Unplugged review by Alice in Chains

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  • Released: Jan 1, 1996
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (110 votes)
Alice in Chains: Unplugged
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Sound — 9
The sound of Alice in Chains Unplugged is basically what its title is: Alice In Chains, but acoustic. You'll still hear the same downtuned riffs and bass work from the studio albums, but now it's on acoustic guitars. This was recorded near the end of singer Layne Staley's life, when he was deep into drug addiction. You can hear the pain and strain in his voice, which for most fans is pretty moving. His voice doesn't sound bad per se, it just sounds different due to his addiction. It's not as clear or powerful, but it actually mixes well with the acoustic soundscape. Unlike a lot of Unplugged albums, Alice in Chains brought with them not only their softer songs, but the band also brings a couple heavier songs. For example, an acoustic version of the song "Would?" is on the album. It's a mix of both popular hits and lesser known favorites, but overall it sounds pretty damn good if you recognize Layne's condition.

Lyrics — 9
I'm not going to lie, Layne sounds like he's struggling throughout some of the songs. However, I can't stress enough how powerful this performance is, seeing a barely-living drug addict hit the stage for one of his last memorable sets. He still has that "Layne" style, but since the release of the original studio albums his voice had gotten a little weaker and more grainy, but it sounds pretty good considering it's the same style as on the records. Layne's lyrics are pretty damn good, a mix of anger and despair. It goes really well over the down-tuned riffs he's singing over. Once again, you'll absolutely love it, or you'll think he sounds like a weak singer past his prime. I for one love it.

Overall Impression — 9
I can't really compare this to the studio albums, after all this is a live set consisting of a combination of well-known hits and lesser known fan favorites. I think "Rooster" and "Would?" are my favorite tracks off of the record. I love the whole idea of AiC unplugged, and the powerful performance of Layne Staley. There's not much to dislike, but I feel that they took a little too long to get this going, instead of doing it back in Layne's prime. If I lost it, I'd probably pick it up again, or at least buy a couple of the tracks off iTunes or something. I recommend this album to any loyal AIC fan, as well as those looking to expand their grunge collection.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mitch rite
    "This was recorded near the end of singer Layne Staley's life, when he was deep into drug addiction." This was in '96. He died in '02. I'd hardly say that's near the end of his life, although it was certainly near the end of his career, and yes, he was heavily into drugs at this point.
    roarinflames
    Confetti wrote: DP_SF_DTX_RATM wrote: ????? Grunge was around way before Nevermind Did i say it wasn't? How stupid are you people? I sayd grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. Thats a freaking fact. I never sayd that they were the first grunge band. But sure hell they are not a punk band.
    Confetti wrote: Because Nirvana was the first. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. And Nirvana's Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. Only grunge bands i would put before Nirvana is AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pumpkins didn't do their best work with the grunge record's, so i wouldn't say that Pumpkins is a better Grunge band then Nirvana. Understand?
    actually you did say they were the first
    Sister Bob
    Confetti wrote: kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band.. Because Nirvana was the first. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. And Nirvana's Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. Only grunge bands i would put before Nirvana is AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pumpkins didn't do their best work with the grunge record's, so i wouldn't say that Pumpkins is a better Grunge band then Nirvana. Understand?
    Nirvana was not the first. Alice in Chains were around long before Nirvana were, not to mention early incarnations of Pearl Jam (Green River, Mother Love Bone). And the Pixies? Come on. They were around before it all. Were Nirvana the first to start selling buttloads of records under this made up "genre"? Yes. Was Nevermind that great? In my opinion, no. But everyone has their own... Also, I'd like to point out that the Smashing Pumpkins were pretty far from grunge. Sure their earlier stuff drew HEAVILY from that loud-quiet-loud formula that Kurt liked to use, (Both Cobain and Corgan have admitted they stole that trick from the Pixies.) but the Pumpkins, being from Chicago rather than Seattle, fell juuuuust outside the wide and unclear umbrella that was grunge. Besides, they were closer to goth rock and later, far too electronically influenced to be labelled just grunge.
    Sp00nman94
    DownInAHole. wrote: best album ever recorded
    agreed; it's right next to no. 4 (STP) and Revolver (The Beatles)...i like the DVD that shows layne messing up sludge factory
    Submerged
    LOL pumpkins more grunge than Nivana, kids are funny
    Jellybelly and Tales of a Scorched Earth would have killed Kurt Cobain if he wasn't already dead. Seriously, his head would have just exploded.
    Mud Martian
    Everyone here needs to calm down. And where is this "Layne barely sings" nonsense coming from? Cantrell doesn't sing because Layne can't, Cantrell sings because he does so on the records. Their harmonization is part of what gave the band their sound in the first place. More often than not, they are singing together, nobody is standing in for anyone. And as for the matter of Grunge and who got the Seattle bands big; Yes, Nirvana helped bring Seattle to the limelight and brought fame to the bands of that area, but that doesn't mean they weren't finding success on their own. In fact, they would've been better off without the Grunge label. Because of this association, when Grunge was replaced with sappy commercially-viable post-grunge bullshit, like Creed, people sort of lost interest in what Seattle was doing. The popular Grunge bands were not mainstream because they wrote mainstream music. They were mainstream because people made them so. So were Alice in Chains grunge? They were, yes. But they were far more metal / hard rock than anything else. Musically, they had almost nothing in common with Nirvana. They are only compared because they are from the same area. I own the Unplugged DVD, and watch it all the time. One of my absolute favorite live performances by any band!
    areese82
    I've got the cd and dvd. I played them both hundreds of times. Purely excellent.
    Shread_6009
    Confetti wrote: DP_SF_DTX_RATM wrote: ????? Grunge was around way before Nevermind Did i say it wasn't? How stupid are you people? I sayd grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. Thats a freaking fact. I never sayd that they were the first grunge band. But sure hell they are not a punk band.
    jeez confetti, first u said that nirvana was first, then you wrote the comment a second time saying nirvana started it. eitherway, ur saying they began grunge. before you get all high and mighty, first check if your right.
    J_J
    This is a great album. All the bickering aside, AIC was a great band. Label all these bands as grunge or not, they were part of the same movement musically, each with their own styles. The point is, this is the period in time when rock got back to what mattered most; THE MUSIC!
    urdad
    eh i dont like the drums sounds to electric, but hell this album kicks ass
    roarinflames
    Confetti wrote: roarinflames wrote: actually you did say they were the first Meaning they were first band that made it big. Idiot.
    ok first off, no reason to overreact. second, calling me an idiot and telling everyone they're stupid is going to get you warned. third, im right anyway because you did say "nirvana was the first." and for a final note, just calm the hell down. you're way too damn defensive to be on this site. your comments are immature and childish. now back to the main issue. this album is ****ing awesome.
    sambargun
    It was certainly the end of his life and career. If you've seen the original video, there's that part where Layne ****s up the beginning of 'Sludge Factory' and the whole band starts all over again. He was pretty much gone at this point and as much as I hate to say it like that, all he did till '02 was to take drugs. RIP Layne.....
    Me2NiK
    Grunge is derivitave of punk. Therefore, for a band to be grunge they must also be influenced by punk. If Nirvana is grunge, then Nirvana is a form of punk. Nirvana was NOT the first grunge band, as many people have made light of. Grunge had existed in some form or another in Seattle from 1984 and possibly before that as well. Nevermind was the first "alternative" rock album to hit #1; it, in turn, caused many other grunge bands to do well, even going so far as to have Pearl Jam's "Ten" outsell Nevermind. The reason you have heard of any grunge bands is because of Nirvana. Like their music or not, that is fact. As individuals, none of those bands were able to break into the mainstream before Nirvana got there. In fact, many of them might not have released their best material as a) many bands, such as the Smashing Pumpkins, went out of their way to NOT sound like Nirvana, and b) being in a band that plays music nobody likes isn't financially viable. I know bashing Nirvana is the cool thing for elitist grunge pricks to do, but you owe them a debt of servitude whether or not you like their music (not calling them Grunge essentially amounts to either not knowing what grunge means or not having listened to any of Nirvana's b-sides or rarities [From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah], or In Utero for that matter), because without them the majority of you wouldn't have heard of any of these bands. Alice in Chains can all themselves whatever they want; they're Grunge. This is also a phenomenal album and anyone who wants to hear a great Unplugged performance needs to check out this album.
    cukd7x-a2-
    phoetwny wrote: nirvana,was lucky enough and did there unplugged in one take and they were the only band to do this when Mtv still was " playing music" ,if layne or anyone else fuqqzup in recording it means there human, has nothing to do with personal demons. i wonder how many pplz whom comment could actually perform on stage or even hold it together enough to do a recording ,jus 1 song much less 13
    if you listen to polly, he sings like every other word in the chorus ...some seed...
    Findinghomer
    LOL pumpkins more grunge than Nivana, kids are funny. anyway back to topic, i love this album, this is what brought me back to AIC. i was so sick of hearing their played out shit on the radio i stopped listening to them. after this album, i refound them, and could enjoy them again, even to this day.. GREAT album.
    cooljew
    kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band..
    you're so right its ridiculous
    metaldud536
    I accidently bought this album. I wanted some of the songs off of Facelift (had no internet), bought this album..I was like "WTF..Live?"..but it grew on me quickly and now I'm proud to have it.
    kop4
    AIC is even better then Nirvana.
    There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band..
    sambargun
    Alice In Chains' debut Facelift came out long before Nevermind. Soundgarden also released their debut before Nevermind. All 3(AIc, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) were well known in Seattle. Listen to the album 'Temple of the Dog' .....
    inhatredofme
    i absolutely love this album, one of my all time favorites for sure. it just shows lots of emotion in a haunting way..can't be topped.
    Confetti
    shwilly wrote: sambargun wrote: It was certainly the end of his life and career. If you've seen the original video, there's that part where Layne ****s up the beginning of 'Sludge Factory' and the whole band starts all over again. He was pretty much gone at this point What the hell are you talking about? Things probably took a turn for the worse after his fiancee died, which was AFTER the unplugged session. I don't think he could've delivered such a wonderful performance if he'd been "pretty much gone" at the time. He just starts off singing the wrong verse, that's all. That's the only mistake he made (and a damn funny one may I add). I don't know if you watch many live shows but these things happen pretty often, especially if you haven't toured for years (as Layne mentioned during the show).
    What are you talking about? Most of the vocals are coming from Cantrell. Staley was pretty much messed up on the stage. watch the performance. Glad that it was a show that didn't include standing up. Staley is one of the best vocalist of all time, and in grunge AIC is even better then Nirvana.
    phoetwny
    nirvana,was lucky enough and did there unplugged in one take and they were the only band to do this when Mtv still was " playing music" ,if layne or anyone else fuqqzup in recording it means there human, has nothing to do with personal demons. i wonder how many pplz whom comment could actually perform on stage or even hold it together enough to do a recording ,jus 1 song much less 13
    fattypumbaa
    What are you talking about? Most of the vocals are coming from Cantrell. Staley was pretty much messed up on the stage. watch the performance. Glad that it was a show that didn't include standing up.
    I was thinking the same exact thing everyone is praising Layne Staley but Cantrell sings this whole ****in thing practically.
    bal90s
    i cant say anything else than its the best work of the chains i want to hear nutshell before i die. its so sad and painful
    LesPaulPwns
    [quote] Because it all started with Nirvana. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. quote] Nirvana was just another punk band.... they just had a distinctive sound... I think they sound more old-school punk than grunge... When I think of grunge I think of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, AIC, even old STP sounds more grungy than Nirvana.... If anyone disagrees with me that Nirvana was a punk band, well then you are also disagreeing with Cobain himself.... he called himself and his band punkers and he didn't like the credit he got for "inventing" grunge... He didn't even like grunge music....
    richgray5
    this an Nirvana's unplugged.....tied in my book. Others arent even worth mentioning.....none of them.
    DP_SF_DTX_RATM
    Confetti wrote: kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band.. Because it all started with Nirvana. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. That and Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. There is only few bands that i would put before Nirvana in grunge category and they are AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkin's didn't even make their best record's when they made grunge rock, so i wouldn't even put them before Nirvana in grunge. Understand?
    ????? grunge was around way before Nevermind
    DP_SF_DTX_RATM
    Confetti wrote: kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band.. Because it all started with Nirvana. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. That and Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. There is only few bands that i would put before Nirvana in grunge category and they are AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkin's didn't even make their best record's when they made grunge rock, so i wouldn't even put them before Nirvana in grunge. Understand?
    ????? Grunge was around way before Nevermind
    Zakk-H
    I believe that Layne was probley one of the best singers that came about in the 90's... Jerry did alot of singing on some of the tracks, but did he not sing the same parts on the albums aswell?
    Confetti
    kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band..
    Because Nirvana was the first. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. And Nirvana's Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. Only grunge bands i would put before Nirvana is AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pumpkins didn't do their best work with the grunge record's, so i wouldn't say that Pumpkins is a better Grunge band then Nirvana. Understand?
    Shread_6009
    These guys are, and consider themselves, heavy metal. people say AIC are grunge cause theyre from washington/seattle. next, only people that are deaf, lobotomized or have no taste in music dislike Nirvana and AIC.
    Confetti
    roarinflames wrote: actually you did say they were the first
    Meaning they were first band that made it big. Idiot.
    Confetti
    DP_SF_DTX_RATM wrote: ????? Grunge was around way before Nevermind
    Did i say it wasn't? How stupid are you people? I sayd grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. Thats a freaking fact. I never sayd that they were the first grunge band. But sure hell they are not a punk band.
    Confetti
    kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band..
    Because it all started with Nirvana. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. That and Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. There is only few bands that i would put before Nirvana in grunge category and they are AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkin's didn't even make their best record's when they made grunge rock, so i wouldn't even put them before Nirvana in grunge. Understand?
    Fly-swatter
    DP_SF_DTX_RATM wrote: Confetti wrote: kop4 wrote: AIC is even better then Nirvana. There are other grunge bands way better than Nirvana, I don`t understand why people go crazy about this band.. Because it all started with Nirvana. Grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. That and Nevermind is still one of the best rock records of all time. There is only few bands that i would put before Nirvana in grunge category and they are AIC and The Smashing Pumpkins. The Pumpkin's didn't even make their best record's when they made grunge rock, so i wouldn't even put them before Nirvana in grunge. Understand? ????? true, nevermind was almost too clean sounding to be grunge, Cobain even said that himself. Grunge was around way before Nevermind
    Slap-happy
    Glad that it was a show that didn't include standing up.
    Well, he managed at the Kiss shows a few months later.
    DP_SF_DTX_RATM
    Confetti wrote: DP_SF_DTX_RATM wrote: ????? Grunge was around way before Nevermind Did i say it wasn't? How stupid are you people? I sayd grunge bloomed after Nirvana made it what it was. Thats a freaking fact. I never sayd that they were the first grunge band. But sure hell they are not a punk band.
    Chill out I misread it, go change your tampon
    rockaxe
    I absolutly love this record... Every single song on it is amazing in more ways than one.. One of my favorites on it is "Nutshell".. Me and some of my buddies played it at our school talen show today... it went well for the most part... but anyway, this record gets a big two thumbs up and you should deffinitely go get it... NOW!
    shwilly
    sambargun wrote: It was certainly the end of his life and career. If you've seen the original video, there's that part where Layne ****s up the beginning of 'Sludge Factory' and the whole band starts all over again. He was pretty much gone at this point
    What the hell are you talking about? Things probably took a turn for the worse after his fiancee died, which was AFTER the unplugged session. I don't think he could've delivered such a wonderful performance if he'd been "pretty much gone" at the time. He just starts off singing the wrong verse, that's all. That's the only mistake he made (and a damn funny one may I add). I don't know if you watch many live shows but these things happen pretty often, especially if you haven't toured for years (as Layne mentioned during the show).
    mawood83
    Layne Staley must be rolling in his grave when people say they made "grunge" music..everyone from the Seattle movement hated that word. Nirvana were punk, AIC were more metal, pearl jam were rock and mudhoney..well they were grunge as ****. I would say Nirvana Unplugged was the better record because cobain held everything together where Layne sat there ****ed outta his mind singing parts here or there..even ****s the lyrics up in some parts. I agree with J_J though...just a great time to be alive to listen to all the great bands that came from that era..it'll never be duplicated. I'm not saying great movements won't come..but the age i was at when this happened was what shaped my mind musically.