Okay, so, how super-psyched was I, when approached by Vitamin Records to review one of their newer releases, Vitamin String Quartet Tribute to Alice in Chains?! Well, I already own Chamber Made: The Baroque Tribute to Tool, which I thoroughly enjoy, so I was excited to hear their interpretations of songs from another of my favorite bands!
As with the baroque Tool album, the cover art for the AIC tribute is eye-catching and referential to the artist. The album is 12 tracks spanning the five major releases from the “original” Alice in Chains: Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies, and the self-titled Alice in Chains. The songs were thoughtfully chosen for the string-quartet medium and the sequence of tracks on the disc may-or-may-not be random but flows nicely. I would have liked to have heard “Hate to Feel” or “Frogs” on this album, but you can only fit so many tracks on one disc!
I’ve listened to this album several times over the last few weeks on different types of sound systems: through my laptop speakers, in my car, on a boombox in the kitchen, and over the P.A. in the basement. This album seems to work best as more of background/ambiance music, so it didn’t work too well broadcasted super-loud over the P.A. It turned out to be very good working-in-the-kitchen music while played during general cleaning and chores, and I had no problem with distortion or “farting” when played loudly on the boombox. It also transmits well through my laptop speakers and I’ve added this album to my “classical” playlist. It’s not a good “city driving” album for me (too many stops and starts), but I will certainly keep it in mind the next time I take a lengthy road trip, especially if there’s scenic countryside involved.
Overall there was not a track that I did not like. At first it was a bit off-putting not hearing the vocals, but that feeling soon faded after a few songs the first time through. It was refreshing to hear these songs covered in an unintended, non-rock way (Alice in Chains without multiple overlaid guitar tracks?! who’da thunk). I found myself enjoying songs that I thought I’d grown tired of hearing after years and years of repeat airplay on commercial radio, e.g. “Man in the Box” and “Heaven Beside You”. When presented in this new way (performed by string instruments), they are familiar but seem new at the same time. If I were to assign a grade, as a whole, I would give this album a B+
I wrote this review on behalf of Vitamin Records and received a hard copy of the album to facilitate my candid review.