Alice in Chains
MTV Unplugged



by temporary USER (14 Reviews)
May 30th, 2006 | 10 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

For a band who managed to create some of the greatest music of the past two decades with only three studio albums and two EPs, it makes sense that every piece of fluff would be latched unto by the fans. And this album is a prime case of that. When it was recorded, Alice in Chains were at an all time low in their personal situation, although certainly not a musical one. Although they'd released another compelling album to huge critical and commercial success, Layne Staley was slowly spiraling into complete heroine addiction, and the band hadn't launched a tour since their watershed album Dirt. Despite all this, their epydamous third album still showed excellent songwriting built around Staley's tortured vocals and Jerry Cantrell's effect laden guitar. And the sound of the band was still as two faced as ever, with one facet being the fist pumping hard rock, dominated by metallic riffing and crushing rhythm, while the other being the mournful dirge ballads. Despite this, the band made only a single live appearance supporting that album, and it was for MTV's Unplugged sessions, and would mark the second time that this MTV series provided the final recording before the death of a Grunge leader.

So its with all these factors weighing in that one finally approaches Alice in Chain's Unplugged, and its hard not to wonder just how they approach bringing their songs into an acoustic format. What results is a very mixed bag. On one hand, some of the songs sound genuinely great without electronics, while others just simply lack the punch. This is no fault of the players themselves, who are all in top shape. Staley's overaught (and extremely underrated) vocals are as good as they ever were, Jerry Cantrell translates his parts to the acoustic guitar fairly well and harmonizes perfectly with Staley, Mike Inez's bass is sharp and deep, and Saun Kinney's drumming, while never flashy, is certainly solid, and The band is also joined by stand in guitarist Scott Olsen. No its just that some of the songs really need electric guitar and bass backing them, especially when Cantrell's effects heavy parts come into play.

Take Nutshell, for example. What would otherwise be a great performance, and nice calm opener, just doesn't feel the same without its jagged outro solo. Rooster just skids along, never reaching its famed crescendos and sorely lacking Cantrell's downtuded licks, and Angry Chair honestly just doesn't sound right acoustic. But thats not to say that the album isn't without its highs, either. Brother sounds fantastic acoustic, as does the recent hit Heaven Beside You, both of which sound like the band should've recorded them acoustic in the first place. And best of all, the final track Killer is Me is only found on this disk, and is nothing short of a great song.

So what keeps this album from being an essential buy? Its just the fact that two many of the songs just fall into the 'meh' category. No Excuses, Sludge Factory, Over Now or their massive hit Would certainly don't sound bad, its just that there's no real reason to listen to the acoustic versions over the originals. And the novelty factor of hearing these songs done acoustic wares off very quickly. But for hardcore Alice in Chain's followers, this is definitely recommended. Not only because it was the last thing Layne recorded before his tragic death, but also since Alice in Chains have such a small catalogue, any material is welcome.

Recent reviews by this author
Patti Smith Trampin'Black Sabbath Master of Reality
Cream Live At The Royal Albert HallPeter Gabriel So
Iron Maiden Piece of MindRainbow Rising
user ratings (1078)
other reviews of this album
Nagrarok (5)
Is there a better way to complete an artist's legacy?...

RottedFlesh (5)
A stripped down live accoustic performance from Alice In Chains which grasps at the ehart of its lis...

comm (4.5)

teamsleep698 (5)
A great, great, album. So great a classic in my book. Rivals the live unplugged show of Nirvana. Wil...

Comments:Add a Comment 
king sandbox
May 30th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review man. I agree, the album's good but lacks punch. I think nutshell is great though and down in a hole is just heartbreaking to listen to. It's by far the best and most powerful performance on the album IMO. Otherwise great review! Keep up the good work

May 30th 2006


this DVD is sexy, good review :thumb:

May 30th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

I love this album, and think it's almost perfect, and this version of angry chair is my favourite, and possibly my favourite song on the album (it's between that and down in a hole), still nice review though.This Message Edited On 05.30.06

May 30th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

this DVD is sexy, good review

Yeah, yours was too. ;)

I do like Down in a Hole on here, I might edit something about it in (it sounds great striped down like it is.)

May 30th 2006


Yeah, yours was too.

Two-Headed Boy
May 30th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Heaven Beside You is an awesome song.

June 2nd 2006


I saw this show the first time MTV aired it in '96 and the sound was all fucked up, you could barely hear Cantrell's guitar. When I watched the second airing of the show, they had fixed the sound and it was pretty damn good. This is one of the better unplugged shows, along with Clapton and Nirvana. That's just my opinion.

July 23rd 2008


Good review, even though I disagree. I think this album has a real charm about it, although I only own Alice In Chains s/t and Dirt, so I wouldn't know what all the originals sound like. Sludge Factory is great, I think, as is Nutshell, Would? and Down In A Hole. I see your point slightly on some songs, but I wouldn't rate any song below 4, it feels really special when I listen to it. Is there a DVD out? That might really help me get into it a little bit more, even edge up the rating to 5. That's what happened with Nirvana Unplugged, although I probably would give the CD a 5 at a push, as well.

July 23rd 2008


Oh, my mistake, there is a DVD. Guess I'll be giving that a look then...

June 16th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

Died and Get Born Again are the Last Recordings With AIC Dude!!!!!

My Favs Are Down in the hole, Brother(Better Version), Frogs (Better Ver.), Sludge Factory(Better Ver.), Got me wrong, Nutshell, Over Now, Killer is Me.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2019
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy