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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/10/99

Alice in Chains: MTV Unplugged
1996 (1999) - Columbia Music Video

review by Frank Ortiz of The Digital Bits

Alice in Chains: MTV Unplugged Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B+/D

Specs and Features

73 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, band discography & timeline, weblink, program-themed menus, song access (13 songs - 14 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & PCM 2.0), subtitles: none

The great sound of guitar rock with melodic vocals is not nearly as popular today as it used to be on Top-40 radio. Still, this band has rocked on to a beat that they created as their own, and some great tunes have come from this talented group of musicians as a result. Talk of drugs and rumors of all sorts have surrounded much of the career of Alice In Chains, but the music that comes from their work is still great. I can still recall the first time I heard Man in a Box - I was surprised at how much the song grabbed my attention. And since I've also seen them live in concert here in the L.A. area, I couldn't wait to view this disc.

It's been some time since I saw this unplugged performance on TV, but I what I remember the most is how great they sounded with acoustic instruments. This is their performance on MTV Unplugged from 1996. The show originally aired with only 10 songs, all of which are included here (see the full song listing below). But 3 more are also available on this DVD that weren't in the broadcast: Angry Chair, Frogs and The Killer is Me (a nice bonus). This band didn't need to prove much here, but they certainly gave a fantastic performance. And it was not only special to the 400 or so people who witnessed it in person - it became a favorite of many fans out there, who hadn't seen the band play live for over 2 years.

The video quality on this DVD is pretty good. The candles and shadows on stage make for nice low mood lighting, but result in some grain in darker shots here and there, which is surprising given that this is mastered on video. The colors are very full, but clear and without bleed. There is some edge-enhancement visible, along with some typical NTSC artifacts, but I saw very little in the way digital artifacts due to MPEG-2 compression. All in all, I'd say that is much better than VHS quality, but not especially remarkable for video on DVD. The sound, on the other hand, really kicks. The Dolby Digital 5.1 creates a good "live" feeling. This acoustic set really hankers for audio that has a strong live presence, and the ambience in this mix (and the crowd noise added to the rear) made me feel like I was right in the front row. If this was a music video (or some other type of presentation of their talent), then perhaps I would want to hear a more straightforward mix. But here, the live feel is entirely appropriate and works great. A stereo track is also included, in uncompressed PCM 2.0. This also sounds very good, and is a great alternative for those of you who may not have 5.1 systems, or who simply enjoy good old fashioned 2-toned sound. The mix of vocals and instruments was done well throughout each track.

Now, it would be awesome to say that there's a commentary track on this DVD, or something else of supplemental value, but that's unfortunately not the case. There is a timeline, which is sort of a biography of the band, along with a discography of their work, and a weblink. The real bummer about the weblink, is the fact that the official web site also has much of the exact same information from the "timeline" in the biography section (go figure). It would certainly have been interesting if the band had recorded a quick commentary track, or simply done an interview about their music.

Alice in Chains seems to have been a little camera shy over the years, leaving us without much of their work on the video shelves to buy. So for those of us who are fans, this DVD is certainly one to keep. On the other hand, if you just sort-of like the music, then give this disc a spin as a rental.

Song Listing

No Excuses
Sludge Factory
Down in a Hole
Angry Chair
Got Me Wrong
Heaven Beside You
Over Now
The Killer is Me

Frank Ortiz
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