Unplugged (Alice in Chains album)

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AIC Unplugged.jpg
Live album by
ReleasedCD:  July 30, 1996
VHS:  October 8, 1996
DVD:  October 26, 1999
RecordedApril 10, 1996
VenueMajestic Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York
GenreAcoustic rock, alternative rock, grunge
LengthCD:  71:26
DVD:  73:00
ProducerCD:  Toby Wright, Alice in Chains
DVD:  Alex Coletti
Line producer:  Audrey Morrissey
Alice in Chains chronology
Alice in Chains
Nothing Safe: Best of the Box
Alice in Chains video chronology
The Nona Tapes
Music Bank: The Videos
Singles from Unplugged
  1. "Over Now"
    Released: 1996

Unplugged is a live album and DVD by the American rock band Alice in Chains, released on July 30, 1996 by Columbia Records. It was recorded on April 10, 1996 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Majestic Theatre for the television series MTV Unplugged. The show was directed by Joe Perota and first aired on MTV on May 28, 1996. The MTV Unplugged was Alice in Chains' first concert in two and a half years, and contains live, acoustic versions of the band's biggest hits and lesser-known songs. A new song, "The Killer Is Me", was performed for the first time during the concert. The acoustic version of "Over Now" (originally released on Alice in Chains' 1995 self-titled album) was released as a single. The album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, and has been certified platinum by the RIAA. The performance was released on DVD on October 26, 1999, and re-released as a CD/DVD package featuring unaired footage on September 18, 2007. The home video release has received gold certification by RIAA.

Background and recording[edit]

On April 10, 1996, Alice in Chains resurfaced to perform their first concert in two and a half years for MTV Unplugged, a program featuring all-acoustic set lists.[1][2] The band was offered to do the segment numerous times prior to the actual taping before finally accepting.[3] The show was recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Majestic Theatre and first aired on MTV on May 28, 1996. It was Layne Staley's idea to have big candles decorating the stage to keep it dark and moody, as the band never liked bright lights on stage, so Staley himself bought the candles at Seattle's Pike Place Market.[4]

The performance was one of Alice in Chains' final appearances with vocalist Layne Staley and featured some of the band's highest charting singles, including "Rooster", "Down in a Hole", "Heaven Beside You", and "Would?", and introduced a new song, "The Killer Is Me".[5] The show marked Alice in Chains' first appearance as a five-piece band, adding second guitarist Scott Olson.[1]

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.[3][6] 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.[7] 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. On the CD version of the MTV Unplugged concert, as Staley says "Okay, that's it," at the end of the song, booing can be heard (presumably due to the performance concluding). Staley responded to the heckler by shouting, "Hey, fuck you, man!" which was greeted by laughter from the audience.[8]

Cantrell has 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.[3]

Cantrell said that one of his favorite things from the concert was when Staley said at the end of the show, "I wish I could hug you all, but I'm not gonna".[8]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[9]
Entertainment WeeklyC link
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[10]

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.[11] A full length DVD of the concert was also later released on October 26, 1999.[12] 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.[13]

The album initially received mixed reviews from critics.[citation needed] 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."[9] 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.[10] Alice Pattillo of Metal Hammer considers Alice In Chains' MTV Unplugged as the best live album ever made.[14]

Track listing[edit]

No.TitleWriter(s)Original releaseLength
1."Nutshell"Layne Staley/Jerry Cantrell/Mike Inez/Sean KinneyJar of Flies4:57
3."No Excuses"CantrellJar of Flies4:57
4."Sludge Factory"Staley/Cantrell/KinneyAlice in Chains4:36
5."Down in a Hole"CantrellDirt5:46
6."Angry Chair" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release)StaleyDirt4:36
8."Got Me Wrong"CantrellSap4:59
9."Heaven Beside You"Cantrell/InezAlice in Chains5:38
11."Frogs" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release)Staley/Cantrell/Kinney/InezAlice in Chains7:30
12."Over Now"Cantrell/KinneyAlice in Chains7:12
13."Killer Is Me" (Cut from MTV Broadcast, included on the re-release)Cantrell 5:23
Total length:71:26

DVD track listing[edit]

1."Program Start"0:18
4."No Excuses"4:42
5."Sludge Factory"7:00
6."Down in a Hole"6:05
7."Angry Chair"5:36
9."Got Me Wrong"4:20
10."Heaven Beside You"5:15
13."Over Now"6:53
14."Killer Is Me"5:34
Total length:73:00
  • 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."[15]


Alice in Chains
Additional performer
  • Scott Olson – acoustic rhythm and solo guitar; acoustic bass on "Killer Is Me"

Chart positions[edit]


Chart (1996) Peak
Australian ARIA Charts[16] 12
Austrian Albums Chart[17] 23
Finnish Albums Chart[18] 13
German Albums Chart[19] 46
Netherlands Albums Chart[20] 33
New Zealand Albums Chart[21] 8
Norwegian Albums Chart[22] 9
Swedish Albums Chart[23] 7
Swiss Albums Chart[24] 41
UK Albums Chart[25] 20
US Billboard 200[11] 3


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


Chart (1996) Peak
US Top Music Videos[26] 7



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[27] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[28] Platinum 1,000,000^

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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[29] Gold 50,000^

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


  1. ^ a b Perota, Joe (Director) (1996-04-15). Unplugged - Alice in Chains (Television production). New York City: MTV. Archived from the original on 2007-02-17.
  2. ^ "Alice in Chains Concert Chronology: MTV Unplugged Session". John Bacus. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  3. ^ a b c Kitts, Jeff (August 1996). "The Soft Parade". Guitar School. Vol. 8 no. 4. pp. 27–30.
  4. ^ "Alice In Chains - Jerry Cantrell & Sean Kinney interview about their ENTIRE career/albums 1998".
  5. ^ a b c "Artist Chart History – Alice in Chains". Billboard charts. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  6. ^ Cantrell, Jerry (April 12, 1998). "Q & A With Jerry Cantrell". SFGate (Interview). Interviewed by Aidin Vaziri. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  7. ^ "Alice in Chains, Metallica and the story behind "Friends Don't Let Friends Get Friends Haircuts"". YouTube. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Jerry Cantrell on Layne and his favorite memory from Alice In Chains' MTV Unplugged". April 28, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Album review at AllMusic. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b Masuo, Sandy (1998-02-02). "Unplugged". Album Reviews. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  11. ^ a b "Alice in Chains - Artist chart History". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  12. ^ "Unplugged [Video] - Alice in Chains". AllMusic.
  13. ^ "ALICE IN CHAINS: 'MTV Unplugged' Re-Release To Include Unaired Footage". August 9, 2007. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  14. ^ Pattillo, Alice (July 30, 2019). "Why Alice In Chains' Unplugged is the best live album ever made". Metal Hammer.
  15. ^ Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  16. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  17. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains" (in German). Austriancharts.at. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  18. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains" (in Finnish). Finnishcharts.com. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  19. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains". musicline.de. Archived from the original on 2013-04-23. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  20. ^ "Discografie Alice in Chains" (in Dutch). Dutchchars.nl. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  21. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains". charts.nz. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  22. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains" (in Norwegian). Norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  23. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains" (in Swedish). Swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  24. ^ "Discography Alice in Chains" (in German). Hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  25. ^ Roberts, David, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). HIT Entertainment. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  26. ^ "Top Music Video – Unplugged". Billboard charts. Archived from the original on 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  27. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Alice in Chains – Unplugged". Music Canada. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  28. ^ "American album certifications – Alice in Chains – Unplugged". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  29. ^ "American video certifications – Alice in Chains – MTV Unplugged". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Video Longform, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]