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Umphrey's McGee - Jimmy Stewart 2007 CD (album) cover


Umphrey's McGee


Crossover Prog

3.09 | 3 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Jazz-Pop-Metal Jam Fest

Umphrey's Mcgee has gotten a lot of notice on this site this year thanks to their excellent modern prog studio album Mantis. However, the band made their reputation and collected a huge live following as the current kings of the jam band scene. Their sound includes the expected Phish-y jazz guitar soloing over rhythmic / dynamic swells and releases, but also includes heavier metal riffing, techno beats, a wide array of effects and timbres, and a love of speed and chops. They've also embraced modern technology and combined it with grass roots promotions by making virtually every performance available online as a soundboard recording. Live, virtually every song expands into long jams that can traverse very broad musical territory before returning to earth. Over the years, the band has honed this process to the point that they?re able to maintain interest quite well through these explorations. Still, what is tolerable live differs considerably than what one wants to listen to repeatedly and live albums always have some unique challenges.

Enter Jimmy Stewart 2007. This is a double album that basically represents the band hand picking and sequencing the huge catalog of monster jams into a coherent listen. All of the songs are named, but these are largely irrelevant. Each performance is unique, with at most a basic starting point: a phrase, a sound, a rhythm, that unifies songs of the same name on different nights. In fact, this double CD contains several apparent duplicate songs which are vastly different from each other.

Having seen Umphrey's live, this album is a very good representation of their live creativity and the extreme talent of the musicians. The sound is good, the performances strong, and there is remarkably little meandering or overextension of jam themes / sections. At the same time, there are limits to what can be done with the premise of the album in the first place. There are no vocals here. There's no composed music. There are none of their amazing covers (which a double disc could have handled.) Much of what many consider to be prog is simply impossible in this format. And many fanboys like myself will have already bought live takes from concerts we?ve been to.

So, basically the focus of this album is a little narrow, but it succeeds completely in what it is trying to do. I'm very happy to have this album in my collection. Previous jam throne holder Phish has no equivalently strong record of their live strengths (I actually have a bootleg that does, but the band never succeeded as UM has done here.) Fans of the band will love it, and certainly others including prog fans will find plenty to enjoy. But know what you're getting when you buy it.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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