Phish- The Story of the Ghost
How I actually managed to stumble across Phish’s music is beyond my reasoning. The fact that I took a liking to them is even more surprising, even to myself. Sure, I had heard their name before, as well as countless fellow musicians that, next to the Grateful Dead, they are the best live jam band ever. Well, thanks to a Featured Artist article in the bass forum, I proceeded to listen, particularly paying attention to the few songs that I had from this album. While apparently, nothing can seem to make it up to par with their live performances, this album thoroughly intrigued me, and on top of that, interested me. Never had I heard a funk/ psychedelic jam band made great music without making every song longer than it needs to be, or as a matter of fact, completely wanking. I liked it because of its chill mood, and that every member does exactly what they need to, not just amazing the listener, even if the instrument tracks are quite flashy. In listener’s eyes, you are either a ‘Phan’ or a Phish hater. This album quite possible made me the earlier of the two choices.
One of the benefiting factors of the album is the experimentation with different styles and genres of music. Sure they still have the psychedelic groove/rock that they’re known for, but every track seems to put its own unique spin on things. Take the song ‘Ghost’ for instance. It has a smooth vocal performance, with some jokey lyrics, accompanied by a less than flashy drum beat. But it shouldn’t surprise you when the guitar drowns out and the steady bassline turns into a funky shuffled slap/pop bass performance.
A major influence on this album as well is Bluegrass and Country, who’s presence is crystal clear on songs such as ‘Wading in the Velvet Sea’ and ‘Water in the Sky’. Both feature guitar work reminiscent of the Dead’s own “Truckin" add the relaxing voices and slightly faster tempo. The earlier tune has a poppy feel as well as some classical-esque piano and a beautiful guitar solo to back up the soft humming of the title. Latin beats and Reggae also play a role in portions of the album, like ‘Roggae’ and ‘Fikus’ which feature tasteful drum beats and rhythmic blows as Trey’s mellow voice provides the laid back melodies. Mike as well does a great job of providing soulful, walking bass lines on both, and on the latter, driving the song with a wet, bouncy melody that feeds the rest of the band.
Acoustic and jam rock provided a foundation for a number of tracks, the one’s that come to mind immediately are ‘Limb By Limb’, ‘Frankie Says’ and ‘Shafty’. All three feature a slowed down mood and smooth vocals, a typical ‘trippy song’ additive. The acoustic guitar tracks and simple chord progressions are but another taste of the influence.
As for my personal favorite tracks, I have five songs that don’t leave my player. “Moma Dance", “Birds of a Feather", “Ghost", “Fikus" and “Wading in the Velvet Sea". Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a sucker for the slap/pop bass dominated psychedelic tracks, which is a total gimme for the single, “Birds of a Feather". The rhythm section is stunning here, and easy to listen to over and over again. It’s true…. But in all seriousness, the band works in perfect unison in these tracks. Jon’s ability as a drummer is remarkable. He provides quite an interesting foundation, with jagged hi-hat and snare rolls, as well as offbeats and sixteenths. Trey, as always, provides a wonderful guitar lick for each song, and his wah-wah solos are to die for, and you can expect a lot of them, as almost every song has a jaw dropping performance. I seem to be taking a liking to the funkier, upbeat and psychedelic songs on the album, just because the musicianship is pure brilliance, fan or not.Mike alone has provided an influential take on my playing. His slap lines, as well as finger style walking basslines are quite enjoyable, and his tone is plush and fluid.
Not everything on the album is as perfect as that, unfortunately. ‘Robert and Brian’ is less than enjoyable as is ‘Guyute’. The latter is Phish’s attempt to make a long song, and they fail, to my disliking. It may seem good at first, but eight minutes of quiet vocals and stoner music is overbearing, especially to picky listeners like myself. For what it’s worth, it’s quite a burden. I recommend you listen to it, though. Maybe you might like it. After all, this review is solely based on the listeners opinion.
While this wasn’t the album of the millennium, it was certainly an enjoyable listen. It has its flaws, no doubt, but it has some very strong points. I do recommend it, and hope it makes a phan of you, too. :p
Birds of a Feather
Wading in the Velvet Sea
PS- Feedback is welcomed and I would like to thank ‘e p’ for actually turning me on to Phish. Great FA, my friend. :)