Saturday, October 8, 2011

NUMBER 1 ALBUMS: ALICE IN CHAINS - ALICE IN CHAINS

Alice In Chains
Artist: Alice In Chains
Title: Alice In Chains
Label: Columbia
Year: 1995
Producers: Toby Wright and Alice In Chains
Weeks #1: One 
Track listing: Grind / Brush Away / Sludge Factory / Heaven Beside You / Head Creeps / Again / Shame in You / Go Am / So Close Nothin' Song / Frogs / Over Now


Alice in Chains recorded their first chart-topper, the Jar of Flies EP, on a whim following their appearance on Lollapalooza '93. Alice in Chains wasn't as easy. In fact, following the release of Jar of Flies, the Seattle-based hard-rock quartet nearly broke up. "We were pretty worn out," says guitarist Jerry Cantrell. "We really needed to sit down and leave the gig and chill out. If we didn't stop, we definitely would have broken up."

Alice in Chains' ride to the top was relatively quick. Prior to Jar of Flies, the band had only two albums and two EPs to its credit. The quick rise to stardom wasn't without its price. Singer Layne Staley battled a drug habit, but apparently beat his demons by immersing himself in a side project with Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Barrett Martin, and Mysterious Baker. The group, initially known as Gacy's Gang, changed their name to Mad Season for the March 1995 release of their self-titled album.

While Staley was working on Mad Season, Cantrell began working on his own material, much of which ended up on Alice in Chains. The demo sessions, which began in March 1995, were held at London Bridge, the studio where the band recorded Jar of Flies. During this period, Cantrell wrote "Grind" and "Over Now." In fact, the demo of Sean Kinney's drum track ended up on the album version of "Over Now," even if the drummer was initially less than pleased with his performance. "He was playing this take with me and it's a long song, so we really had to be locked in together," Cantrell says. "I thought the take was fucking great, but apparently he thought it was shitty, so he picked up his drums and threw them across the room."

Alice In Chains
Once the band regrouped with Staley in April 1995 at Bad Animals Studio, the sessions proved to be difficult, but ultimately worth the effort. "Layne had pretty much creatively cleared himself with Mad Season, but that was ultimately good for this record," Cantrell says. "When you put yourself in the situation where you don't know what the fuck you are going to do, you come up with some of your best work off the top of your head and off the cuff. Other than 'Grind' and 'Over Now,' the rest of the stuff was all just music and riffs that we pieced together in the studio."

Also on board was co-producer Toby Wright, who first worked with the band as an engineer on its contributions to the Last Action Hero soundtrack. "We have kind of moved more into a producer's role ourselves," says Cantrell. "So we were really looking for an engineer with a producer's ear to take the heat off of us a little bit."

The sessions ended up running five months, but it was time well spent. Alice in Chains became the band's second title to enter The Billboard 200 at the top. "We're happy we stuck it out and made the record," says Cantrell. "During the time we took off, we just cut ourselves off from the press, because we really didn't have anything to say at that point. Now, we've said it all on this record."

THE TOP FIVE
Week of November 25, 1995
1. Alice in Chains, Alice in Chains
2. Daydream, Mariah Carey
3. Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette
4. Dogg Food, Tha Dogg Pound
5. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, The Smashing Pumpkins

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