Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Five Most Underrated Alice In Chains Songs with Layne Staley

Alice in Chains have produced a stellar catalogue of albums and amazing songs over their career. Hardcore Alice in Chains fan no doubt love these five most underrated tracks with the late, great Layne Staley, but newer Chains fans should definitely check them out to get a feel for some of the songs that don't get all the glory, yet are still powerful examples of the band's finest work.

"Real Thing" from Facelift

One of the most pro drug songs off Alice in Chains' debut album, "Real Thing" was written by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell and, lyrically, it details a love for drugs, presumably cocaine here (at the time of writing and recording Facelift, he claims he wasn't a heroin user). The chorus is typically good Chains with a swinging Cantrell riff carrying it along. It might be the last track on Facelift, but "Real Thing" is one of the most underrated AIC songs.

"Rain When I Die" from Dirt

"Rain When I Die" is an exemplary song from Dirt: A slow, grinding track that's both ominous, freaky and depressingly beautiful all at the same time. Staley wrote the lyrics, while Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr contributed the music. It's certainly got a grunge feel to it with its slow, plodding pace and wah wah parts. Kinney and Starr give "Rain When I Die" an amazing groove. While a pretty depressing song lyrically (it's also one of the most ambiguous tracks in terms of the words), the chorus is amazingly powerful with Staley's vocals right on point.

"What the Hell Have I" from Last Action Hero Soundtrack

Seems strange to have an Alice in Chains song on the soundtrack for an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but that's where "What the Hell Have I" ended up, after not making onto the Dirt album. The verses have an Eastern feel to them with Staley and Cantrell both handling vocals, but the chorus is pure, powerful Chains at their best with amazing harmonies and a heavy riff. Check out the Toby Wright remixed version on Music Bank as it sounds better than the soundtrack version.

"Over Now" from Alice in Chains

This song became a bit of a hit after the Unplugged album, but when Alice in Chains was released in November 1995, this track stood out because it was the last on the album that happened to be their final studio record with Layne Staley. Fans at the time knew AIC was on their last legs because of Staley's overwhelming heroin addiction. They'd cancelled tours and took a hiatus as Staley tried to get clean. During that time he recorded the Mad Season Above album before, rejoining Chains in the spring of 1995. Written mostly by Cantrell with help from Sean Kinney, "Over Now" is essentially about the end of the band. The verses are sung by Cantrell, with Staley helping out on the chorus, where there's a melancholy guitar lead behind the vocals, as if Cantrell knew this was over. But the real sadness comes out of Cantrell's guitar at the end in the form of a long emotive solo. The final note stretches on for 15 seconds, as if Cantrell doesn't want it to end. It's very poignant.

"Junkhead" from Dirt

If one song could sum up the Dirt album, it would be "Junkhead". It's heavy, ominous, boasts amazing harmonies on the chorus, and probably features the most pro-drug lyrics on the entire record. Written by Staley and Cantrell, the opening and verse riffs are dark and heavy with a Black Sabbath feel, then it changes and almost turns to happy, sunshine for the chorus as Staley and Cantrell sing out "What's my drug of choice? Well, what have you got? I don't go broke, but I do it a lot." Now, Junkhead isn't one of the best songs off Dirt, but it's definitely an underrated Alice in Chains song.

See how Alice in Chains recorded their amazing Dirt album and what Layne Staley kept in the vocal booth

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