ALICE IN CHAINS – Sap (1992)

ALICE IN CHAINS – SAP February 4th, 1992, Alice In Chains released the Sap EP, through Columbia Records. Sap was Alice In Chains first foray into predominantly acoustic material and also the first time Jerry Cantrell took lead vocals on an Alice In Chains recording with the song Brother.

Promotion for the EP was minimal, with Cantrell saying Sap was released “without any fuss or fanfare so as the real Alice fans could find it.”

And find it they did. Due to Nirvana’s Nevermind knocking Michael Jackson off the top of the Billboard Charts just a few weeks before, on January 11th 1992. The public were at fever pitch for all things “Seattle”. Lapping up anything “grunge”. Despite the minimal promotion, Sap soon went Gold.

Vocalist Layne Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s vocal harmonies are by now the stuff of legend. But it was Layne who encouraged Jerry to sing lead vocals for the first time on this EP. Cantrell obliged, stepping to the fore on “Brother” and splitting lead vocals with Staley on “Got Me Wrong”

The EP features guest vocals by Ann Wilson from Heart, who joined Layne and Jerry for the choruses of “Brother” and “Am I Inside”.

In retrospect one of the more culturally historical moments on the EP is the song “Right Turn”.

Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden join the Alice In Chains fold for a spine tingling tour de force.

Credited as “Alice Mudgarden” “Right Turn” is a collaboration that could only have happened within the Seattle scene. A community almost as famous for their collaborations and unwavering support of each other as they were for ending hair metal in one fell swoop.

To hear Staley, Cornell, Cantrell and Arm trade verses and harmonise at this remove, all these years later, with the history that’s passed, is truly special.

Following the tour for the album Facelift, Alice in Chains entered the studio to record a song for the Cameron Crowe movie Singles. Jerry Cantrell recalled: “So, in the session that was meant for recording just one song, ‘Would?’ We ended up demoing about 10 songs, which included all the stuff that ended up on the Sap EP, ‘Rooster’ and a couple of others from Dirt.”

Recorded in “four or five days” in November 1991 by producer Rick Parashar at London Bridge Studio in Seattle. The title for the EP came from a dream drummer Sean Kinney had about “making an EP called Sap.” The band decided “not to mess with fate,” and stuck with the name.

During the sessions a version of Rooster was recorded that nearly made the final tracklist of Sap. The band eventually decided to rework it for their next full length album Dirt. The version of Rooster that was recorded for Sap can be heard on the bands 1999 boxset Music Bank.

One misconception around Seattle bands and Alice In Chains in particular, was that they were uber serious, dark and lacked humor. Nothing could be further from the truth. The hidden track, “Love Song”, described by Cantrell as “the most bizarre song we’ve ever recorded”, was Kinney’s idea. All four members switched instruments for the recording, with Kinney on lead vocals and piano, Starr on guitar, Cantrell on bass, and Staley on drums.

Sap was re-released on March 21st, 1995, when “Got Me Wrong” became a hit after its inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1994 film, Clerks. In the UK, Sap and Jar of Flies were issued as a double CD in 1994. Sap had not previously had a UK release.

In the UK, “Brother” and “Right Turn” were initially released on the “Would” single in 1992 and “Got Me Wrong” and “Am I Inside” were released on the “Them Bones” single.

In a low key way Sap served notice that Alice In Chains possessed far more depth and songwriting acumen than Facelift might have had you believe. The band took this concept even further with the Jar Of Flies EP in 1994, but the seeds were sown in 1992 with Sap.

What’s staggering is the ease with which the band took to this side of their musicality.

These more introspective songs are delivered with a confidence that rivaled any of their “heavier” electric output.

Alice In Chains possessed a dichotomy in their approach to everything. These were hilarious, fun loving young men making serious, dark, honest, bleak but always beautiful music. Whether it’s with crushing volume or an acoustic hush, they always delivered.