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Phish - The Story Of The Ghost CD (album) cover




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3.48 | 43 ratings

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4 stars Phish has been around for quite some time, and the basic quartet has always remained the same. This cohesiveness has been one of the main reasons why they are considered one of the best jam bands ever, because they work together so well, it's almost like they can read each others minds when it comes to music. Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman can work together as one unit better than most groups that are out there today.

'The Story of the Ghost' was Phish's 7th studio album, released after 'Billy Breathes' and before 'Farmhouse'. It marks a turning point for the overall sound of their studio output, and actually contains great examples of the different styles apparent on the albums it falls in between. The album was created differently than their other studio albums, in that this time, the songs were only put on the album if all of the band agreed to them. This socialistic approach to the album was the reason that Anastasio thought that the album could have been better, because some of their best output during that time, according to him, was left off the album in place of some weaker tracks. At first, Anastasio felt this was a weaker album because of this, but has later admitted that he is now happy with the album and the way that it came out.

The music was culled together from different jam sessions. They took the best parts of the jam sessions and turned them into song-like structures, though using the same unconventionality that they used in their music. Another thing that was different about this album was the fact that there are no instrumental tracks at all, they all have vocals, which is fairly odd for Phish. Most of the tracks are more standard size, except for 'Guyute' at over 8 minutes, which is also one of their most progressive tracks. The other tracks, even though they are more around a standard rock song size, are actually quite varied, probably one of Phish's most versatile albums, which is also why it is one of my favorites.

A move to the more laid back sound of later Phish albums actually started with the 2nd side of 'Billy Breathes', and that continues in the lead off to this album 'Ghost'. The style is more of the laid-back groove that we would be hearing more from them in their later albums, and also tended to approach the jam style of their concerts, rather than the high energy sound of earlier albums. Starting with a atmospheric intro, the song quickly slips into the slinky funk of the track, with contrasting vocal layers, and a slight psychedelic feel. Later, a higher energy from the guitar joins in after a short pause, and the song fades out, leaving an unfinished feel, because the theme will return towards the end of the album. This is followed by the single 'Birds of a Feather' which still retains a nice funky sound, but with a more upbeat rhythm and more rock oriented. During the 2nd chorus and after, the music builds to a rocking and blistering guitar solo for a nice payoff and the music continues to swell as the repetitive chorus returns. 'Meat' takes a more reggae vibed funk and vocals that definitely contradict each other, and a deep voice effect that sounds like someone speaking through one of those devices that smokers have to speak through.

The 8 minute 'Guyute' comes next, and is an example of Phish at their proggiest. The beat is tricky, and changes from a moderate, somewhat rambling song to one that is much faster and full of energy when it reaches the 3 minute mark. After that, it goes into that instrumental interplay that the best Phish studio tracks are known for, and then on top of that it goes through several rhythmic and style changes, while taking on odd rhythms and start/stop patterns. The boiling guitar section in the middle has a build up that is unlike anything they have put on disc before, as tension builds in a hurricane of instrumental chaos that culminates in a completely fulfilling return to the main theme. But then it goes totally atmospheric with an odd strumming out of tune guitar and meandering vocals, then everything connects together again for a satisfying ending. This is Phish at their inventive best.

'Fikus' goes off on a completely different direction with goofy percussion and nutty vocal lines, sounding like something from Robert Wyatt, a clanging bell that sounds like one of those gas station bells. It's a strange one, but showcases Phish's weird sense of humor. 'Shafty' is more of that minimal, goofy sound. There are again several lines of vocals, but the brevity of these two last track make them feel a bit meandering and unfinished, but they both make more sense as the 2nd half of the album comes around. 'Limb By Limb' starts off minimally as the last two, but quickly builds to a cool bass and percussion, and then you hear the real Phish return, silly lyrics and a sudden burst of energy as the song continues. The song develops a nice solid backbeat, and the lesser vocal lines are just as interesting as the main theme, making this one that gives you a good outcome no matter which vocal phrase you decide to listen to as the call and response style goes on. A sudden guitar solo kicks in and takes this into high energy territory again. Another great payoff.

'Frankie Says' backs off a bit, but not much, and more goofy lyrics ensue, but in a laid back style which is still quite interesting. 'Brian and Robert' sees Phish doing some Beach Boys style harmonization with simple keys and soft percussion backing it up. It's a nice peaceful sound similar to something that could have come from Pet Sounds. 'Water in the Sky' goes for the lunatic cow jazz sound, with their crazy brand of country that sounds like it is hysterically becoming unhinged. 'Roggae' features a slight reggae edge with steel guitar twanging along while they sing about the circus of life. This melts into the next track, the textured and beautifully smooth 'Wading in the Velvet Sea' with the lovely guitar solo at the end. From there we do the funky 'The Moma Dance' which proves white guys can groove, and then it ends much like it begins with 'End of Session', which finishes off the unfinished business started with the first track 'Ghost'.

Except for a few weaker tracks in the middle, this is a perfect album. Some would doubt that it is progressive, except for 'Guyute' which is so obviously progressive, but in my eyes it's perfect. For the archives purposes, however, I have to resort to giving it 4 stars, but a very strong one. This is one of Phish's best and a favorite of mine, and it would easily be awarded five stars on a non-progressive site.

TCat | 4/5 |


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