Today marks the passing of a decade since Layne Staley… moved on, shall we say. Or “broke free” might be another way of putting it, since his constant struggle with drug addiction might very well be regarded as imprisonment. In any case, I don’t feel this is a sad day, or at least I don’t see it as anything but a day to celebrate the great music that Layne graced us with. And what better way to celebrate it than to recommend the Sap EP, released on the 21st of March 1992.
I like these sort of axis kind of things. 1992 produced two of Alice in Chains’ greatest records – this acoustic, tonic, bright little five-track record, and the formidable Dirt album, about which I wrote a while ago. It’s nice to listen to this folk-ish, relaxed, earthy music, denoting so much joy, such a smooth feeling of ease and simplicity, as it puts things into perspective – it took a mere ten years for things to become so irreparable for Layne that he simply couldn’t survive any longer. But this record offers only a slight hint of that path, a subtle suggestion of darkness in an otherwise open, crystal clear emotional/musical gem.
As the story goes, Alice in Chains’ drummer, Sean Kinney had a dream about releasing an EP titled Sap, so the band decided to do just that, in the off chance it was, you know, destiny knocking. The band were joined by Ann Wilson, singer for the band Heart, bringing a very welcome female voice addition to the laid-back sound the EP was going for. Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and Mudhoney’s own Mark Arm collaborated on the Right Turn song, which ended up being credited Alice Mudgarden because of this – a typical display of the form of humor floating around the grunge scene at the time. And just to drive the pairing of sarcasm and absurdity home, the officially four-track EP has an unlisted track, which is little more than the band goofing off in the studio in a Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque breakdown involving a Spaghetti Western-sounding piano and a lot of funny noises. Perhaps this is why I feel there’s such an air of childlike glee surrounding this EP…
In any case, I think this record works very well as a mood setter for an early spring evening, and as a soundtrack for celebrating Layne Staley’s unique, unforgettable voice. I leave you with all the tracks on Sap, as a special treat. See you soon!