Mad Season was an extraordinary group. On paper alone, having Layne Staley, Mike McCready and Barrett Martin in your band was substantial enough. Then when you put it all together, and the end result is the album, Above, you know it was all meant to be. This album is one of my all time favorites. “Wake Up” is one hell of a heart wrenching song. Lyrically it’s beyond dark and deep and the accompanying music really creates the right vibe. Then when Mike McCready’s guitar solo kicks in, it’s on a whole other level. Mad Season as much as it was a side project, really was able to showcase how truly underrated Mike is as a player but, more specifically as a writer. The music for “Wake Up” was actually written before Layne joined Mike, Barrett and the late John Baker Saunders. The solo though, is on a whole other level. And when you hear live versions of the song, it’s even more euphoric.
When you hear an album in its entirety it can change your life, set a mood, inspire and set you free. There are so many great albums that can do all that was mentioned. One that has always stood out with me since I first heard it many many years ago was Mad Season’s album Above. Comprised of Layne Staley (Vocals), Mike McCreedy (Guitars), Barrett Martin (Drums) and John Baker Sanders (Bass), there is not one thing that is wrong with this album. The performances are perfect. Musically it verges on blues and etherial bounds and reaches far beyond what anyone thought it would be. Vocally the honesty and melodies stay with you for eternity. Kicking off the album is “Wake Up” a sincere inner look at what Layne was going through and struggling with. The lyrics so personal and painful yet connects as a powerful message to anyone listening. “X-Ray Mind” has an amazing tribal drum intro that goes right into a sweeping bluesy riff that segways into a the crooning Staley’s distinctive voice. “River Of Deceit” is another song that is brilliant and is deep and personal. The way Layne sings, you the listener really can feel everything he is saying and the chills you get it unmistakable. “I’m Above” starts with a sweet mellowness that kicks into high gear with a crunchy blues riff, complimented by steady and sultry bass lines that are found on the entire record. “Artificial Red” is a simple blues song that has a sweet groove to it. “Lifeless Dead” and “I Don’t Know Anything” hit right away with another awesome dirty blues riff the is mixed with a drum beat that is behind the beat and a bass line that guides the song with powerful rhythm. “Long Gone Day” features Mark Lanegan on guest vocals. Mark and Layne have a perfect vocal balance and the pseudo duet is very haunting. The music behind the song is mellow and psychedelic, that send you on a deeper journey into your own mind. Closing out the album is “All Alone” a song that ventures into the more ambient and sedated of all the tracks, that slowly fades out at the end.
Recently, Above was re-released with an accompanying live album and DVD that shows just how amazing they truly were. There were also 3 new tracks released with it that feature Mark Lanegan on vocals. Sadly Mad Season lasted only one album. Barrett Martin is now playing in an exceptional band called Walking Papers, and Mike McCreedy is still playing with Pearl Jam. Layne has passed away as well as the very talented John Baker Sanders. They might not be here anymore but, the great thing is that this music and album live on. I can honestly put this album in my top 25 records of all time.
If you’ve never experienced this album you’ve missed out!