It was 1994 when band members from notable grunge groups such as Pearl Jam, The Screaming Trees and Alice in Chains formed the Seattle-based super group Mad Season, and in such a great gathering, fraught with agony and joy in equal measures, we find a collection of songs that speak volumes to us.
Above was released on 15 March 1995 featuring 10 tracks all penned by the group, and with some additional lyrics and vocals added by Screaming Trees frontman, Mark Lanegan. The album itself is deep and dark, far more bluesy than anything Layne Staley had sung before, with a soft beat and broken rhythm each track is a beautiful concoction of all the best parts of each band. Opening track Wake Up is a haunting rendition by Staley that would be just as at home in a smokey blues bar as it was in a rock club, the lyrics are poignant and showcase the amazing talents of one of the great voices of our time. On this deluxe edition we are treated to a further five tracks planned for a second album with Mark Lanegan taking over full control of the vocals as Staley’s health worsened due to drug adiction. Lanegan’s voice is somber and deep with a more fine tuned sound than Staley’s but lacking the pure, raw passion that helped to connect Staley with his fans. Even more blues orientated than the previous ten songs, these tracks give us a glimpse of how well Mad Season would have done if not for the tragedy surrounding it’s members.
The second disc is a live set recorded at The Moore in seattle on 29 April 1995 and ramps up the atmosphere ten fold, with the band as tight as any that have been performing together for years and Staleys showing off his impressive range. The same performance is captured on DVD which is also offered in this set opening another dimension to the show, capturing the reactions of the crowd and stamped with Staley’s signature brooding. As well as this performance there is also a multitude of other visual performances including never-before-seen footage from The Moore, live radio performances and the official music video for River of Deceit. The DVD package is beautifully put together, the navigation is simple and it gives you everything you want from live performances of such an amazing grouping of talents.
To Sum Up
The Above Deluxe Reissue is a lovingly put together collection of the entire works of one of the most underrated bands to come out of the 90s. Beautifully packaged in a neat fold out box with band photos and with liner notes from Barret Martin (drummer) and some of the bands lyrics to their most popular songs. If you’re a fan of Seattle grunge or in music in general then I urge you to pick up this set. Sadly John Baker Saunders and Layne Staley both died too young for Mad Season to grow any further and before they could see this come together.
For your viewing pleasure here is ‘Lifeless Dead’ Live at The Moore: