Though the group isn’t often spoken of in the same breath as Crosby, Stills and Nash or The Traveling Wilburys, Mad Season was a bona fide supergroup for the 1990s. The Seattle-based group of musicians – Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, guitarist Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, drummer/percussionist Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees, and bassist John Baker Saunders of The Walkabouts and The Lamont Cranston Band – joined together in 1994 and released just one album, 1995’s Columbia Records release Above. Almost twenty years later, Legacy Recordings is revisiting that watershed album in a 2-CD/1-DVD Deluxe Edition, as well as a 12-inch 2-LP expanded vinyl edition and a digital version. The Deluxe Edition will arrive on April 2, while the vinyl will follow for Record Store Day on April 20.
It was, indeed, a mad season for the talented quartet of Staley, McCready, Martin and Saunders. Despite scoring a Top 10 single with “River of Deceit” and a Top 10 album with Above, the band’s time together was short, as group members struggled with substance abuse. (The name Mad Season refers to the time of year when “magic mushrooms” are in bloom.) Following the success of the debut album, a second Mad Season effort was mooted in 1996, with all members save Staley writing and recording tracks for roughly 15 new songs. Staley’s health precluded him from participating, however, and the sessions were eventually shelved. A hiatus was planned, but it became permanent. Mad Season never reunited; McCready returned to Pearl Jam and Martin to Screaming Trees. Saunders died of an overdose in 1999, with Staley also tragically losing his life to drugs just three years later. (Perhaps ironically, McCready first met Saunders in rehab.) Yet Mad Season left behind an abundance of riches on the dark, somber and bluesy Above. Produced by Brett Eliason, it remains the only complete album of Layne Staley’s evocative lyrics, and featured additional vocals from Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and Seattle-based saxophonist/percussionist Skerik (a.k.a. Eric Walton).
After the jump: what will you find on the Deluxe Edition?
On May 23, 2012, surviving band members McCready and Martin reunited in Seattle (where else?) for McCready’s annual benefit concert for those suffering from Crohn’s Disease. They also met with producer Eliason to revisit the tapes for the abandoned second Mad Season album. Mark Lanegan was enlisted to write lyrics and sing on three of the original songs, including one co-written with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. These will be included on the Deluxe Edition reissue’s first CD, following the remastered original album. The band’s recording of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier,” originally aired on a tribute album, is also heard in a remix. The second CD premieres the complete audio to Mad Season’s Live at the Moore concert, recorded in Seattle on April 29, 1995. The DVD has the full video of Live at the Moore, newly edited by director Duncan Sharp and mixed into 5.1 surround, as well as a full concert from New Year’s Eve 1995 at Seattle’s RKCNDY club, and both of Mad Season’s performances from the Self-Pollution Radio specials.
The Deluxe Edition of Above, and its separate digital configuration, will be available Tuesday, April 2, 2013. The digital edition will be available via iTunes with audio mastered for iTunes and a separate, stand-alone long-play video. The 12-inch 2-LP expanded vinyl edition of Above is due for Record Store Day release on April 20. You can pre-order the Deluxe Edition below!
Mad Season, Above: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy, 2013)
CD 1: Original LP (originally released as Columbia CK 67057, 1995) and bonus tracks
- Wake Up
- X-Ray Mind
- River of Deceit
- I’m Above
- Artificial Red
- Lifeless Dead
- I Don’t Know Anything
- Long Gone Day
- November Hotel
- All Alone
- Interlude (extra track on promotional pressings)
- Black Book of Fear*
- Slip Away*
- I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier (Remix) (original mix appeared on Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon - Hollywood Records HR-62015-2, 1995)
* denotes previously unreleased bonus track with lyrics and vocals by Mark Lanegan
CD 2: Live at The Moore Theatre, Seattle – 4/29/1995
DVD: Live at the Moore Theatre, Seattle – 4/29/1995; New Year’s Eve concert from RKCNDY, Seattle; two Self-Pollution Radio performances