Jerry Cantrell doing his best at moving forward. Although, with Alice In Chains looming in the balance, hard decisions had to be made and it was a decision that I personally think paid off. To me, this shows where Jerry Cantrell has been as well as where he’s going from here which bridges the gap to the new formation of Alice In Chains.

Track listing:

1. “Dickeye” 5:07
2. “Cut You In” 3:23
3. “My Song” 4:07
4. “Settling Down” 6:12
5. “Breaks My Back” 7:07
6. “Jesus Hands” 5:37
7. “Devil by His Side” 4:50
8. “Keep the Light on” 4:49
9. “Satisfy” 3:35
10. “Hurt a Long Time” 5:41
11. “Between” 3:37
12. “Cold Piece” 8:29

Rubberneck: The Toadies

Rating: 85%

Rubberneck_album_cover.jpgRubberneck by the Toadies was released in 1994 and was their debut album. It featured rhythm guitarist and vocalist Vaden Todd Lewis, lead guitarist Darrel Herbert, bassist Lisa Umbarger, and drummer Mark Reznicek. When I heard “Possum Kingdom” I was completely blown away. Then, the radio stations were advertising this Texas band as a Grunge and I thought to myself “No way.” This was not grunge, but punk getting backing to it’s roots with some grunge thrown in and mixed with some damn good Alternative Rock.

Musically, I thought that this album was enjoyable. It contained it’s punk influences which can be heard on the opening track. It has some great melody and features some well done tempos. It has a good bit of harmony too. The guitar work is really amazing which can be heard on the song “Possum Kingdom.” Actually, the leads throughout the entire album are good. The bass is exceptionally good and there are some fine drumming on the album. Vocally, Todd Lewis has a unique voice. Production on the album is at it’s finest. Lyrically, this is a concept album about the “Possum Kingdom Lake” murders.

Track listing:

1. “Mexican Hairless”  1:48
2. “Mister Love” 2:51
3. “Backslider” 2:30
4. “Possum Kingdom” 5:09
5. “Quitter” 3:33
6. “Away” 4:34
7. “I Come from the Water” 2:46
8. “Tyler” 4:13
9. “Happy Face” 2:58
10. “Velvet” 2:30
11. “I Burn”

Pretty On The Inside: Hole

Rating: 85%

Hole_-_Pretty_on_the_InsideIn 1991, Hole released it’s debut album “Pretty On The Inside.” I must admit, I was not a Courtney Love fan when this first came out. In fact, I stayed away from Hole simply because of the fact many people blamed her for Kurt Cobain’s downfall. This album features Courtney Love on lead vocals and guitar. She is joined by guitarist Eric Erlandson, bassist, Jill Emery  and drummer Caroline Rue.

My wife actually introduced me to the band. In recent years, I forgot all about Hole and Courtney Love. Over this weekend, I figured “What the hell” let’s give it try. You know what? I actually enjoyed this record and for several reasons.

This album actually is rooted heavily in Punk music which fitted into with the Grunge movement nicely. Secondly, I hear lot’s of Hole’s influences such as Sonic Youth and Neil Young throughout the entire album. Thirdly, this album is closest thing to raw punk music that isn’t polished as many punk bands in the final stages of recording were at the time.

Courtney’s vocal style is raspy, raw, and very strong throughout the entire album. Although, she doesn’t have the range for the higher notes, her screams achieve that for her. There’s a lot of whispers and spoken word vocals on this album. All and all, Love’s vocal style is unique and is backed by emotional feel such as rage. Lyrically, she writes from a woman’s point of view. Themes deal with love, life and social issues of being a teenager or abandonment.

Musically, this album to me is their heaviest. There’s some influences of noise rock and punk that is heard throughout the album. Musicianship is great. Song structure is solid and yet has a certain choppiness and sloppiness to it that makes the album sound good. Although, there isn’t much lead guitar, there is a ton of heavy riffs throughout the album. The buzz guitars with heavy feedback give the album that Sonic Youth sound. It does have a certain degree of harmony and it has melody, but it is brutal.

All and all, this is a good album and I wish I would have not been biased with it’s release in 1991. Why it took me until 2016 to hear it, is beyond me. Would I recommend it? Yes…I would!

Track listing:

1 Teenage Whore 2:57
2 Babydoll 4:59
3 Garbadge Man 3:19
4 Sassy 1:43
5 Good Sister / Bad Sister 5:47
6 Mrs. Jones 5:25
7 Berry 2:46
8 Loaded 4:19
9 Starbelly 1:46
10 Pretty On The Inside / Clouds 5:25

Salt Lick/God’s Balls: Tad

Rating: 85%

MI0001637119So, we’re back to evaluating another Grunge album. Like I said before, I grew up in that age the Grunge  and I liked it. Tad was one of those first bands that was from Seattle during that movement. Although the band never gained popularity over the airwaves in Baltimore, MD, didn’t mean they lacked a following. Tad was part of the formation of the Grunge scene.

Formed in 1988, they released their debut album “God’s Balls” in 1989. A year later, Saltlick/God’s Balls was released and this is my favorite LP of theirs. This LP contained six songs  for the Saltlick EP, combined with a bonus track from SP55 and seven of the best of ten songs from “God’s Balls.”

Upon hearing Tad, I felt it was a mixture or in between Nirvana and the Melvins with a little punk mixed with a ton of 1970’s heavy metal and a little Neil Young thrown into it. The music is very heavy. Tad Doyle’s vocal work is very strong and seems to be a bit whiskey drenched. His and Gary Thorstensen’s style of playing of the guitar is very solid. The two seem to harmonize on all of the tracks. Steve Wied’s drum work is very impressive. Kurt Danialson’s bass work is great throughout the album.

The song structure is very good. Lots of tempo changes and some really good melodies. The lead guitar work is really good. The rhythm sections are beefy. The drums and bass guitar give this record a very meaty, raw, gritty and choppy sound to it. Yet, some of there songs seem to be melodic. The music just sounds fantastic. Production is very good.

This was a promising band. To bad they ended up breaking up like so many of the Grunge bands in the mid 1990’s. I would’ve like to seen more material and have them be more of an influence than what they are credited for.

Track listing:

Salt Lick EP

“Axe to Grind” – 2:10
“High on the Hog” – 2:28
“Wood Goblins” – 3:13
“Hibernation” – 2:56
“Glue Machine” – 3:43
“Potlatch” – 3:26

SP55 7‘’

“Loser” – 3:26

Selection from “God’s Balls”

“Behemoth” – 4:08
“Pork Chop” – 4:19
“Helot” – 2:54
“Sex God Missy” – 4:26
“Cyanide Bath” – 3:35
“Boiler Room” – 4:47
“Satan’s Chainsaw” – 3:10

The Bootlicker: The Melvins

Rating: 70%

Melvins-thebootlickerThe Melvins have been on of those bands that you like or dislike. Their musical style seems to influence many genres such as Grunge, Sludge Metal and Alternative Rock. Also, they have influenced many bands over the years. Their musical style is funky, weird and doomy. It all depends on the album and the time period of the band’s history as to what you’re going to get.

Bootlicker is the second installment of three releases that are referred to as the Trio. “The Maggot” is part one, “The Bootlicker” is part two and “The Crybaby” is part three. They are called this because the three albums were released within one year. The Bootlicker features the one and only King Buzzo Osborne on vocals, guitar and additional noises, Dale Crover on drums and Kevin Rutmanis on bass guitar.

This album is not as heavy as “The Maggot” and has a very strong psychedelic feel to it. Many of the tempos are much slower and not as heavy. There’s no real sludginess to the album and lacks the doomy elements. It has more of a mellow feel that is drenched in early Pink Floyd mixed with a little Primus and some blues. This album does have a nice melody and harmony to it. There’s a lot of additional noises on this album, which in some cases blend in very well, but at other times, seem to be out of place. This album even has some atmospheric influences along with some drawn out outtros, intros and bridges.  There’s even some techno influences on this album. Production isn’t to bad,  but it’s not as good as “The Maggot.”

Vocals are a bit light, almost like a Syd Barrett when he was in the early stages of Pink Floyd. Guitar is wonderfully done. The bass is very good and sounds great. There’s some very good drumming on this record as well. Good musicianship is heard throughout the entire album. Strong points on the album “Let It All Be”, “Black Santa”, “Jew Boy Flower Head” and “Lone Rose Holding Now.”

Bottom line, I love the Melvins and what they have contributed to heavy metal and music in general. There are some very good tracks on this record, but, at the same time, it seems a bit loose and seems to have some fillers that don’t need to be in the final production.

Track listing:

1. “Toy” 1:09
2. “Let It All Be” 10:48
3. “Black Santa” 3:41
4. “We We” 0:57
5. “Up the Dumper” 2:23
6. “Mary Lady Bobby Kins” 3:37
7. “Jew Boy Flower Head” 6:06
8. “Lone Rose Holding Now” 2:23
9. “Prig” 8:47