So, obviously, the fact that there even is a new Alice in Chains album is weird enough by itself. We all (probably) remember the rather disturbing details of Layne Staley's 2002 death--how he only weighed 86 pounds at the time he was discovered, which was two weeks after he actually died. (Yeesh.) But, even without their lead singer, the iconic grunge band still reformed in 2005, and are now ready to release their first album in 14 years, Black Gives Way to Blue, with new lead vocalist William DuVall. And Elton John is on it. Yeah.
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As it turns out, the song where John pops up is the title track, and in tribute to Staley. "A real, raw openhearted song for Layne," says guitarist Jerry Cantrell. From the sounds of it, it looks like Elton John plays piano on the track, but no vocals, but it's not quite clear. The true answer will come on September 29, when the album is released. Or whenever it leaks before then. Or whenever you get around to listening to it. Y'know.
It's probably not completely fair to chastise Alice in Chains for reforming. Not only because it's been a while, and people should probably be over it now, but also because Jerry Cantrell's contributions to the band were always considerable--writing about half of the lyrics and most of the music, harmonizing on most of the songs. And a couple of tracks where he sings lead remains the band's best, like "No Excuses" and "Heaven Beside You."
Alice in Chains--with no Elton John to speak of--are slated to play Epicenter at the Pomona Fairplex on August 22. Details here.