Unplugged (Alice in Chains album)

Unplugged is a live album and DVD by the American rock band Alice in Chains. It was recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Majestic Theatre as part of the MTV Unplugged series of concerts and contains live, acoustic versions of the band's songs and has been certified platinum by the RIAA.

AIC Unplugged.jpg
AIC Unplugged.jpg

Overview

Alice in Chains resurfaced on April 10, 1996 to perform their first concert in two and a half years for MTV Unplugged, a program featuring all-acoustic set lists. The show first aired on MTV on May 28, 1996. A live album of the performance was released in July 1996, which debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, and was accompanied by a home video release. The album has received platinum certification by the RIAA and the home video release has received gold certification by the RIAA. A full length DVD of the concert was also later released in 1999. The songs "Angry Chair", "Frogs", and "The Killer Is Me" were cut from the original MTV broadcast but are included on both the CD and home video releases. The album was re-released as a CD/DVD package on September 18, 2007.

The performance was one of the band's final appearances with vocalist Layne Staley. The performance featured some of the band's highest charting singles, including "Down in a Hole", "Heaven Beside You", and "Would?", and introduced a new song, "The Killer Is Me". The show marked Alice in Chains' first appearance as a five-piece band, adding second guitarist Scott Olson. It is often hailed as one of the most memorable editions of MTV Unplugged, with a reputation comparable to the famous editions featuring Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan.

Mike Inez's bass had the phrase "Friends Don't Let Friends Get Friends Haircuts..." written on it, directed at the members of Metallica who were in the audience and had recently cut their hair short. Inez and drummer Sean Kinney did pay tribute to Metallica, however, playing the intro to their hit song "Enter Sandman" just before "Sludge Factory". Before "Angry Chair," Jerry Cantrell paid further tribute by playing the intro to "Battery" going into the Hee Haw song, "Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me". This was omitted from the CD but can be found on the VHS and DVD.

The band was offered to do the segment numerous times prior to the actual taping before finally accepting. Jerry Cantrell has attested to being fairly ill during the performance as a result of food poisoning from a hot dog consumed before the gig. He has also stated that the band was considering playing the songs "Love, Hate, Love" and "We Die Young" for the set, but ultimately chose not to, chiefly as a result of limited time. Moreover, a few songs such as "Got Me Wrong" and "Sludge Factory" had to be replayed numerous times due to error. Accordingly, the taping took approximately three hours to finish.

Reception

The album initially received mixed reviews from critics. Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote in his review of the album: "It doesn't offer anything that the albums don't already. The acoustic arrangements of the harder songs sound like novelties, and the rest sound like rehashes of their previous work, only without much energy." Sandy Masuo of Rolling Stone wrote in her review "Unplugged certainly reaffirms the emotional range and technical prowess of Alice in Chains. But it lacks electricity in more ways than one. The concentrated catharsis in Alice in Chains' music is still best heard with the amps cranked up to 11." Despite this, the album eventually gained more recognition and praise after the death of vocalist Layne Staley, mainly due to his powerful performance despite his condition, and is now considered an iconic live album.

Track listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Nutshell" Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, Sean Kinney, Layne Staley 4:57
2. "Brother" Cantrell 5:27
3. "No Excuses" Cantrell 4:57
4. "Sludge Factory" Cantrell, Kinney, Staley 4:36
5. "Down in a Hole" Cantrell 5:46
6. "Angry Chair" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release) Staley 4:36
7. "Rooster" Cantrell 6:41
8. "Got Me Wrong" Cantrell 4:59
9. "Heaven Beside You" Cantrell, Inez 5:38
10. "Would?" Cantrell 3:43
11. "Frogs" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release) Cantrell, Inez, Kinney, Staley 7:30
12. "Over Now" Cantrell, Kinney 7:12
13. "The Killer Is Me" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release) Cantrell 5:23
Total length: 71:26

DVD track listing

  1. Program Start
  2. Nutshell
  3. Brother
  4. No Excuses
  5. Sludge Factory
  6. Down in a Hole
  7. Angry Chair
  8. Rooster
  9. Got Me Wrong
  10. Heaven Beside You
  11. Would?
  12. Frogs
  13. Over Now
  14. The Killer Is Me
  • The DVD release shows another take of "Sludge Factory," in which Layne Staley mixes up the lyrics at the beginning of the song which is ended shortly after.  They then go into the "formal" take which was used on the CD.  The DVD's introduction to "Sludge Factory" also contains portions of "Enter Sandman", written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett.
  • On the DVD, the final song's title is listed onscreen as "Killer Is Me."  Note that while the CD also lists the final song as "Killer Is Me," the DVD's track list lists the song as "The Killer Is Me."  The song was also released in the Music Bank box set, where the title is again listed as "The Killer Is Me."

Personnel

Alice in Chains
Additional performer
Production

Chart positions

Album

Chart (1996) Peak
position
Australian ARIA Charts 12
Austrian Albums Chart 23
Finnish Albums Chart 13
German Albums Chart 46
Netherlands Albums Chart 33
New Zealand Albums Chart 8
Norwegian Albums Chart 9
Swedish Albums Chart 7
Swiss Albums Chart 41
UK Albums Chart 20
US Billboard 200 3

Singles

Year Song Peak chart positions
US Main
US Mod
1996 "Over Now" 4 24
"Would?" 19
"Down in a Hole" 24
"Nutshell" 15
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Video

Chart (1996) Peak
position
US Top Music Videos 7

Certifications

Album

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada) Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA) Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Video

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA) Gold 50,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

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