The Essential Alice In Chains
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/02/2006
In terms of greatest hits collections, Alice In Chains is starting to approach the ridiculous, a line Jethro Tull and Aerosmith crossed some time ago, at least in terms of hits discs vs. regular releases.
There's no reason that Alice in Chains needs three hits compilations and a box set... inasmuch as the band's entire output consisted of three discs, two EPs and an unplugged record. What's worse is that this is two discs long, so who exactly is it aimed at? Casual fans should start with a single-disc overview and fans already have the studio releases, so this is fairly redundant.
I guess this accomplishes the feat of rounding up every Alice In Chains track you need to hear; honestly, you could own only this and be absolutely set, if only because you'd be in possession of some of the best music of the 1990s. As it turns out, Alice in Chains was massively influential, a heavy metal band with lyrical and musical power, true spirit and a sense of humor (you had to look for it sometimes, but it was there). Very little of this was actually grunge, though they were lumped in with the Seattle scene; they were closer in sound and spirit to Queensryche, another Seattle metal band that was never part of the popular scene like they should have been
To the music. No doubt that "Them Bones," "Would?," "Man In The Box" and "Grind" rank among some of the finest music of the decade, and those along with all the other hits are here (only "Down In A Hole" is missing, but it's not essential). To fill the collection out, then, a plethora of album tracks are tossed in. Half of the first disc is taken up by eight songs from Dirt, the band's 1992 masterpiece, while four songs from the debut Facelift are here, although they are seemingly picked at random and not the best of that admittedly spotty disc.
Rounding out the first disc are two songs from the acoustic EP Sap, which provide a welcome relief from the electric onslaught with the catchy "Got Me Wrong" and "Brother," the latter featuring two members of fellow Seattle band Heart.
The second is just as good, rounding up the best of Alice in Chains, the Jar of Flies EP and the soundtrack songs "What The Hell Have I" and "A Little Bitter." The more effective arrangements of "Over Now" and "Nutshell" from the MTV Unplugged disc are the two best tracks from that disc, while "Get Born Again" and "Died" are only available on the box set until now.
The collection ends with "Would?," the band's finest moment, and if it seems that song closes out every AIC collection including Dirt, it's because nothing that comes after it would say it any better.
So while Essential may not be a necessary compilation, the music within is first-rate, and if you have this it's all the Alice in Chains you will need, unless you decide to dig deeper into the catalog.