If I Would, Could You?

Alice In Chains Albums Ranked Worst To Best

by Pete Crigler

Alice In Chains was always one of my favorites from the Seattle era, and they still are. Though they went through unspeakable tragedy, they channeled the pain and darkness into the music and came out with some of the bleakest and dreary rock music of the ‘90s. Losing Layne Staley to an overdose in 2002 nearly crippled them for good, but Sean Kinney, Jerry Cantrell, and Mike Inez rose from the ashes, and together with William Duvall, came back not only stronger but lighter. The music still has the same intensity, but it’s not as overwhelmingly black and that’s a good thing. The band has always stayed true to themselves, which is one of the things that has made them so great in the first place. Let’s proceed with the proceedings.

aliceinchains_nothing_15013.(t) Nothing Safe: Best Of The Box (1999) / Live (2000)

Two of the most inessential products ever released in the history of the music business. Nothing Safe was a sampler released that summer that teased the upcoming box set and gave the world their last taste of Layne Staley on the still-great “Get Born Again.” Buy the box set or something else to get the whole picture. The live disc contained several tracks that had already been released on the box set but had some decent stuff, including some otherwise unreleased BBC sessions. Both records ended up really inconsequential and are for diehards only.

11. Greatest Hits (2001)aliceinchains_gh_150

A cash grab of a release that still went gold. This disc boils everything down to the nitty gritty, and it’s only useful if for some reason you don’t already have everything else.

aliceinchains_unplugged_15010. Unplugged (1996)

A recording of one of the band’s last performances, and man, is it creepy and unsettling! Staley’s voice was already dramatically different and he couldn’t even hit a lot of his best notes anymore.

9. Jar Of Flies (1994)aliceinchains_jar

This is the first EP to ever debut at number one, but it’s not really a record I’ve gone back to over and over again. All the best tracks (“I Stay Away,” “No Excuses,” and “Nutshell”) can already be found elsewhere. It’s an interesting detour for sure, but ultimately this was the beginning of the end of the original band. While it was an insanely successful record when it was first released, it’s something I think of more of an afterthought now.

aliceinchains_black_150 8. Black Gives Way To Blue (2009)

The band’s first comeback record was a bit shaky but had a fair share of great tunes, like “Your Decision” and the title track, a lament for Layne featuring Elton John on piano. It’s definitely different if you were used to the old Alice In Chains and definitely something that took to some getting used to, but overall, this release is a decent comeback worth checking out.

7. The Essential Alice In Chains (2005)aliceinchains_essential_150

The definitive greatest hits for those who don’t already own the expansive three disc box set. This has got everything that the single disc hits packages didn’t and more. A perfect summation of a great career.

aliceinchains_sap6. Sap (1991)

This is my favorite EP of the ‘90s – it’s acoustically amazing and shows a different side of the band. They had been touring with the likes of Iggy Pop and Extreme, among others, and decided to strip things down a bit with some amazing guests, including Chris Cornell, Ann Wilson of Heart, and the irrepressible Mark Arm of Mudhoney. “Am I Inside” and “Wrong Turn” are two of the best tracks the band ever released. If you’re not already familiar with the disc, I advise you to stick around after “Am I Inside” for the bonus track, it’ll help you see the band in a completely different light!

5. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013)aliceinchains_devil_150

The most recent studio album also has what might singlehandedly be their best song since the ‘90s, “Hollow,” which roars above all the competition on rock radio and easily destroyed it. “Voices” sounds like vintage Alice, and the other tracks fall quickly in line, making this one of the coolest and most laidback rock records of the year. (And definitely better than Pearl Jam’s last!)

aliceinchains_music_1504. Music Bank (1999)

THE motherload of box sets when I was growing up: three CDs of music and a now outdated CD-ROM that probably doesn’t work anymore with modern computers. This release included all the rarities, demos, and alternate versions of the hits that a diehard fan would want. “Get Born Again,” the last single and one of the last new songs recorded in Layne’s lifetime, still holds up to this day and is still extremely ominous and creepy – all the elements needed for a great Alice song. This is a box set I still go back to as one of the best for music fans of my generation.

3. Alice In Chains (1995)aliceinchains_st_150
Of the three major studio albums, this is the weakest, but it still stands tall amidst the rest of the catalogue. Layne was clearly on his last legs at this point, but he still sounds pretty damn good vocally on several tracks, including “Again” and one of their coolest songs, “Grind.” This one gets demerits for weaker cuts like “Frogs,” “Heaven Beside You,” and a couple of others. But the stronger moments really help make up for the overly long, weaker ones. A good record, but after the first two, it was a bit of a letdown.

aliceinchains_facelift2. Facelift (1990)

One of the strongest debut albums EVER released. The first three songs alone became instant classics: “We Die Young,” the stripper anthem “Man In The Box,” and one of my personal favorites “Sea Of Sorrow,” along with the classic “It Ain’t Like That” – and that’s just the beginning of a classic alt rock/grunge record. The band clearly knew what they wanted to achieve, and damn if they didn’t come close to hitting it out of the park the first time out.

1. Dirt (1992)aliceinchains_dirt

Alongside records like Ten, Nevermind, 8-Way Santa, and Badmotorfinger, this is without a doubt one of the best records to ever emerge from the Pacific Northwest. Just an absolute killer album. Having written songs like “Would?” and “Them Bones” would have been enough for a lesser band to retire and hang up their instruments but Layne and Cantrell kept going: “Sickman,” “Angry Chair,” “Down In A Hole,” “Rooster,” “God Smack,” and “Dam That River” are particular standouts, among others. There are so many classics on one lone disc. This is an album that richly deserves all the accolades it has picked up over the years.

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