Review by Kris Heding
Jerry Cantrell is always busy. If he's not playing guitar with Alice In
Chains, he's acting (the copy machine guy in "Jerry Maguire"), making special
appearances (jamming with Metallica), or doing his own thing (contributed his
song "Leave Me Alone" for the "Cable Guy" soundtrack). So when Alice In
Chains decided to take a break, he decided to make a solo album. Why not?
Ever since word broke out that Jerry was composing a solo effort, people have
become skeptical. "Boggy Depot" proves all of them wrong. Like Layne Staley
did with Mad Season, Jerry clears out his head on this record. And despite
what you'd expect from a lead guitarist, this album isn't full of eight minute
solos. Instead, Jerry shares the spotlight with Alice drummer, Sean Kinney,
and an array of bassists (Alice bassist Mike Inez, Pantera's Rex Brown,
Primus' Les Claypool, Fishbone's Norwood Fisher). Jerry also expands
musically with his piano work, and in some songs, a horn section (courtesy of
Fishbone's Angelo Moore). Diversity rules.
The first track, "Dickeye" is a hard-rocking tune, a definite headbanger's
ball. The second track and first single is "Cut You In", the upbeat horn-
sprinkled gem. The second single is scheduled to be "My Song", a definite
work of art. Jerry adds a bit of country to the album with "Between" (without
the twang, mind you). The chilling "Jesus Hands" is my personal favorite. The
melodic "Settling Down" is highlighted with Jerry's piano work, as well as
"Cold Piece" which has some funky horn solos. As odd as it may sound, it all
falls together like a finished puzzle.
All of the tracks have a distinct personality, and show that Jerry is
certainly a musical genius. Some have said this album is missing Layne's
vocals, but I beg to differ. Layne got a chance to shine with Mad Season, now
it's Jerry's turn. And this album shines with diversity and rockin' melodies
that prove that Jerry can indeed carry off going solo. This is not an Alice
In Chains album, but an excellent effort by Jerry Cantrell, a true musical
Review by Ryan Martin
I have to admit to being a bit skeptic at first about Jerry's solo debut. Though I knew Jerry was the quitessential member of Alice in Chains, I had no idea how he would do under his own banner. What also worried me was the inevitable comparisons people with make to Alice in Chains; sort of a Foo Fighters/Nirvana thing that bugs the hell out of me.
Alas, I was wrong and right to worry. The inevitable comparisons were made, but, in my opinion, they were well founded. While the album has songs that just aren't Alice in Chains-sy at all, I certainly could picture this being the next AiC album, sans Layne.
But Jerry makes it more. While no creative ground is broken (with the exception of "Cold Piece," perhaps), the songs easily stand on their own as testaments to Jerry's rhythmic magic and solos extraordinaire. And get this: he doesn't need Layne to make his songs come alive vocally. Jerry has a beautiful voice... perhaps not as penetrating and vibrato-laden as Layne's is, but the voice of an accomplished vocalist.
It's hard to classify the feel I get from this album, but if Mad Season was experimental soft rock, then this is mellow hard rock. You have the scary, grunge-rockin' extravaganza that is "Jesus Hands," but then you have softer stuff like "Satisfy" and "Between." Possibly the coolest song on the album, in my mind, is "Keep the Light On," a song that rips from hard rock riffs to a sweet little chorus while maintaining stability. And another favorite, "Devil By My Side," which is a completely terrific song in its own right. In fact, this album doesn't have a song that I can personally classify as "bad." But, as always, it's a matter of taste.
This album is a showcase for Jerry's musical abilities, as he forays beyond guitar into lead vocals, piano, clavinet, etc. It's really good too! But what would you expect from our Jerry?
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains' music is not built to be acoustic. Their songs are
depressing, haunting, and often inspiring testaments to feedback and
distortion. But when they do play an acoustic set, it packs an emotional
punch that rivals the great Nirvana Unplugged from a couple years back.
Truly, Alice in Chains is something to behold whether electric or not. And
this album is total and utter proof of that.
The album begins in a chilling version of "Nutshell" that pretty much sets
the standard of quality for the album. After a quiet "Brother", the
ear-candy song "No Excuses" sets a lighter tone, although not totally devoid
of depression. Of course this lighter tone does not last long as AIC
launches into a powerful "Sludge Factory", about singer Layne Staley's bouts
with drug addiction. The quality remains constant in the angst-ridden "Down
in a Hole" and the rocking "Angry Chair." "Rooster" quickly follows, a
tumultuous account of pursuit of the enemy in which Staley hollowly screams
"Oooooh../ Here comes the Rooster/ No, he ain't gonna die..." Then the
ominous/happy "Got Me Wrong" is next, Alice in Chains at its best. "Heaven
Beside You",a haunting melody, directly follows. "Would?" is a screaming
anthem that is like grunge poetry, catchy yet frightening. "Frogs" is a
spectral and unsettling tune, whereas "Over Now" is a strong and rythmic
song. And the final song, "Killer is Me", the only new song on this album,
is a lighthearted effort that is stylistically different than the other,
more haunting songs on the album. It is the perfect song to round out this
brilliant set of tunes.
Already this is one of my favorite albums. It shows what Alice in Chains
really is behind the distorted, muffled chords of their studio produced
efforts: musicians. And this CD, one of their finest to date, is proof of
-Joe Martin, 1996