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Mad Season – Above

On our annual Mike And Aaron Go To Toronto trip this year, Mike and I also did our annual swapping of goodies. This is as much fun as the trip itself, saving stuff up we know the other will like. This year, Mike gave me a bunch of CDs. Awesomely, this one was in the batch!

I owned this CD long enough ago that I couldn’t call any of the songs to mind. What happened to my copy? Probably sold off, like so many others. No matter, here it is again!

As you know, Mad Season was a supergroup of Layne Staley from Alice In Chains, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, blues bassist (and member of the Walkabouts) John Baker Saunders, and Barrett Martin from the Screaming Trees.  Mark Lanegan turns up on a couple of tracks, too! Holy Seattle grunge mind-blower, Batman!

But that’s just it. This is indeed of that period (1995), made by players who were definitely in that scene, but this record is not just another grunge album. It is so much more than that. I don’t think I’ve heard another record from that period (and I heard many, including Monkeywrench) that sounded quite like this one. Sure, Staley’s voice can make everything sound like Alice if you want it to, and some tracks truly could be on an AiC record (I Don’t Know Anything), and some of the guitars are definitely Pearl Jam, but still. That’s not the whole story.

It’s dark. Sinister. But it’s also warm and welcoming. Mellow, even. It has a groove, a feel that really counts. Every track has this slinky something that makes it all work wonderfully. It’s bluesy as hell, too, at times (Artificial Red, anyone?), and it’s mostly not in a hurry to get its ideas across. It’s delicious. The instrumental track November Hotel is sheer brilliance. At first I even thought the opener (Wake Up) was way too long and slow to be a first track on a record by these guys but, of course, it’s really just serving notice that this is not the record you expect.

I can’t say enough good about this CD. I’ve played it twice through in a row and it’s brilliant. A total shame we won’t get to hear what these guys would have done next (since Staley died). But this record will stand tall and proud in the collection, and will get played often.

Thanks heaps, Mike!

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