Review Summary: Think you've heard every release from the grunge bands Alice In Chains? Have you heard this one? If not go out and get it, and you shouldn't be dissapointed. This is songs from different albums, and then some.
Released in 1999, this one-disc collection can be looked at as an Alice In Chains music sampler. It's not a best of album, its better considered as the "Best of the Box," album. Some of the tracks off of this, are songs that were previously unreleased, and there is also a song that comes from a soundtrack. And you can of course find most of these songs on earlier "actual" released albums.
For the longest time I owned this album, I always thought that it was just a normal album, but I was like Dirt, Facelift, ect. But I was wrongfully mistaken. As its a collection of songs from seperate album and then some. And it really introduced me to the band. And actually introduced me to other popular grunge bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden. Although this album isn't very well know to some, it actually went out and hit Gold.
Alice in Chains is:
Layne Staley - Vocals
Jerry Cantrell - Guitar, Back-up Vocals
Mike Starr - Bass
Sean Kinney - Drums
Get Born Again (Previously Unreleased)
"Get Born Again" is an excellent opener, and really sets the mood of the album. It has a good example of how well Layne Staley on vocals and the one and only Jerry Cantrell doing back-up vocals, can work together flawlessly. Complimenting each others voices really well in this song. As same goes with how well Mike Starr on bass and Jerry on guitar compliments each others instruments. The drums are right there backing and complimenting everybody's position. These compliments aren't only key for the track "Get Born Again" it goes for the same on every single one of these tracks on Nothing Safe. The musicianship is breathtaking when it comes down to Alice In Chains alone. This album and song pretty much proves their musicianship better than any other Alice In Chains album out there today.
We Die Young (Demo)
"We Die Young" is an "in your face" track, that proves that Alice In Chains not only makes mellow grunge beats. But at one point in their career's, they were actually considered as a "metal" band. "We Die Young" has a raw sound to it, and shows how much Alice In Chains can evolve from a track like "Get Born Again" to "We Die Young." Layne Staley singing a portion of the time and also giving out an almost scream effect to the table in this track. The guitar and drums are what really stands out, Jerry soloing like a mad man every now and then, as if this song was made and produced straight from the top of their heads. This track is one of the great examples of why Jerry should have been a better known guitarist. The drums stand out really well also, giving the song almost a "you can't escape" vibe. But the song ends on a short note of 2:25, and seems like its only been playing for a minute.
Man In The Box (Taken From Facelift)
For the longest time, I thought that this album's name was in fact "Man In The Box." And I later found out that it was just "Nothing Safe." They made an excellent choice of putting this song on the album, because it really fits the mood and vibe, almost better than any other song on this disc. Anyways this is my favorite vocals of Layne Staley ever, but without being fanboyish, I shall explain. To kick this song off, you'll hear Jerry working the guitar with the help of his wammy bar, and Layne singing in a high pitch note, and soon letting out "I'm the Man.....In The Box!" A mellow calming song, that can almost seem explosive. Just because of the first few seconds of it. The bass and drums compliment each other really well, with its classic grunge sound. Jerry barely lets go of the whammy bar through out the whole song, but without that sound, it just wouldn't be the same "Man In The Box" we are all just so used to.This is sure to be a song that will be stuck in your head after listening.
Them Bones (Taken From Dirt)
Right away, this song jumps out and karate chops you in your nuts, with the chugging bass and guitars, and Layne's echoing vocals. This is another good example of Layne and Jerry vocals. And how well they can blend in with eachothers voices with out canceling out the others. Jerry soon unleashes a furious solo, that pretty much defines not only this song, but Alice In Chains in general. It's just that solo, that when I hear it, I immediately think of the band, and the great music I'm use to them putting out. The drum work in this song is also excellent and doesnt show a sign of a flaw. A classic Alice In Chains song, no buts about it.
Iron Gland (Unlisted Track From Dirt)
Starts out with an almost identical "Black Sabbath" Iron Man sound guitar riff, that holds its note thoughout pretty much the whole song. This track pretty much shows their humerous side, with the track only lasting maybe 30 seconds. With the "Iron Man" note being held, you can hear laughter in the background, someone yells;
And then before you know it "Iron Gland" is done and over with. If you was wondering what the hell that was from the album "Dirt." Now you know, its called "Iron Gland."
Angry Chair (Taken From Dirt)
There is a nice drum work then the bass line that kicks this track off, with a calming vibe. But everyonce in a while excells up a little bit with anger and force, but drops down after only just a few second. Lyrically this is one of my favorite tracks, but after listening to it after a while, it begins to get old. And has never been a highlight to me off of the album "Dirt." Although it has another one of Jerry Cantrell's flawless solo's, sounds as if he pics deep down on his guitar. This can always make an average Alice In Chains song, just that much better. The bass in this song is really catchy though. And the bass line is one, that if I remember, would like to try to learn later. Not that it sounds very difficult, just like I stated earlier, the bass is "catchy."
Down In A Hole (Taken From Dirt)
Here we go with the unforgetable song that goes by the name of "Down In A Hole." you have probably heard this song, along with "Rooster" off of your local radio rock station.
If the songs above were too intense or rock hard for you for some reason, this song will be an exellent resting spot for you. It begins with a calm guitar sound, and even symbol taps from the drummer Sean Kinney. But sadly you have to listen closely in this song to hear the bass. The song gets a little bit more harder after a while, but nothing compared to the earlier track demo "We Die Young." Its almost too noticable that the guys of Alice In Chains were depressed or maybe the now cliche term "Down In A Hole" when making and writing this song. There is a guitar slide displayed by Jerry in a couple places in this song that helps fit the almost saddened vibe of the song. Despite the speed and vibe of the song, the musicianship is still at tip top. This is a good example of why Alice In Chains get all the hype that they do.
Rooster (Live and Previously Unreleased in North America)
They couldn't of picked a better somewhat "rare" live song to put on this album. I stated "somewhat" because I believe that this track isnt taken straight off of the MTV Unplugged album. And the fact that it's not %100 acoustic. But taken from a different "live" show. Rooster is another famously radio played track, but you won't hear it like this on the radio, I'll promise you that. With Jerry playing the guitar, either just tuned down, or acoustic, either one it just sounds really good. This is the slowest song on the album but that doesn't mean it doesnt have it harder aspects. As it elevates up to what I'm for sure is an electric guitar, with a little bit of whammy bar effect added in with it. The drum work in this sounds echoed but that's just because of the fact that it's a "live" version. Mike on the bass, once again compliments Jerry's guitar with grace, and a whole lot of, what I will call "passion." The sound quality in this could be better, but its not bad enough to give this track, alone, a low rating. Unless you really just can not stand the echo effect. If you want to experience Layne's vocals at its complete best, look no further than "Rooster."
Got Me Wrong (Taken From MTV Unplugged)
"Got Me Wrong" is another live track, but it %100 acoustic. At the beginning of this track, right when Jerry starts strumming his guitar, you can hear the crowd chear. As if they have all heard this song millions of times before, probably because they have, it's another song that can be considered one of Alice In Chains's "Hits." Thankfully the crowd doesn't get in the music's sound to aweful much, and is just kind of faded in the background. This track, unlike "Rooster" thankfully doesn't have the echo effect that some may frown upon. And once again "Got Me Wrong" shows Alice In Chains's awesome power of musicianship and with their vocals and everything in between. You have to listen a kind of close to hear the bass, but its there. And Mike's doing his job, just like expected. As I'm a sucker for Unplugged songs, this one gives me a reason to be, as it's really catchy, and still full of energy. Full of energy even without the amps, that has to tell you something. This track has a little bit more speed than the previous track "Rooster." But I still consider it as being classically mellow and calm. Layne's vocals are par in this song, with the same power that he had in "Rooster."
No Excuses (Taken From Jar Of Flies)
To kick it up a notch after the mellowish songs previously talked about, is the song "No Excuses." The notch only being kicked up a couple places, this song is still just a tad bit harder. Jerry shows off his talent on the guitar in this song, showing his fans that he's not all about playing "only" power chords throughout the whole song. And does a few mini solo's here and there throughout the choruses. And once again, one of his signature solo's. The bass is there, doing what I'll consider a breakdown throughout the whole song to help set the lonely and emotional mood of this track.. And the drumming almost has a tribal sound to it. And gives out a nice spicey recipe to the song, but not really doing anything mega hard and technical. This is a song that I would recommend listening to after a hard days of work. "No Excuses" is also a good example of how well Alice In Chains can write lyrics. Handing out the notion that they are all just normal human being like the rest of us, and go through hard times just like the rest of us. Great song.
I Stay Away (Taken From Jar Of Flies)
The first thing you hear on "I Stay Away" is Jerry's guitar strumming in a cool and calm mood. At first keeping the same pace from "No Excuses." But then boosting up the energy a little bit to a "We Die Young" metalish beat. But it only lasts a few seconds, and calms down once again. Layne's vocals are typical in this song, but still high toned and emotional. And what would this song be without another one of Jerry's patented guitar solo's" "I Stay Away" has a nice soothing bass line to help keep the flow of the song, and is one of my favorite from Alice In Chains. There are almost opera sounding violin's or something of some sort in this song, that truly helps this song stand out from the rest. The sound quality is the same on this, as you would hear off of the actual album "Jar Of Flies." In case you were wondering.
What The Hell Have I (Taken From The Original Motion Picture - Last Action Hero)
The only soundtrack on this album, and not a bad song at all. It has a really catchy and psychedelic guitar riff, that proceeds on and off for pretty much half way through the song. The bass if far from the highlight from the song. Because it's pretty much just there backing up the Jerry on the guitar. Layne's vocals are pretty unique though, and can almost be mistaken as being sung through a voice box in some points of the song. But not bad at all. The song, just because of the guitar sound be Jerry can be considered catchy. The sound quality is in fact different on this song, from the rest of "taken from album" songs, just because it's in fact, not taken from an Alice In Chains album. And it seems almost overproduced, I would enjoy it much more if the guitars sound didn't block out the bass and drums as much. And the vocals could be tuned down a little bit more. But one small flaw doesn't make this track exactly horrible at all. It's a good listen for any Alice In Chains fan that has never heard it before.
Grind (Taken From Alice In Chains)
Next up is the song "Grind" if you haven't figured that out yet. At the start of this track, you'll hear the almost mysterious and almost damaging music work off of this whole album. It reminds me of intimidating military troops marching down a road getting ready to battle. The music would fit that picture really well. But anyways, the highlight of this song is Layne's and Jerry's vocals. Different from the average Alice In Chains vocals, they are again haunting and mysterious. Jerry's samples of vocals really sets the vibe for this song. And at about the 3:00 mark, Jerry pulls of yet another solo of his. But not exactly an average trademark solo, its a little bit quicker and slicker. Lasting about 17 seconds. The drum work in "Grind" is pretty much average and nothing special at all, but its there and the song wouldn't be complete with out it. Definitely a highlight song.
Again (Taken From Alice In Chains)
The beginning of "Again" starts out with a repetitive bass tab, and catchy drum beats. And then excells up to Layne and Jerry's vocals at, what I can just about consider their best. Although I talk highly about those two's vocals alot throughout this review, this time I'm not over doing myself. As they sing at the same time, it almost sounds like just 1 person's voice alone. Until one of them stops their singing, and you can still hear the other one's vocals in the background. I couldn't think of two people's vocals that compliment each others so well. This song is an excellent example of this. With Jerry's "Yeeeaahhh" in between drum rolls, makes an excellent vibe for this medium speed song. The bass, of course compliments the guitar and drum work like it naturally does. The drum rolls and beats in this track are very catchy, and pretty much haunting. It almost proves that Sean Kinney's drum work is one of the most underrated in the grunge business.
Would" (Taken From Dirt)
To end this sampler off of right, is the enfamous song that goes by the name of "Would." The song start off with Sean Kinney picking at his bass, with one of my favorite bass lines from Alice In Chains, and then a calming "WooHooHooooo" so to speak from Layne, and then the song finally starts. The guitar actually backs up the sound of the bass in this track, and they pull it off really good. The drums beating keeping the pace of the song on medium. Then there is a slow solo by the one and only Jerry Cantrell. They couldn't of chose a better song to end this album of with too. Keeping it up-beat and its pretty much a nice bid farewell track. Sadly Jerry's vocals are not displayed in this song, but Layne still holds his own. This is another highlight track, and the lyrics are classic in terms of Alice In Chains.
So there it is, this music sample or what I've been calling it, this "album," is definitely recommended to all harcore Alice In Chains fans. And it's also a great start for anybody wanting to try to venture into the realms of Alice In Chains. The only big flaw that I can think of, is that I wish they would've used songs off of different albums besides Dirt, and Jar Of Flies. But instead of that, I can't think of much to complain about. The songs that they did choose to use, were really good ones. If anybody underrestimates Alice In Chains, they need to listen to "Nothing Safe" and think about what they are thinking.