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Old 09-19-2010, 05:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Phish - Rift
Elektra Records (1993)

"You'll never get out of this maze."


Track Listing:
1. Rift (Anastasio, Marshall) - 6:13
2. Fast Enough for You (Anastasio, Marshall) - 4:51
3. Lengthwise (Fishman) - 1:19
4. Maze (Anastasio, Marshall) - 8:13
5. Sparkle (Anastasio, Marshall) - 3:54
6. Horn (Anastasio, Marshall) - 3:37
7. The Wedge (Anastasio, Marshall) - 4:07
8. My Friend, My Friend (Anastasio, Marshall) - 6:09
9. Weigh (Gordon) - 5:08
10. All Things Reconsidered (Anastasio, Marshall) - 2:32
11. Mound (Gordon) - 6:02
12. It's Ice (Anastasio, Marshall) - 8:14
13. Lengthwise (Fishman) - 0:34
14. The Horse (Anastasio, Marshall) - 1:23
15. Silent in the Morning (Anastasio, Marshall) - 5:28

Phish is a four piece "jam band" initially formed at the University of Vermont in 1983. In 1985, the line-up was solidified with the addition of Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) and with original founding members Trey Anastasio, (guitar, vocals) Mike Gordon, (bass, vocals) and Jon Fishman (drums, vacuum cleaner, trombone, vocals), Phish as we know it was officially born.

Phish, self-described as "cow funk" by guitarist / vocalist Anastasio, are probably best known for their explosive live shows full of extended improvisational jams, amazing light design (by long-time friend Chris Kuroda), and interesting onstage antics (band members jumping on trampolines, playing chess with the audience, drummer Fishman playing vacuum cleaner). Many, however, remain clueless regarding the studio work of this band which has released 14 studio albums to date.

In 1993, Phish released their 6th studio album Rift, a concept album which Anastasio described as being literally about a man attempting to fall to sleep while thinking on a "rift" in his relationship.

Rift: The opening track of the record does not disappoint; like the majority of songs in Phish's repertoire, the lyrics were penned by Anastasio's friend and songwriting partner Tom Marshall, with music composed by Anastasio. "Rift" features vocal harmonies, which are often found on recordings by the band, with Anastasio and McConnell splitting lead vocal duties. The instrumental portion of the song is beautifully composed with an exceptional guitar work by Anastasio, in addition to an equally gorgeous solo on keys by McConnell. This track is put together superbly, all men shining in their roles and is a very good example of what Phish can do as a unit.

Fast Enough For You: Contrary to what the title implies, "Fast Enough For You" is a very down tempo piece. It is transitioned into beautifully from the first track, and features exceptional percussion from Fishman (for whom the band is named). Lyrically, the song could afford to be stronger, but musically, the song is wonderful. The twangy guitar work is akin to what one would expect to hear from a country song, but it fits the overall vibe quite well.

Lengthwise: Penned by drummer Jon Fishman, "Lengthwise" clocks in at less than a minute and a half. In stark contrast to the two tracks preceding, "Lengthwise" thrives on its own minimalism, and is short, sweet, and to the point. While not the best track on the album by any stretch of the imagination, it serves its purpose quite well. It fits into the mix like a puzzle piece with interesting sound effects of snoring and almost eerie sing-song vocals echoing lightly, slowly gaining volume as the song progresses. It definitely gives the vibe of the subject falling asleep, and the lyrics are simplistic and appropriate.

Maze: At over eight minutes, "Maze" is the second longest track on the album, one second shorter than "It's Ice". It is very intricately layered and has ultimately more of a "rock" vibe than many of the songs on the album with much heavier instrumentals than the tracks preceding. The song is an interesting view of the things running through the subject's mind, including the "voice in (his) head repeating the phrase: You've lost it. You'll never get out of this maze." The extended instrumental portion of this song is a wonderful listening experience, and aids in continuing the story of the man without ever becoming overly self-indulgent. It's a very superb track.

Sparkle: "Sparkle" is ultimately an overall solid track. It seems at first to have more pop-rock sensibility than many songs in the Phish catalog. It does, however, devolve into an almost bluegrassy vibe midway through the song with the repetition of "Laugh and laughing, fall apart" and the tempo change. Not one of the better songs on the album, but it does still fit into the mix.

Horn: There is more vocal harmony to begin this one, but when Anastasio takes over the vocals, the melody is extremely solid and pleasing to the ear. Much like "Rift", this song has a beautiful guitar solo, and amazing work by Page McConnell on keys. While not nearly as layered as many of Phish's songs, this is a splendid tune, and one of the best on the album. There are two very distinct parts of this song, but it feels a lot less complex than many of their other tracks.

The Wedge: This song is a whole lot of fun. The instrumentation on this one is definitely more on the funky side, and the vocals are mostly delivered in unison by Anastasio and McConnell. This song sounds more like what people expect to hear from a jam band, with superb standout work by bassist Gordon. The melody itself is not particularly complex, but the song is quite upbeat in sound, and enjoyable.

My Friend, My Friend: With a wonderful, almost whimsical extended intro, "My Friend, My Friend" is a gem. When the song really kicks into high gear, about two minutes in, it becomes darker. Ultimately, the song doesn't appear to tie into the overall theme of the album as seamlessly as many of the other songs, but this is made up for by what a superb song it really is. The repeated phrase, "My friend, my friend, he's got a knife" is very likely to get stuck in one's head for days, but in a good way. This track is one of the standouts of the album.

Weigh: One of two songs on the album penned by bassist Gordon, "Weigh" is an interesting, more jazzy number. As can be imagined, the bass work of Gordon really shines on this track. Gordon also delivers the lead vocals on the song. Melodically, it's a bit different than most of the material offered on the album, and changes the pace in an interesting way. This is one of the reasons the album as a whole is so listenable: Very diverse, but ultimately a neat package. It's very well done. In a way, this song reminds me a lot of the composition of many Queen songs, such as "Seaside Rendezvous" and "The Millionaire Waltz". It's not one of my personal favorite songs on the album, but it is a nice change of pace to be sure.

All Things Reconsidered: This track is just about different in every way from the track preceding. It features Trey Anastasio's trademark guitar work, and sounds quite fun, almost carnival-like in places. A fully instrumental track, it fits very nicely into the mix, transitioning well into the second Gordon song on the album, "Mound".

Mound: This is another more jazzy number from Gordon. Vocal harmonies abound, with Gordon ultimately taking charge of the lead vocals. Very uptempo, catchy, and fun. Gordon's songs tend to have intriguing composition, and this is no exception. It's absolutely wonderful, and the better of the two Gordon tracks on the album.

It's Ice: The longest track on the album, "It's Ice" is, in many ways inferior to the earlier 8+ minute track on the album, "Maze". It is, however, respectable in its right. From the get-go, "It's Ice" is interesting, albeit a little repetitive in points. It feels as though it could easily have been a much shorter song if much of the repetition was done away with, and it doesn't feel as necessary to the song as a whole as it did in "Maze". Lead vocals are taken by McConnell who does a good job with the material. The musical interlude is not as strong as that of "Maze" either, (although there are certainly shining moments!) but the song itself does serve to progress the story quite nicely.

Lengthwise: Basically a reprise of the earlier "Lengthwise" on the album, and also written by Fishman, "Lengthwise" is perfectly placed and assists beautifully in tying the second half of the album to the first. Eerily layered vocals make this (shorter) "Lengthwise" a bit more unsettling than the earlier one on the album.

The Horse: Ultimately, "The Horse" feels in many ways much more like an extended intro into the following track, "Silent In the Morning". In fact, when played live, "The Horse" is almost always followed by "Silent In the Morning". It's very brief, but definitely fits quite well into the whole album.

Silent In the Morning: The closing track to the album, "Silent In the Morning" is a very wonderful track. It closes the album extremely well, and is well-sang by McConnell with backing vocals by Anastasio. It feels like a fitting epilogue to the restless night of near-sleeplessness experienced by the subject of this album. It's a wonderful song.

As a whole, this is a wonderful album. The whole thing is dependent on each part to function as a whole, and that's pleasing to hear from an album. The instrumentals by each member and their contributions to the album serve to make this one of my favorite Phish albums, and just a darn good album in general.

GRADE: A-

Last edited by ThePhanastasio; 09-19-2010 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 09-19-2010, 10:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Trey Anastasio - 18 Steps
Rubber Jungle Records (2006)


"Last among all equals, you go down those 18 steps."

Track Listing:
1. Home (Anastasio, Marshall) - 2:54
2. Dark and Down (Anastasio) - 5:12
3. 18 Steps (Anastasio) - 6:54
4. In Spirals (Anastasio) - 2:54
5. Discern (Anastasio, Herman, Marshall) - 5:41
6. Low (Anastasio) - 3:28
7. Words to Wanda (Anastasio, Marshall) - 5:03
8. Agnes (Anastasio) - 2:00
9. Rose Alone (Anastasio) - 4:01

Trey Anastasio, guitarist / vocalist for well-known jam band Phish, is primarily recognized for his work with the Vermont four-piece and for the enormous arena shows played by the band. Trickling underneath the radar, however, is a Trey Anastasio separate from his work with Phish, a solo artist more likely to be seen playing The House of Blues than Madison Square Garden. From this facet of Trey Anastasio's musicianship, you're likely to hear much more ambitious, original work (see such pieces as "Time Turns Elastic" written for guitar and orchestra for a good example) often utilizing orchestral elements not often explored in Phish. You're also more likely to hear songs with words and lyrics penned completely by Anastasio himself, although there are still several collaborative efforts with long-time friend Tom Marshall on any Anastasio effort. In fact, were it not for his signature guitar tone and vocals, it would be difficult to believe that he is the same person as the jam band Anastasio most people are familiar with.

In 2006, Anastasio released the album Bar 17, and as a bonus for fans who pre-ordered the album, included the EP 18 Steps, nine tracks which were considered "out-takes" from the Bar 17 recording sessions. As a result, physical copies of the album are scarce, although it remains available for download via Phish's website. While 18 Steps itself was intended as more of a B-Side or bonus to fans who pre-ordered, the EP itself certainly has a character and charm all its own.

With the opening acoustic tune "Home", the EP begins quite strong. Melodically and instrumentally, "Home" is a beautiful acoustic track, and is lyrically more mature and poetic ("So hollow / This darkness could be filled / With poetry") than what fans of his work with Phish expect from Anastasio.

In stark contrast to "Home", the second track, "Dark and Down", immediately explodes with screaming guitar. The vocals and overall delivery of material remains more on the down-tempo side, but the guitar is what really drives this song. Moreso than "Home", "Dark and Down" does almost feel as though it does belong on a B-Side collection. Melodically and lyrically, the song falls a little short, yet the instrumentation remains more on the strong side.

The title track is probably overall the strongest piece of material on the EP, and is extremely enjoyable. Having listened extensively to the solo material of Anastasio, this may be one of the strongest (if not the strongest) overall songs he's written completely solo. The transitions into different sections of the song are interesting, making listening to the song a very worthwhile use of approximately seven minutes. Every piece falls into place perfectly, making this an absolutely superb track.

"In Spirals" is another strong track from the EP. Also written solely by Anastasio, this is the second fully acoustic song on the EP. There are some rather nice lyrics in this one as well. One which stands out: "And the past is receding / In spirals / If only I could see." Overall, it's a pleasant acoustic track in which Anastasio utilizes a multitude of harmonics in his playing to make it a very pretty song indeed.

"Discern" is one of the tracks for which Anastasio utilizes a larger band and has a far more orchestral feel. The opening is lovely, full of rich brass tones. Following the extended opening of the song, Anastasio comes in on guitar, putting forth some very splendid music indeed. The lyrics themselves are a bit more simplistic than I'd like, but the focus of this song is certainly the music itself. It's understandable how the song was not able to be fit into Bar 17, as it's more of its own thing than a piece that can easily be put into a neat package with other tracks.

The next track, "Low" almost has a pop-rock sound, and is quite different from the other offerings on 18 Steps. It is by no means a compositional masterpiece, but it is quite catchy. It definitely has the feel of the sort of track that can really get the listener bobbing their head and smiling along. It's not one of the stronger pieces on the EP, and almost seems to go overboard at times. There are points where there is too much happening, and it devolves into almost being a complete train wreck. It is, however, respectable in its right.

"Words To Wanda" is one of the weakest offerings on the album, suffering from the overkill that bogged "Low" down with none of the pop rock charm to salvage it. The slightly out of tune vocal layering in points is almost painful to hear, but it is at least interesting to listen to. This is the kind of track which could probably have been reworked to be more listenable, but it's still not horrible in the form in which it appears on the EP.

The eight track on the EP, "Agnes", is the only fully instrumental offering. It's a beautifully arranged acoustic piece with some interesting and twangy guitar at points. There's some very nice playing from Anastasio on this one, although it doesn't feel strong enough to actually be an album track.

The final track, "Rose Alone" is another acoustic track, and a very pretty one at that. While not particularly vocally or lyrically strong, the song itself is quite gorgeous overall and has a very sad vibe.

Ultimately, 18 Steps exceeds expectations as a mere compilation of scrapped material, but there were certainly weak points. The good does outweigh the bad, so if you can get your hands on a copy of this, I recommend it - and not just because of the rarity of the physical copies.

GRADE: C+ / B-
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Old 09-19-2010, 11:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Every time I see the cover art for Rift I immediately start singing Lengthwise in my head.
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:11 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by SATCHMO View Post
Every time I see the cover art for Rift I immediately start singing Lengthwise in my head.
Haha! That is certainly a fun little tune to get in your head. I find that after listening to Rift, that's the song that sticks in my head for days afterward!
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Out of interest, how do you compare Phish to the Grateful Dead as a jam band?
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Old 09-21-2010, 07:38 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post
Out of interest, how do you compare Phish to the Grateful Dead as a jam band?
Aside from their being another band in the jam genre, I really don't see them as being the same thing at all musically.

Phish are about the live show, and the social vibe of the fanbase and the lot scene prior to shows apparently recalls the fans of The Grateful Dead. I suppose also that Phish's taping policy was greatly influenced by them.

Musically, the guys in Phish all respect GD completely and really owe a lot to them for paving the way with the scene. They're also just as strongly influenced by Zappa, The Talking Heads, The Beatles, and any number of other bands.

I really just see them as their own thing musically. I won't compare them to GD in the same way that I won't compare The Disco Biscuits to Phish. Three different eras of jam altogether.
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Old 09-21-2010, 08:02 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by ThePhanastasio View Post
Aside from their being another band in the jam genre, I really don't see them as being the same thing at all musically.

Phish are about the live show, and the social vibe of the fanbase and the lot scene prior to shows apparently recalls the fans of The Grateful Dead. I suppose also that Phish's taping policy was greatly influenced by them.

Musically, the guys in Phish all respect GD completely and really owe a lot to them for paving the way with the scene. They're also just as strongly influenced by Zappa, The Talking Heads, The Beatles, and any number of other bands.

I really just see them as their own thing musically. I won't compare them to GD in the same way that I won't compare The Disco Biscuits to Phish. Three different eras of jam altogether.
I`d agree that there are some differences between the bands, in that Phish from what I`ve heard have a sound rooted in jazz whereas Grateful Dead have a sound more rooted in folk. Also Phish seem to draw from more diverse genres of music too.

The similiarities I think are built around the the following that the groups have and that Phish are the Grateful Dead of current times. My knowledge of the Grateful Dead is far more knowledgeble than that of Phish, and your current attention of Phish on this forum has kind of re-awakened my interest in them, as I never really got properly into them before.

I have a band on the tip of my tongue that are similiar to Phish but the name escapes me.
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Old 09-21-2010, 10:13 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I`d agree that there are some differences between the bands, in that Phish from what I`ve heard have a sound rooted in jazz whereas Grateful Dead have a sound more rooted in folk. Also Phish seem to draw from more diverse genres of music too.

The similiarities I think are built around the the following that the groups have and that Phish are the Grateful Dead of current times. My knowledge of the Grateful Dead is far more knowledgeble than that of Phish, and your current attention of Phish on this forum has kind of re-awakened my interest in them, as I never really got properly into them before.

I have a band on the tip of my tongue that are similiar to Phish but the name escapes me.
That is very true. I'd like to think of them more as being the "defining jam band" of this generation than the "new Grateful Dead", though. I just feel like they're too musically different. Other jam bands don't get nearly the amount of Grateful Dead comparisons that Phish get, even the ones that are a bit more similar musically.

I still really love The Grateful Dead. They were an amazing band, to be sure. Just different - like, I'd not be likely to put a Grateful Dead track on a CD next to a Phish track because they really just wouldn't mesh.

And as for the band you may be thinking of: I've heard a lot of comparisons with Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, and moe. to Phish - is one of those the one you were thinking of?
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Old 09-22-2010, 01:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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That is very true. I'd like to think of them more as being the "defining jam band" of this generation than the "new Grateful Dead", though. I just feel like they're too musically different. Other jam bands don't get nearly the amount of Grateful Dead comparisons that Phish get, even the ones that are a bit more similar musically.

I still really love The Grateful Dead. They were an amazing band, to be sure. Just different - like, I'd not be likely to put a Grateful Dead track on a CD next to a Phish track because they really just wouldn't mesh.

And as for the band you may be thinking of: I've heard a lot of comparisons with Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, and moe. to Phish - is one of those the one you were thinking of?
Its none of these bands that you`ve mentioned. Anyways, I`m making a point now of listening to most of Phish`s discography properly this time, and will let you know what I think.
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Old 09-29-2010, 08:03 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Richard Thompson - The Old Kit Bag
Cooking Vinyl (2003)


"Oh, be something, be something fine."

Track Listing:
1. Gethsemane (Thompson) - 6:03
2. Jealous Words (Thompson) - 4:17
3. I'll Tag Along (Thompson) - 3:40
4. A Love You Can't Survive (Thompson) - 5:28
5. One Door Opens (Thompson) - 4:19
6. First Breath (Thompson) - 7:16
7. She Said It Was Destiny (Thompson) - 4:23
8. I've Got No Right To Have It All (Thompson) - 4:12
9. Pearly Jim (Thompson) - 4:18
10. Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen (Thompson) - 4:25
11. Outside Of The Inside (Thompson) - 6:24
12. Happy Days And Auld Lang Syne (Thompson) - 3:58

In spite of being declared the #19 guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, Richard Thompson has never exactly been a household name in the states, unlike many of his contemporaries in the top 20. Thompson debuted as a recording artist with folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention for which he lent his guitar-playing talents. In a career spanning nearly forty years, Thompson has released 24 studio albums to date, including 13 as a solo artist.

Thompson is accomplished on both the acoustic and electric guitar, something readily apparent on his 11th solo studio album, the 2003 recording The Old Kit Bag. From the opening track, "Gethsemane", Thompson makes it apparent that he's a talented guitarist and songwriter who can certainly hold his own. The tone in "Gethsemane" is one of longing for a better life, of being told you're unable to accomplish that, but the strong fire within that keeps the dream alive. From the repeated refrain, "Oh be something, be something fine," Thompson adds impact to an already superb track.

Other deep, insightful tracks make the meat of this album, including the dark folk track "Outside of the Inside" on which Thompson (singing as the character within the song) proclaims, "I’m familiar with the cover / I don’t need to read the book / I police the world of action / Inside’s where I never look" after disdain is expressed for Einstein, Shakespeare, and Van Gogh (to name a few).

While "Gethsemane" and "Outside of the Inside" certainly have tragic elements, possibly the most tragic song on the album is the final track, "Happy Days and Auld Lang Syne". Thompson delivers heart-breaking, emotional vocals to his strong lyrical and musical song, making for an absolutely beautiful track.

The album does certainly have its share of darker, slower, more emotive tracks, there are a few solid upbeat numbers on the album. Possibly the highlight of the more uptempo tracks is "Pearly Jim", a song more akin to what one would expect to hear from the former guitarist of Fairport Convention, but with enough of Thompson's own unique individual flavor to make it a true stand-out track.

This is a strong solo album from Thompson, but it doesn't come without its weak points. Songs like "I'll Tag Along" and "She Said It Was Destiny" seem to lack the depth of much of the other material on the album, and feel out of place. The latter is a better song than the former, and has some amazing guitar work, but still feels as though it doesn't quite fit.

Overall, this is a album I certainly enjoy listening to from beginning to end, although the afore-mentioned "I'll Tag Along" and "She Said It Was Destiny" occasionally get skipped over while I'm listening, but it's well worth a download or purchase.

GRADE: B
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