Alice in Chains, the Seattle band who first exploded onto the scene in the early ’90s as part of the great grunge movement, is set to release it’s first new album in 14 years in September. The album is called Black Gives Way to Blue and the title track will feature a guest spot by Elton John. The veteran rocker lent his piano playing to the song, which pays tribute to late Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, who died in 2002. (The current incarnation of the band is co-fronted by Comes With the Fall singer William DuVall, who sounds remarkably like Staley.)
Sadly, surviving Alice in Chains members Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez know their way around such tributes. Back in 1992, “Would?” marked their first tribute track, which was recorded and released in memory of late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood (who died of a heroin overdose in 1990). “Would?” became one of the band’s biggest hits; Mother Love Bone of course recruited an unknown surfer from San Diego named Eddie Vedder as their new singer and morphed into Pearl Jam.
“Black Gives Way to Blue” is a brief tune will be included on the new album, which comes out September 29. The appearance by John popped up somewhat randomly: Cantrell told Billboard that they had talked about the possibility of Elton playing on the record and realized that he was recording in the same complex as they were. “He was really open to the process,” said Cantrell. “He fit into the song, and he really brought something that was really necessary and took the song to another level.” The band wears the quiet, moody track well, which isn’t surprising — though their signature hits are huge, loud songs like “Rooster” and “Man in the Box,” Alice always took time out to turn the volume down on tunes like “No Excuses” and “Brother.” The guest appearance from the grandiose John makes “Black Gives Way to Blue” a fitting tribute to the band’s most theatrical member.