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”