10 Best Alice In Chains Songs That Weren’t Singles
For a die hard Alice In Chains fan, it is nearly impossible to come up with a best of list with only 10 songs (our original had 26). So we took a different approach and eliminated all the radio singles. You already know ‘Rooster,’ ‘Man in the Box,’ ‘I Stay Away,’ and ‘Would’ anyway. Instead of having really obvious tunes make up most of the list, we’re running with the best tracks from the lesser known chunk of the Alice In Chains discography.
This one is probably the closest thing ever written to a drug addict’s anthem. The chorus humorously reflects on that period of addiction before things start looking grim as Staley sings “What’s My Drug of Choice / Well What Have You Got?” Despite its grim subject matter, a cool arrangement and harmonized guitar solo add extra punch to a song that ends up feeling like one of AIC’s funner songs… if there is such a thing.
Something about the falsetto heavy original that appeared on “Tripod” pales in comparison to the raw vocal delivery from Staley on their MTV Unplugged version. The stripped down ‘Sludge Factory’ added a new dimension to the track that was lost in it’s overproduced predecessor. One of many tracks that chronicle the days of addiction that would eventually be the undoing of Layne Staley.
‘Shame In You’
‘Shame in You’ is taken from their 1995 self-titled album, this was the last record the band made with Staley. The album nicknamed “Tripod” debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and spawned three huge singles — ‘Again,’ ‘Grind’ and ‘Heaven Beside You.’ Despite all this, the band didn’t tour behind the album because Layne’s condition had become unmanageable. Even with all the turmoil going on in the band, they still managed to make great songs that branched out stylistically like ‘Shame in You.’
One of the more laid back songs from the group served as the lead-off track to the 1994 EP ‘Jar of Flies’. Though it only contained 7 songs, 4 of them were released as singles. ‘No Excuses’ and ‘I Stay Away’ were both commercially successful while the unlikely (but still great) single ‘Don’t Follow’ fell flat. Even the instrumental track ‘Whale & Wasp’ was released as a single… Man, I miss the 90’s! ‘Rotten Apple’ was probably passed over due to it’s near 7-minute run time, easily stands among the best AIC tracks.
‘What the Hell Have I’
Okay, I know I said I eliminated all the singles, this song is the one exception. Even though it was released as a single, it’s often overlooked because it appeared on the ‘Last Action Hero’ soundtrack and not an AIC record. The weird middle-eastern rhythm guitar mixed with Jerry’s unconventional lead riff make this one a necessity on any Alice in Chains mixtape.
‘Dam That River’
This straight ahead ass-kicker comes from the 1992 grunge masterpiece ‘Dirt.’ Along with Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Superunknown,’ ‘Dirt’ was one of those albums that defined the 90s. With an arsenal of highly successful singles like ‘Rooster,’ ‘Down in a Hole,’ ‘Would?,’ ‘Them Bones’ and ‘Angry Chair,’ it’s not surprising that this incredible track is often passed over by casual listeners.
‘Black Gives Way To Blue’
This hauntingly emotional track comes from the album of the same name, the band’s first after the passing of vocalist Layne Staley in 2002. New vocalist William DuVall does a great job on the new disc, but his vocals are absent on this tribute to the band’s fallen singer. Elton John, however, does lend his piano skills to this heartbreaking ode to Staley that centers on addiction and avoidance. ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ is enough to give anyone with a little history on the band the chills as Jerry Cantrell and company beautifully say farewell to their brother. The song could be 3 minutes longer if you asked us, but the song poetically ends before it’s time just like its inspiration.
The title track from ‘Dirt’ proved that you can be heavy without playing 200 beats per minute, a skill many artists of the time had forgotten. Jerry Cantrell’s wah-wah soaked main riff epitomizes the term grunge. Many bands of the 90s were labeled with the term, Alice In Chains were one of the very few that the title seemed to fit. One of Chains’ most brutal and lyrically brilliant tracks. The mixture of love and death climaxes with the lyrics “I Want You to Scrape Me / From The Wall and Go Crazy / Like You Made Me,” which Staley sings with such conviction it makes you feel his pain.
‘Rain When I Die’
Another great non-single track from ‘Dirt’ that, as many AIC songs, was oddly prophetic of Layne Staley’s demise. ‘Rain When I Die’ exemplifies everything Chains does best — grooved out bass lines and soaring vocal melodies that, when paired with Jerry Cantrell’s swampy guitar rhythms, create unforgettable and explosive moments. It is worth noting that deceased former bassist Mike Starr played a large role in the writing of this song. Starr was kicked out of the band on the ‘Dirt’ tour and replaced by Mike Inez.
Though never released as a single, this is easily one of Alice in Chains’ best known songs. The pure emotion of the song really came through when the band performed it for their MTV Unplugged special. While many regard that version as the definitive one, I prefer the brilliance of Jerry’s electric guitar solo from the ‘Jar of Flies’ version. This song perfectly embodies the struggles that Layne’s addiction would later put him through, although the deep feelings of loneliness and despair are non-specific enough that anyone can identify with the message.