Friday, April 6, 2007

Classic Pick:-->Phish - Billy Breathes (1996)

"All the way home we felt we had a chance
To review the coulds before we were born.
And to invite a new game of can'ts."

I admit I am not the greatest follower of Phish. I’m by no means a part of the “Phish Phanatics“. You know the ones I’m speaking of. They have every one of the band’s live recordings pressed into plastic, both bootleg and commercial, along with an Ipod filled with even more Phish jams.

In fact, it was because of one Phish Phanatic, that I almost dismissed giving one of Phish’s CDs a chance.

Enter my good friend, Jared, wearing his Phish t-shirt and always driving around with his stereo blasting out a long line of live recordings of his favorite band. Since ninth grade, he has been making plans for us taking a road trip to catch Phish in concert somewhere. (A dream that may never be realized since members of Phish are now swimming in different directions).

The point is, I don’t especially enjoy listening to recorded live music, except in small doses. And that goes for Phish, as well as Frampton, Seger, Mathews, Kiss, ad nauseam.

My reasons are numerous. Live recordings are ususally never as clean as studio work to my ears, and bands tend to become more self-indulgent, dragging out songs far beyond where they should have ended.

Finally, for me, listening to a live recording of a band performing in front of an appreciative crowd only serves to remind me that I wasn’t a part of the fun. So, I pass on this form of punishment.

But here's where it gets good! The excellent “Billy Breathes”.

A wonderful studio album Phish recorded at New York’s Bearsville Studios in 1996, that makes a perfect introduction for those who may have shied away from this band simply because of their unfortunate reputation of being a band that is best heard live.
These guys are truly more than just a weekend jam-band. As I have gladly discovered. They play with spirit and create a unique sound that is both joyful and infectious.

“I’m floating in the blimp a lot”/ ("Free"), a funky number with goofy lyrics and ear-pleasing guitar opens the album. Trey Anastasio, lead guitarist and songwriter for the band, follows up with a terrific song about confusion and his solution being “I ought to see the man Mulcahey”/("Character Zero").

There are a couple of instrumental tracks that are first rate. “Cars, Trucks, Buses“ is driven by some choice organ playing that is definitely NOT lame. And an acoustical number, “Bliss”, suggestive of a Jimmy Page influence.

A sweet and simple love song “Waste”, is delivered in Anastasio’s wonderfully cracked voice, singing “Come waste your time with me”. And the title track, “Billy Breathes” receives star treatment with every member throwing in their two cents. A stand out!

The last track on this gem of a CD is the semi-gentle “Prince Caspian” with the wistful chant, “Oh, to be Prince Caspian afloat upon the waves”. A favorite of mine and a perfect way to end the album.

With bigger hooks than a Peter Pan pirate, “Billy Breathes” provides the unusual feeling of being taken on a hypnotic journey. Much the way a good Pink Floyd album will do.

With thirteen songs, there is not a throw-away track among them. I can not recommend this CD highly enough. (Docked a half point for the goofy Quasimodo cover).
(1st appear. Vantage/Newman U.)


Phish-->"Train Song" off Billy Breathes (1996) (Own This CD)


Liberty said...

Thanks for posting this. I also posted a Phish song today on my site...

Casey said...

Great the saying goes. Thanks for the heads up!