In autumn 1994, members of Seattle’s white-hot grunge scene were struggling to stay sober in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley was battling a heroin addiction, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready had checked into rehab and Screaming Trees’ Barrett Martin was trying to rehabilitate his cocaine habit.
Together, they formed Mad Season, a band that would release one album and play only six shows before conflicting obligations pulled them apart. Their only studio effort, Above, was a landmark of the alternative rock genre and an emblematic touchstone of Seattle’s music scene.
Featuring Layne Staley, John Baker Saunders and Mike McCready from Alice In Chains, Mad Season forged a unique brand of grunge music that combined the blues with psychedelic blues. Their songs channeled the agonies of youth and the everyday apocalypse of addiction with such immediacy that they still resonate today.
The deluxe reissue of their 1995 debut, Above, is available this week (see the review). It features a remastered version of the original album plus a DVD with two live shows, three tracks from an aborted second album that were finished by Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and more.
Among the highlights is a live take on 'River Of Deceit', which is reminiscent of early Pearl Jam in McCready’s guitar work. However, it’s Staley’s stunning vocal that really shines on this track; he sounds as though he has soaked up all of the words and then reacted in his own way.