Acoustic Sounds

Alice In Chains

Jar of Flies



Jar of Flies EP

Label: Columbia

Produced By: Alice In Chains

Engineered By: Toby Wright

Mixed By: Toby Wright

Mastered By: Mike Piacentini at Battery Studios

Lacquers Cut By: Wes Garland, Nashville Record Productions

By: Michael Fremer

March 25th, 2024


Rock Grunge



Alice In Chains' "Jar of Flies" EP Gets 30th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue

even a "flies embedded in vinyl" edition that quickly sold out

So much of interest to write about this EP and its vinyl reissue. Back in 1995, Tracking Angle magazine writer Carl E. Baugher wrote that the Alice In Chains 1995 reunion album eponymous release (the one with the three legged dog on the cover) "..combines the range and creativity of Jar Of Flies with the slam and drama of Dirt. He also described Alice in Chains as "... the heaviest of the hard n’ heavy bands out of Seattle."

I took Carl's advice and got a vinyl copy, but I never got the EP Jar of Flies, which was not released on vinyl domestically as a single EP when originally released thirty years ago—(though there are releases from other countries and it was released as a double EP set with Sap on one side and a logo etching on the other). The eponymous record Carl wrote about now fetches in mint condition $700 and up. That was a good purchase! As was the 1996 purchase of the Alice in Chains Unplugged (Columbia 484500-1) double LP available only in Europe. There are but three copies on Discogs priced from $550.00. That set sound so much better than the CD I'd been sent to review the difference was ridiculous.

Now there's a 30th anniversary Jar of Flies $28.98 black vinyl release that on the Alice in Chains website is already sold out. The tri-color vinyl edition is sold out as well.

So is the limited to 150 units edition with real flies hand-embedded in the vinyl.

Alice In Chains fly embedded Jar of FliesThe limited edition $225 box set is also sold out as is the $12.99 cassette.

The $12.99 CD is still available. Interestingly, all of the releases were slated for a March 22nd release except the CD, which has the January 25th, 1994 original release date. And there are T-shirts and hoodies too. Black vinyl copies should be plentiful elsewhere.

This isn't about the merchandising, however, it's about this dark, brooding, superbly well-recorded EP that when first released debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and in 2022 was certified 4X Platinum. That's staying power!

"Innocence is over, Ignorance is spoken, Confidence ins broken". That's a fine how do you do to begin a record, lyrics courtesy of the troubled Layne Staley who was gone April 4, 2002 less than a decade after this was recorded. "Nutshell" has Staley singing "If I can't be my own, I'd feel better dead". If his vocalizing on this track doesn't shake you Jerry Cantrell's guitar should do it. The combination is devastating.

Staley's voice haunts, ghost-like throughout. It's no wonder this dark EP gripped a generation caught up during a period of profound change. And while it's not "unplugged" as the group later did on their "Unplugged" session, the emphasis leans heavily on acoustic instruments though guitarist Jerry Cantrell's shimmering electric guitar work stands out. There's also a string section (viola, violinx2, violoncello).

The production's history is that the group with new bassist Mike Inez late of Ozzy Ozbourne entered Seattle's London Bridge Studios with nothing written and no place to live. It was all recorded in a week's time, though at a fourteen plus hours per day pace. I found this on Wikipedia but was not surprised when I read it:

"The album was recorded on tape on a Neve 80-68 mixing console because Wright wanted the album's acoustic sound to be as natural as possible. Staley instructed that Pro Tools not be used within the studio; as Wright explained, "Layne absolutely had a working knowledge of his sonic preferences in the studio - and felt analog sounded better for the band's sound. The album's tracks were mostly recorded within one or two takes." Vocals were recorded using a Neumann M-49.

Staley's singing, the lyrics, the desolation of Cantell's shimmering "rear guard" guitar work—the entire vibe is one of isolation, resignation, and almost a comfortable acceptance of defeat. On side two Cantrell's "Don't Follow" has Staley singing "Hey, I ain't never coming home", while the EP's final song "Swing on This", with lyrics by Staley, has him singing "Mother said come home, Father said come home, Sisters said come home, I said, let me be I'm alright...I'm just fine, Little skinny, Okay, I'm asleep anyway."

Did this catch a generation's "zeitgeist"? I wouldn't know but if you dig into Staley and Cantrell's background, it caught theirs and clearly resonated with Gen X. Wasn't my generation but think about this: the record was recorded in 1993. Staley would be fifty six now, Cantrell is pushing sixty. So must be much of the original audience for this record and this group, but listening to this set now, I can imagine it resonates well with today's young rock fans (such that there are) and it certainly would with Boomers so if you've not heard this, you should and the outstanding sound will draw you in.

Through it was recorded to tape, most likely the reels (if it was mixed to tape) were never assembled for cutting. More likely the mix was to digital and this record was cut from files produced at Battery Studios in New York and cut by Wes Garland at Nashville Record Productions. Without reference to the original CD, which I don't have, the sound is outstanding—particularly noted is the high frequency transient clarity and extension (both weaknesses in the "older" URP)!

Here's more good news: this was plated and pressed at United Record Pressing, which has invested a lot of money in a new high-tech plating facility and new presses. The "fit'n'finish and sound of this record tells me URP has turned the corner and high tailed it out of record pressing shitsville. I hope to get a video tour during "Making Vinyl Nashville" this coming June 2024.

This EP is recommended for music, sound and an exquisitely mind numbing experience as seen and heard in the embedded video below.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 19658800371

Pressing Plant: United Record Pressing

Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 120 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2024-03-25 08:27:20 PM

    Buzz wrote:

    I wore this CD out in high school. And I mean out.

    Been about a 30 year break and here I am with a nice vinyl rig. Ready for a refill!

  • 2024-03-26 03:03:18 AM

    Michael Trochalakis wrote:

    I made comparison files at 24/96 of the original pressing vs. this new 2024 reissue using the track "Don't Follow". Here's the link:

  • 2024-03-26 01:50:58 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    Great Music.

  • 2024-03-26 02:46:57 PM

    Vinny wrote:

    I own the Music On Vinyl 2010 release. It's an excellent pressing. It's also a very well recorded album.

  • 2024-03-26 02:47:03 PM

    Vinny wrote:

    I own the Music On Vinyl 2010 release. It's an excellent pressing. It's also a very well recorded album.

    • 2024-04-11 07:17:28 AM

      Jaime wrote:

      Yep, I have that one too. Not bad sounding at all on my system. I have the MOV Dirt as well, but after some cajolling from Dave Denyer on his system that was made in Heaven and handed down directly from God, his comparisons pushed me to get the recent 2-LP version which does have more air and dimension.

  • 2024-03-26 07:25:45 PM

    tim davis wrote:

    My previously mentioned dealer (in another comment thread) has 5 copies of the black vinyl edition of this EP still in stock if anyone is interested. That local (to me) store is Recyclable Records located in Kannapolis N.C. I spoke with the owner about this & he is willing to ship anywhere in the continental United States.

  • 2024-03-27 03:39:55 AM

    James R. Garvin wrote:

    Just some trivia. The words Mike Inez added to his bass guitar were directed to the boys in Metallica, who were in the audience, and who had recently cut their hair.

  • 2024-04-18 01:14:46 AM

    Freddy's Dead wrote:

    Jar of Flies is in my top 10 list (well, the double EP with Sap which I purchased new in the 90s and still own) so I had to find out how this compares to my OG and sadly there is no comparison. Hopefully AIC will get someone really good to master S/T but this one was (also) a disspointment. IMO: Music is an 11 and sound-wise this is a 5. The upper mids are very harsh. Very and generally lacks any warmth. It is like listening to an AM radio with a subwoofer. No thanks.