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Old 12-13-2010, 06:59 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Phish

The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday

Trey's Senior Thesis (1988)


Track Listing:
1.) Introduction (Wilson Prelude) - Anastasio
2.) The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday - Anastasio
3.) The Lizards - Anastasio
4.) Tela - Anastasio
5.) Traveling Narrative - Anastasio
6.) Wilson - Anastasio
7.) AC/DC Bag - Anastasio
8.) Betrayal Narrative - Anastasio
9.) Colonel Forbin's Ascent - Anastasio
10.) Fly Famous Mockingbird - Anastasio
11.) Errand Wolfe's Narrative - Anastasio
12.) The Sloth - Anastasio
13.) Forbin in the Dungeon Narrative - Anastasio
14.) Possum - Holdsworth

Please Note: Following the links, you are given the option to download the tracks, but you can also stream them.


The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, the senior thesis of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, is a four track recording featuring the full Phish line-up and what would become many of their most well-known songs.

The recording is fanciful, whimsical, and often exceptionally lovely musically. Anastasio delivers spoken narration of the story over composed music, in addition to through songs. His vocal delivery of the spoken dialogue is pleasant and absolutely perfect for the tone of the recording, almost like that of someone reading the perfect bedtime story.

Other "concept albums" have generally focused more on the overall mood of the piece rather than continuous narrative (see Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and Phish's own Rift for good examples of this) but the story of Colonel Forbin's journey into the land of Gamehendge set down here in The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday is very linear and heavily involved with the story itself.

Those vastly unfamiliar with the work of Phish but well-versed in the more contemporary indie scene might think that sounds a lot like The Decemberists' 2009 record The Hazards Of Love, but there are several glaring dissimilarities between the two. While not like a traditional concept album in the expected sense, on The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Anastasio chooses to progress much of the storyline through spoken narration above music, rather than merely through song. (This is, after all, his thesis for a Creative Writing degree.) As such, the work cannot be considered a "rock opera" by any means; it's something a little different. The pieces (much like in The Hazards Of Love) are dependent on each other when viewed as a cohesive unit, but there are several offerings (much unlike The Hazards Of Love) which can hold their own as standalone pieces.

Take, for example, the first non-narrated "track" on the recording, "The Lizards".

03 - The Lizards.mp3

"The Lizards" has been played extensively live, generally out of context to The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday as a whole. It remains a fan favorite, but lyrically still serves to progress the story in a linear manner. As a matter of fact, the song details the events immediately following the protagonist, Colonel Forbin, after he "steps through the door" and enters Gamehendge. He comes across a knight in a full suit of armor, Rutherford the Brave, who proceeds to walk with him and tell him about Gamehendge, the Lizards, (the race of people indiginous to Gamehendge) and the oppressive dictator, Wilson, who has enslaved the Lizards and proclaimed himself king. So why is it such a popular song for the band when taken out of context if it's so closely involved with the story?

The reason is this: It's just a damn enjoyable song. It features a nice melody, catchy chorus, very pretty guitar work by Anastasio, and a gorgeous piano solo by McConnell. Gordon and Fishman each shine in the piece as well, bringing a superb energy to the rhythm section that makes this song a very wondrous piece indeed.

While not a band necessarily known for having brilliant lyrics, "The Lizards" also features some wonderful lines. Midway through the track, Rutherford tells Forbin of The Helping Friendly Book, (penned by Icculus, but we'll get to him later) to which the colonel observed that, "The trick was to surrender to the flow," a very nice, somewhat poignant little tidbit.

While "The Lizards" has enjoyed its fair share of live performance by the band, the track which has easily been performed live most frequently (from this particular recording) is "Wilson", a little ditty about the wretched king himself.

07 - Wilson.mp3

Delivered from the point of view of Errand Wolfe, a man leading a group of Lizard revolutionaries to overthrow the dictator, "Wilson" is quite a remarkable (albeit angry) song. McConnell pounds away at the dark chords of the song, and the others follow suit. As the song nears its conclusion, Anastasio (as Wolfe) asks of Wilson, "I must inquire, Wilson...can you still have fun?" At this point, the music becomes almost frenzied, full of energy and intensity which make this such a successful live track.

It does, however, appear on this recording in a slightly different form from that seen in live performances: The intro when live consists of audience interaction to exclaim, "Wilson!" when Trey hits the 'E' notes.

(Youtube a live version to see what I'm talking about, I suppose - it's kind of more difficult to explain in words than I thought it would be. )

"AC/DC Bag", also seen on The White Tape, makes an appearance in Trey's thesis as well. It is described in the narration as being an "electrified robotic hangman," and the song is delivered by "Wilson" to his accountant, Mr. Palmer, who is being hanged for embezzling money from Wilson to aid the revolutionaries.

It's a solid track, and also often performed live quite frequently.

The album progresses to find Colonel Forbin getting involved with the revolutionaries, "falling in love" with Tela, the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, and ultimately going to the top of the mountain to ask Icculus for help in getting the Helping Friendly Book back from Wilson and into the hands of the Lizards.

(Now is the point where I bitterly wish I had chosen just to focus on the music and not the story, but it proves almost impossible. As such, I feel like this review is much longer than it has to be already.)

Icculus is best described by Anastasio during the opening narration of the song:

Quote:
Icculus lived on top of the mountain - or, at least everyone thought so, for no one had actually ever seen him. But they knew he existed, because they had The Helping Friendly Book. Icculus had given The Helping Friendly Book to the Lizards thousands of years earlier as a gift. It contained all of the knowledge inherent in the Universe, and had enabled the Lizards to exist in harmony with nature for years...and so they lived.
Something of a metaphor or approximation of God in the popular religions? Probably. Anyway - as Colonel Forbin makes his way up the mountain to talk with Icculus, his ascent is described via sung narration with the song "Colonel Forbin's Ascent".

11 - Colonel Forbin's Ascent.mp3

The song itself is not a perfect track by any means - the vocals at the beginning are pretty bad, even for Anastasio. This is another song, however, on which McConnell is showcased quite well. Gordon is exceptional as well, although regrettably difficult to hear and appreciate well with the "quality" of the recording.

The "Happily Ever After" to this story, which has the feel of a particularly fantastic fairy tale almost, doesn't exactly come. It's very bittersweet.

Spoiler for If you're okay with knowing part of the end, go ahead and read here:
The concluding track, "Possum" is the only song on the recording not penned by Anastasio. It was written by former band member Jeff Holdsworth, and is seemingly used as a song from the point of view of Icculus. As such, it leaves a very bitter and unsatisfying ending to the story itself, basically comparing all of existence to a dead possum on the side of the road, but that's just how Trey rolls, I suppose.

16 - Possum.mp3

"Possum" was written by former band member Jeff Holdsworth, and is seemingly used as a song from the point of view of Icculus. As such, it leaves a very bitter and unsatisfying ending to the story itself, (even more than Forbin's, detailed in the narration preceding) basically comparing all of existence to a dead possum on the side of the road, but that's just how Trey rolls, I suppose.


The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday is a very unique and enjoyable listening experience, recording quality aside. The story is intriguing in and of itself, and the compositions are, for the most part, of exceptionally high quality.

If you would like to listen to the work in its entirety, I highly suggest that you listen HERE as it can be streamed in its entirety with no pesky track breaks.

My feelings for this recording are overwhelmingly positive.

GRADE: A
(94/100)

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Old 12-15-2010, 05:03 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I should have Junta reviewed by tomorrow; massive death of my laptop -> me at my mother's house using her computer for the time being. Fortunately, I have hard copies of the albums, so I'll be able to continue reviewing.

Still may reach my goal of reviewing the basic 15 by year's end!
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Old 12-16-2010, 02:17 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I'm excited to hear what you think about "Undermind." Some phans hate it, but I like it quite a lot.

"Round Room" on the other hand, everyone hates.
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Old 12-29-2010, 09:00 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Phish
Junta (1989)



“This is Red Rocks! This is The Edge!”


Track listing

Disc One
1.) Fee (Anastasio) – 5:23
2.) You Enjoy Myself (Anastasio) – 9:47
3.) Esther (Anastasio) – 9:21
4.) Golgi Apparatus (Anastasio, Marshall, Szuter, Woolf) – 4:35
5.) Foam (Anastasio) – 6:50
6.) Dinner and a Movie (Anastasio, Pollak) – 3:42
7.) The Divided Sky (Anastasio) – 11:50
8.) David Bowie (Anastasio) – 10:59

Disc two
1.) Fluffhead (Anastasio, Pollak) – 3:24
2.) Fluff's Travels (Anastasio) – 11:35
3.) Contact (Gordon) – 6:42
4.) Union Federal [Live] (Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon, McConnell) – 25:31
5.) Sanity [Live] (Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon, McConnell, Pollak) – 8:22
6.) Icculus [Live] (Anastasio, Marshall) – 4:24

Preface: In doing this series of album reviews for the discography of Phish, I’ve wanted to be fully correct and informative in order to present all of the material in chronological, correct, and complete order. Up to this point, I’ve been sure to include full offerings of album length material which were recorded and distributed – to an extent.

In the early days of the band, they had a great many demos recorded and several compilations which included songs often used in the band’s repertoire – which appear only on those demos. I included Anastasio’s senior study The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday for this reason, and also for its wide distribution in spite of its never having enjoyed release in album form (it was decided by the band that making profit from Gamehendge was not the right thing to do). I also included The White Tape because there are several songs even in the present rotation (See: “Fuck Your Face”)which appear only on that particular collection.

Junta, however, is an entirely different animal. Heralded by many as Phish’s “first album”, albeit incorrectly, Junta appears in two different forms; one from 1989 and its initial independent release by the band, and one from 1992 and its re-release by the Elektra label following the band’s being signed to the label. The original release, via the now defunct Rough Trade Records, did not have the three live tracks (“Union Federal”, “Sanity”, and “Icculus”) included. However, in this particular attempt at correct chronology and my unwillingness to review the same album twice to reflect separate editions, this review includes those three live tracks.

***

This particular album is heralded by many fans as being the definitive Phish album, containing many of their more intricate and unique compositions. It does, however, also include its share of fun and campy songs, which also assist in defining the band’s unique sound. If someone were to request an album asking what studio Phish sounds like, I would hand them a copy of Junta.

The album opens with “Fee”, the title character of which is a weasel in this charming tale which culminates in death and a sliced nipple. (Not for Fee!)



“Fee” features some pleasant jazz chords by Anastasio, interesting percussion by Fishman, and stellar playing by Gordon and McConnell. The song itself is sufficiently catchy, really fun, and quite nonsensical. How can one resist a compelling tale of the love of two weasels, the jealousy of chimpanzee who wishes Millie, the weasel, for his own, and death via nipple slicing? (With paper no less!)

“Fee” is not the type of song which would necessarily change one’s outlook on music forever, but it is an enjoyable little song. It never fails to put a smile on my face. The next track is the type of song which could completely change a person’s outlook on the music they’ve been listening to and really turn them onto the music of Phish. It is the song which is probably more “Phish” than anything else Phish has ever recorded and remains a song in consistent live rotation to this day. That song is “You Enjoy Myself”.



“You Enjoy Myself”, frequently known as “YEM” by fans for brevity’s sake, was written by Anastasio in the summer of 1985 while he and Fishman were performing street music in Europe.

The title draws from a statement said to Trey and Fishman by a German man while they were in Europe: “When I’m with you, you enjoy myself!”

Charmed by his clumsy English, their song title was created.

“You Enjoy Myself” is a brilliant composition with very few words: In fact, the only lyrics in the song are, “Boy. Man. God. Shit. Wash Uffizi, drive me to Firenze.” The real brilliance in this song lies in the composition itself, very intricately woven with very distinct sections. It goes from lovely arpeggios and work by Anastasio and McConnell, to very funky rhythms indeed. Definitely a must hear, and a serious highlight to not only this album, but the entire Phish repertoire.

Another song definitely worth mention, although not a compositional masterpiece by any means, is “Golgi Apparatus”, also a mainstay in the Phish catalog. Although there is no available video of the studio version of the song, the live version below will give the basic gist of the song – it’s a pretty tightly structured song, and live versions don’t deviate from the album version a great deal.



“Golgi Apparatus” was actually written originally by Anastasio, his song-writing partner Tom Marshall, and friends Dave Abrahams and Aaron Woolfe while the four were in 8th grade. At the time, Trey didn’t even play guitar, so as one could imagine, it has been altered since.

The song is pretty much a feel-good, comfortable song inspired by a junior high school science lesson and young adolescent boredom. The repeated, “Golgi, olgi, woe is me / You can’t even see the sea / Golgi, golgi, golgi / Golgi” is goofy, but ultimately kind of charming. Oh, to be 13 again!
There are many other consistently played songs in the band’s repertoire featured on this album, including “Foam”, “The Divided Sky”, “David Bowie”, and to a lesser extent “Dinner and a Movie” and “Contact”, but one of the band’s major defining live tracks, “Fluffhead”, combined in the present day with “Fluff’s Travels” and called simply “Fluffhead” in that form, is worth mentioning as a shining highlight.



“Fluffhead” has what is possibly one of Page McConnell’s most memorable piano riffs, and overall gorgeous composition. Lyrically, it tells the story of a character named Fluffhead, and is more of a narrative song than anything. The music for the song is superb.

“Fluff’s Travels” is the longer track of the two on Junta, and features six distinct sections:

I. “Fluff’s Travels”
II. “The Chase”
III. “Who Do? We Do!”
IV. “Clod”
V. “Bundle Of Joy”
VI. “Arrival”

For a great version of “Fluffhead” combined with “Fluff’s Travels”, check out this version from Hampton on 03/06/09 – it was the first song played by Phish after a nearly five year hiatus.




Finally, not to leave the live tracks out, I will mention the closing track on the re-release, "Icculus". The video below is not of the actual live performance used on Junta (That one came from Red Rocks in 1988), but it will give you the basic gist of the song:



This is from the most recent performance of the song, and I assure you that the version on Junta does not feature a rant about iPhones. The chord progression throughout in addition to the composed section ("Written by the great and knowledgeable Icculus..." to the end) remains the same.

This song certainly isn't for everyone, but it remains a pleasing rarity in the band's catalog. It's more fun (and a tie-in to their Gamehendge universe) than anything, but it is enjoyable to see Trey improvising an actual story. Very strange stuff, but compelling in its way.

Ultimately, I will have to say that Junta is an album well worth checking out. There are very intricate and complex pieces, fun, rollicking numbers, and a wide variety of influences readily on display on this album, a true showcase of four talented musicians really having a great time.

Grade: 98/100

A+
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Old 12-29-2010, 11:41 AM   #15 (permalink)
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When I think of Phish, I think of that bass drum, "thump-thump", at the beginning of Fee that seems to set the stage for the entire album. I can say that Junta really is my quintessential Phish studio album and one that's very close to my heart. Thanks for the stupendous review.
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Old 12-29-2010, 02:56 PM   #16 (permalink)
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"yesterday" what my first exposure to phish and one that would lead to me down my current road of jam band ruin

phish and the allman brother's are what opened the dead door for me, and thus contributed to my slow demise away from the republican party

as a fan, i cant wait to see how you review joy
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Old 12-29-2010, 04:28 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Really good read on Junta. That'll always be my #1 Phish album.
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Old 01-23-2011, 10:59 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Thanks to everyone who has been reading this thread, and a major apology for inactivity - I just got a desktop computer set up today, and will be able to actually listen to and review the albums properly, and in a more timely manner. Looking to get two done tomorrow.
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Old 01-27-2011, 02:39 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Phish

Lawnboy (1990)


Track Listing:
1.) The Squirming Coil (Anastasio, Marshall) - 6:04
2.) Reba (Anastasio) - 12:27
3.) My Sweet One (Fishman) - 2:07
4.) Split Open and Melt (Anastasio) - 4:42
5.) The Oh Kee Pah Ceremony (Anastasio) - 1:41
6.) Bathtub Gin (Anastasio, Suzannah Goodman) - 4:29
7.) Run Like An Antelope (Anastasio, Marshall, Pollak) - 9:52
8.) Lawn Boy (Anastasio, Marshall) - 2:32
9.) Bouncing Around the Room (Anastasio, Marshall) - 3:52

This album was re-released by Elektra in 1992; the original recording contained the version of "Fee" available on Junta, so for simplicity's sake, I've just chosen to do this write-up on the Elektra re-release. It is the same, aside from the absence of "Fee" on the recording, and a sped up "Lawn Boy" which was the result of an Elektra mixing error upon its re-release.


While its predecessor, Junta, remains at the top of my favorites list, Lawn Boy is a superb album in its own right. More accessible to the average listener, yet still in a style that could only be Phish, this album is about as solid as they come. From the rollicking jams fans have come to expect of the band (Reba, Run Like an Antelope) to poppier, more mainstream pieces (Lawn Boy, Bouncing Around the Room) and even a little touch of bluegrass, (My Sweet One) this album delivers - both as a quality recording and a pleasant addition to nearly any music collection.

Stellar musicianship is immediately apparent from the opening track, "The Squirming Coil".



While not a traditionally jammy track, McConnell really shines through on this particular song with some superb work on piano. Anastasio also delivers a beautiful, almost delicate bit of guitar playing which tailors perfectly to the arenas that at the time of recording, the band could only dream of playing. Fishman's drums and Gordon's bass complete the piece, making for a lovely and overwhelmingly splendid track indeed. The track fades out with McConnell's solo piano outro, going into the much funkier "Reba", a song which is definitely the Phish expected by those familiar with the band's earlier work.

"Reba" is full of whimsy, catchy and goofy lyrics, and one of the finest instrumental interludes ever to come out of the state of Vermont. While "Reba" is something of a bizarre song to those not accustomed to Phish, "My Sweet One" is somewhat odd even for seasoned phans; it's bluegrass.



The above is a live, acoustic version of the song taken from 2009's Festival 8.

As a studio recording, "My Sweet One" recalls traditional bluegrass, although the lyrics are even goofier than the goofiest of bluegrass. ("Herbivores ate well 'cause their food didn't never run") It's a fun track - a nice little treat on a very eclectic recording.

Lawn Boy certainly isn't lacking as far as diversity is concerned. One of my personal favorite songs, "Bathtub Gin", keeps the recording interesting as its sixth track.



"Bathtub Gin" sounds to me musically like being happy drunk. The music is jazzy, even a little funky, but the notes and progression itself seems to sway drunkenly, grinning and making everyone around feel great. The sounds of pouring within the track, superimposed sounds of laughter and talking beneath the music itself, and the silly lyrics come to be expected from the band make this a truly enjoyable song.

Like "Bathtub Gin", "Run Like An Antelope" is a track I'd almost guarantee to put a smile on even the grumpiest of faces, but it also offers the complex and intricate composition of such Phish classics as "You Enjoy Myself". It is fun; there is a bit of silliness pervading the lyrics - but it's so goddamn good.



"Run Like An Antelope" is a brilliant and complex foray into the world of Phish. Bassist Gordon drops funk bombs on the listener, drummer Fishman offers some of his most complex rhythmic work on any recording, pianist McConnell perfectly places phenomenal bits of piano into the piece, and Anastasio plays like a man possessed. As the song progresses, the tempo speeds faster and faster, and the playing becomes progressively more uninhibited. Faces are melted, minds are blown, and the band plays on. It's truly a wonderful bit of music, one of Phish's best, and I still feel as though I can not sing its praises enough.

After Antelope, the album chills out a bit with the overall solid "Lawn Boy" and the very radio-friendly "Bouncing Around the Room".



"Bouncing Around the Room" is, to me, kind of a strange Phish track. It's not particularly exploratory. It's not especially goofy. In fact, it really feels pretty much like Phish just wanted to sit down and write a good ol' pop rock tune. In that way, it delivers. It's catchy, and I suppose it's fairly enjoyable. It's certainly not the Phish you'd be expecting, but Gordon and McConnell do have really strong bits within the song itself. For that, it's almost worth it...I still think it's the weakest track on the album.

Overall, Lawn Boy is a pretty awesome album. There's a lot of diversity, and none of the tracks fall completely flat. It's enjoyable - I'd recommend it to someone not particularly familiar with the band's work in a heartbeat.

GRADE: A
(93/100)
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:32 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Phish

A Picture Of Nectar

Elektra (1992)


Track Listing:
1.) Llama (Anastasio) - 3:32
2.) Eliza (Anastasio) - 1:32
3.) Cavern (Anastasio, Marshall, Herman) - 4:24
4.) Poor Heart (Gordon) - 2:44
5.) Stash (Anastasio, Marshall) - 7:11
6.) Manteca (Fuller, Gillespie, Pozo) - 0:29
7.) Guelah Papyrus (Anastasio, Marshall) - 5:22
8.) Magilla (McConnell) - 2:46
9.) The Landlady (Anastasio) - 2:56
10.) Glide (Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon, McConnell, Marshall) - 4:13
11.) Tweezer (Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon, McConnell) - 8:42
12.) The Mango Song (Anastasio) - 6:23
13.) Chalk Dust Torture (Anastasio, Marshall) - 4:36
14.) Faht (Fishman) - 2:21
15.) Catapult (Gordon) - 0:32
16.) Tweezer Reprise (Anastasio, Fishman, Gordon, McConnell) - 2:39

In the early days of Phish, the band could frequently be seen playing a Burlington, VT bar by the name of Nectar's, named for owner Nectar Rorris. He was one of the band's first and biggest fans, and it was at his bar that Phish were really able to get their start. On A Picture Of Nectar, their major label debut, Phish paid tribute to the man who helped them get their name out there; the title is an homage to Rorris, as well as a lyric from the album track "Cavern" ...the lyric was actually used to replace the initial phrase the band had been working with for that particular song: "penile erector", but I'm sure Mr. Rorris was honored, nonetheless.

A Picture Of Nectar is quite possibly the happiest sounding Phish album. It's an album that is, for me, inextricably tied to summer listening; windows down, roadtrips with buddies, and peanut butter milkshakes are images immediately evoked for me when listening to this album. As such, it feels a little out of place to be listening to it right now, wearing a hoodie in my house while several inches of snow blanket the ground outside. Nonetheless, it is a great album; it sounds a lot like summer, and a lot like happiness to me.

The album opens with the speedy "Llama", a true showcase for all of the band, but in particular Jon Fishman.



"Llama" features Fishman playing drums flawlessly and at breakneck speed as Anastasio delivers lyrics at a rate of speed which would make Bizzy Bone (of Bone Thugz N Harmony) proud. In fact, there are still (numerous) parts of the lyrics which take me a moment distinguish. The repeated phrase, "Leave it on, press, depress depress; llama, taboot taboot," is frequently misheard as well. More than one person has told me it sounds as though he's actually saying: "Leanin' on friends, we're the best of friends; llama taboot taboot," and I can actually kind of get where they're coming from. It's not easily distinguished. Regardless, it's a rather awesome song, and definitely one which is fun and danceable. Also, keep an ear out for Gordon's bass work on this song; it's really something special.

The following track, "Eliza", a gorgeous instrumental track, departs from the overwhelming speed and urgency of "Llama", serving as a very pleasant calm after the storm, as it were. When "Eliza" ends, however, the rocking picks back up with a favorite: "Cavern".



"Cavern" is the track from which the title is taken, and recalls very funky, jazzy influence which marks much of Phish's overall sound. As with many of their songs, the lyrics are more on the side of nonsense, with a few gems which stick out to me in particular: "If you tread in primal soup, please wipe it from your shoes"; "Give the director a serpent deflector"; "Whatever you do, take care of your shoes."

There is quite a lot of fun wordplay and rhyme-y fun happening in the song, but it still stands on its own as a great piece played with the efficacy expected of the band. It's a lot of fun, and still makes me think of summer. It's a nice song.

Another great track on the album is "Stash", one of the Phishier tracks on an album which (for the most part) suffers from less experimental pieces which had been a major part of the band's sound.



The level of kickass on this particular track is almost impossible for me to articulate in the manner I would like to. Suffice it to say, this is one of the songs on this album I most highly recommend everyone listen to. It's full of sheer musical goodness, some mind-blowing "Wow!" moments, and a whole lot more. This is certainly an essential track - listen to it. (All of it.)

A Picture Of Nectar also features a Phish first - a cover. Granted, the cover clocks in at just less than 30 seconds and isn't a cover in full - but a fragmented version Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca" does appear on the album. Aside from being the first album cover song, it's not completely remarkable on this album in any other way.

An enjoyable song on this offering is the tenth track, "Glide".



"Glide" features some pleasant playing by all four members, from the bluesy guitar work of Anastasio to the interesting percussion of Fishman, the song is really a lot of fun. It doesn't necessarily embody what I would say is the main "sound" of the band for the most part, but it really is a more unique composition. The band sings, "We're glad, glad, glad that you're alive / And we're glad, glad, glad that you'll arrive / And we're glad, glad, glad, glad, glad, glad / And we're glad, glad, glad that you're a glide." It's a very nice track indeed.

The longest track on the album, "Tweezer" is fun, funky, and a mainstay in the live rotation.



In spite of all of its positive attributes, however, "Tweezer" does have its shortcomings, as far as Phish tunes are concerned. It lacks much of the intricacy which typically goes hand in hand with many of their longer tracks, and thus lacks the epic status that songs such as "You Enjoy Myself" and "Reba" have in abundance. Bassist Mike Gordon is absolutely the star of the track. Although it does have its negatives, it does remain a really solid (and well-played) rock and roll song. It kind of fits that formula well.

A song that really doesn't fit any particular "formula", however, is the following track, "The Mango Song".



"The Mango Song" is a song from Phish's repertoire of the late eighties which had not previously received a studio recording. It's the sort of song that would be paired well with a song like Junta's "Fee", and is a pretty bizarre little song. The chorus, "Your hands and feet are mangoes / You're gonna be a genius anyway!" is really catchy and fun. The whole song is, really. The piano and bass contributions to the song by McConnell and Gordon (respectively) are near perfection. When Anastasio joins the other three during the instrumental portion, the interlude becomes absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The song itself is quite uptempo, but the musicianship is superb. This is another absolute essential listen in the Phish catalog.

Another track well worth mentioning is "Chalk Dust Torture", one of the dozens of Phish tunes penned by Anastasio and his songwriting partner, Tom Marshall.



The opening chords of "Chalk Dust Torture" are pure rock and roll. It's also a nice showcase for McConnell on the electric organ, a frequent fixture in their live performances. In true rock and roll style, Anastasio has a rip-roarin' solo in the song, and the repeated line, "Can I live while I'm young?" displays the youthful, rebellious rock sentiment all too well. As a true rock song, "Chalk Dust Torture" was, naturally, the song selected by Elektra Records as the band's single from the album. While it didn't chart, it is easily the most radio-friendly track on the album. Like some other album tracks, it really isn't especially exploratory, but it's just a cool song.

A Picture Of Nectar isn't Phish's best album or their most exciting album, but it's not bad overall; it's extremely solid throughout with a few surprisingly phenomenal tracks in the mix that make it worth the listen. It still screams "summer!" to me, so I may be a little biased by not being in the right mindset to appreciate this album, its being winter and all - but I still recommend it. It is their first album with a major label, and does seemingly mark a departure from the long epic songs which had been so crucial to the band in the past, but there's too much good going on with the music itself to be too upset with that.

GRADE: B
(88/100)
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