Meanwhile, live reports told of a group firing on all cylinders, as the audio-video "combo" Live At Alpine Valley, easily proves. With just a couple of far from exceptional solo albums by Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon released in the interim, in the group celebrated their 30th anniversary embarking on a Summer tour.
Then came the news about a new album, to be recorded soon, titled Wingsuit. The producer of choice: Bob Ezrin.
Phish debuted most of their new album in the course of the "musical costume" set they played on Halloween night at the Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I read about some people in the audience being puzzled when confronted with a set of unreleased compositions, instead of the group performing a "legendary album from the past", as it had been their custom on Halloween. Opinions about Fuego will vary according to one's expectations and desires, of course. With the sole exception of my perceiving the absence of those "knotty rock" compositions think: Tweezer, from A Picture Of Nectar that in my opinion are an integral part of the mosaic that is the music of Phish, as being a fault though I'm aware this could be a minority opinion , I regard the new album as being quite good, but beware: I was really able to focus on the music only when I listened to the album at respectable volume, in perfect silence - something which is not always possible nowadays.
This not because the album is terribly difficult - the opposite, in fact, is true - but because Ezrin's production work makes great use of echoes and placements in the stereo field, with gorgeous choir vocals discussed below , those being timbres that need to be listened to with great clarity. One could say that Ezrin succeeded where others have failed, but this would imply not taking the material that the group brought to the table into consideration. On Round Room Bryce Goggin brilliantly recorded four musicians getting back into their conversation.
Though he maybe overdid the effects, on Undermind Tchad Blake skillfully managed to come to terms with the group's imminent meltdown. While Steve Lillywhite had a good part in making comeback album Joy a success. Fuego shows the group sounding just the same as before, but quite different at the same time.
Paradoxically, given the "studio" nature of the work done here by Ezrin, it could be said that this studio album portrays the group as it is when playing live - that is to say, as equals in sound: something that modern amplification makes it possible to achieve, if one so wishes just check the aforementioned Live At Alpine Valley, It's easy, at first, to be puzzled by what, when compared to the past, one obviously perceives as Phish featuring Anastasio less.
In fact, there's lots of Anastasio some excellent, at times quite moving, guitar solos, and vocal performances , but here the focus of the music changes a lot.
The album is quite varied stylistically, with Anastasio's recent predilection for "pop" climates featuring horns and vocals, and group creations made of multiple parts - think of a few episodes off The Story Of The Ghost - easily appearing side-by-side. It goes without saying that Ezrin's accurate production work showcases each episode at its best. Blue text indicates this song is in our jam charts. Yellow indicates you were in attendance. Gray text indicates that this performance doesn't count for stats purposes.
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Phish is one of the most dynamic and celebrated live acts in all of music, with a loyal community any artist would envy, but it's also divisive.
This is a band that inspires passion with its multipart compositions, meandering improvisations, playful often nonsensical lyrics and unwavering positivity. For the same reasons, it also courts punchlines from its fervent detractors.
Any band plus years into a career of remarkable successes and struggles, not to mention a "hiatus" and a "breakup," is unlikely to change many minds with its 12th album. Yet here we are: Phish's first studio record in five years, Fuego , is the Vermont band's finest work in more than a decade — since at least 's Billy Breathes or 's The Story of the Ghost. Where Billy succeeded by reining in Phish's interplay in favor of restrained folk rockers, and where Ghost sculpted free-form improvisations into dark funk, Fuego aims to split the difference.
While still succinct, at least in Phish terms, these 10 songs feel about as close as the group has come to capturing its "live self. Fuego asserts itself right off the bat with its fiery nine-minute title track.
The long-simmering, shape-shifting rock anthem showcases Anastasio's distinctive guitar shredding and the band's impressive gift for syncopation and exuberant climaxes. Throughout Fuego , Phish embarks on a series of genre exercises: There's straight-ahead gospel-infused rock "Sing Monica" , slinky cow-funk "" and airy, Latin-infused pop "Waiting All Night".