Back in the mid-1990s, about a year after I graduated from college, I started reviewing rock ‘n’ roll albums, for really no one else but myself. I showed my parents some of the reviews at the time and they got a kick out of them. Some of these write-ups may have eventually found their way on Amazon as CD reviews. But for the most part, for more than twenty-five years, these reviews have remained in a binder, within a box, stored in a closet or attic depending on where I’ve lived.
It’s time to release them to the world.
That’s because these reviews on many excellent CDs by historic artists are insightful and thorough, with some youthful rock-n-roll-loving passion mixed in. In all, I counted forty-nine extensive reviews that I printed out on a dot matrix printer back in the day and still have in my possession. I hope they inspire you to listen to some good music.
My own quick, long-ago memory of Jar of Flies by Alice in Chains:
Arriving at a good friend’s house after the bars closed, drunk, with Jar of Flies playing on the stereo and one of my other friends there throwing pages of the Bible into a fire in the basement fireplace, mesmerized by the music.
‘Jar of Flies’ Alice in Chains (1993) Columbia
With its surprisingly laid-back acoustic sound, Jar of Flies is an entirely new Alice in Chains. From the low and throbbing guitar intro of “Rotten Apple” to the jazzy “Swing on This,” Alice in Chains pull of a stunningly beautiful, low-key album.
The downbeat Seattle attitude and familiar background vocals of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell are typical, but the record also contains lush string arrangements on songs such as “I Stay Away,” as well as moving acoustic gems (“Nutshell,” “Don’t Follow”) that were never associated with this band before.
Layne Staley’s lyrics deal with isolation and shutting out the Seattle hoopla so prominent at the start of the ’90s. “Hey, I ain’t never comin’ home,” he quietly sings on “Nutshell,” a reminder that the Seattle experience was not always so pleasant for the main players.
Alice in Chains, like their peers Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearly Jam, have publicly downplayed the Seattle hype that was destined to end with all the intensity of your best friend’s funeral. Jar of Flies typifies the band’s leave-us-alone attitude.
While the album is a far cry from Alice in Chains’ grungy and drug-addled image, it does offer deep insights and expands the horizons of an already-talented band. Jar of Flies has the feel of listening to the band members play in their living room on a cold winter day. The homey feel and solitary confinement of the album shouldn’t be missed.
Listen to it by a roaring fire, but be warned: You’ll wish it contained a few more songs.
Albums are rated on a scale of 1 through 10.
When a 10 rating is given, it implies the epitome of rock and roll perfection. The elements of the record, such as melody, mood, originality, sound quality, technical proficiency, musical arrangement, riffs, singing, and overall concept are top-of-the-line and the best in the business. I sense that most rock fans could appreciate a 10 record, and I would very much recommend owning it.
The numbers 8 and 9 represent a supremely strong album, one with only a few flaws or one questionable song. Simply stated, an 8 or 9 rating means the record is phenomenal. I would highly recommend any album of this caliber.
The rating of 7 once again implies a very good recording, but elements such as lackluster effort, originality, lame lyrical content, or monotony in sound come into play. An album that rates 7 could have earned a higher rating if the artist had done a few more things right in the overall scheme. Still recommendable.
The number 6 leans toward the average, especially when the artist has put out much better past material. The 6 rating is a good rating, but owning the record might mean you have to be a true fan of the artist.
6=reasonably good or just adequately good
Anything below 6:
Sorry, not in my collection of CDs!
Photo by Sal Nudo of a fantastic illustration that I don’t have the photo credit for.