Review Summary: A haunting, shocking, and unbelievably surprising album that is takes you on a mellow trip.
Producer: Mark Langern
Vocals: Layne Staley
Guitar: Mike McCready
Bass: John Baker
Drums: Barret Martin
This one time project was rumored to have sequels, but was finished after Staley was found dead in 2002 and Baker died in 1998 of the same cause (drug overdose). A quiet album that never got big, but was very much worthy of listening to because of it's deep lyrics and guitar harmonies are perfectly blended. Probably the weirdest most shocking side project created as 'grunge and blues influenced album' . Mad Season consisted the best of Seattle. Layne Staley from Alice In Chains, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, John Baker (numerous blues bands), and Barret Martin from Screaming Trees. Certainly everyone thought that such a project would be great hard rocking riffs with harrowing harsh vocals by Staley. But the album goes in a complete 180 degree turn to a jazz-bluesy influenced music style with mostly acoustic ballads. If you want something jazzy, bluesy, and mellow this is the album for you.
The album starts off with a a minute of guitar chords and drumming which are very light and low. Then Staley starts singing completely different from his usual vocal power. Instead of using his harsh voice he uses a soothing-soft guided vocals throughout 'Wake Up'. The 2nd track 'X-Ray Mind' is my favorite because of the quick intensity buildup between the drumming and guitar. McCready's guitar is really enjoyable and goes well with the song. Staley's voice is a little bit harsher but nothing close to his previous work. After a few verses your directly driven into McCready/Baker/Martin jamming. Then as quickly as your into it your out and Staley's voice once again comes in. A great track and is one of the best on the album. The 3rd track ' River Of Deciet' is the only single from the album and starts off like 'Wake Up' but has a guitar that flows with Staley's voice very well. Staley's voice really shines on this track and his lyrical talent is shown as he proves he isn't just the vocalist of the Alice In Chains but has songwriting skills as well. Memorable verse is of course:
"My pain is self-chosen
At least, so the perfect says
I could either burn or cut off my pride and buy some time
Head full of lies is a wieght - tied to my waist"
The third track; I'm Above' seems like you will finally have a grunge track feel to it (only guitar), but soon slows down and gets softer. On this track McCready and Staley sing in harmony. Throughout the track they both sing the same verses and the drumming by Martin is perfect when the music speeds up in certain areas of the track. Next, is 'Artifical Red' which was created during a Seattle club performance in minutes by Staley. The song really is a jam song, but later found it's way on the album. All members of the band take credit for this track and Staley's voice is great on parts of the song. The 6th track 'Lifeless Dead' unquestionably the most metal song on the album is driven in with McCready's great guitar and Staley's same-tempoed voice, but someone keeps interested in the song. Especially McCready's luring guitar keeps you into the song. Staley's loudest performance on the album, which isn't a loud one at all.
The next track 'I Don't Know Anything' sounds like an Alice In Chain's influenced song (lyrically), but shows the repetitiveness isn't always bad. The next track 'Long Gone Day' is very much influenced by Baker's past. The saxophone and jazzy feeling goes very well with the lyrics written by Staley. Probably thee best track on the album. The next track 'November Hotel' is very much like a lullaby and is really easy to listen to if your in a happy mood. At 7:08 the track can be boring, but it really depends on how your feeling.
The last of 10 tracks is called ' All Alone'. Comes in with really soft sounding guitar and low drumming by Martin. And in a minute Staley's voice shatters the quiet silence with "I" this track is like 'November Hotel', but more involved with the vocals; instrumentally it is a really similar approach.
This album has to be my top 10 favorites at the time I first listened to it and the biggest shocker I have received from a band or side-project. Although it doesn't quite reach that high now on my list (it's been over 4 years) the Seattle project was amazing. Staley's voice goes great with McCready's backing vocals/guitar and Baker's bass. Martin barely hits the drums in some songs, but just enough to hear them "chiingg".
'River Of Deciet'
'I Don't Know Anything'
'Long Gone Day'
Not many, but - 'November Hotel' and 'Artificial Red' can get dull at times.