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Umphrey's McGee - The Bottom Half CD (album) cover

THE BOTTOM HALF

Umphrey's McGee

Crossover Prog


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Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Umphrey's Mcgee have yet again managed to produce a CD with a strong sense of identity and a unique presence in their 2007 studio release The Bottom Half.

Mixing influences from reggae, jazz, funk, pop, rock, hard rock and country the 11 tunes on the main album here are melodic, relaxing, slick and mostly mellow pieces, and a mix between melancholy and uplifting moods served the listener.

This is not a CD containing songs that will grab your balls and demand attention; and certainly no potential hit songs here either, but more a CD you will pull out and give a spin whenever you feel like listening intently to soothing but experimental art rock and fusion. The CD may be to mellow for some though, so a first listen before buying is warranted.

Fans of the band will enjoy this release from start to finish I believe, and the bonus CD containing outtakes and alternative versions of tunes from their latest releases is really something for the fanboys.

Report this review (#170511)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Local band does so-so.

After being completely blown away with my first Umphrey's McGee album, Mantis, I knew I had found a band whose catalog I'd need to "raid". Local Band Does O.K. was quite good also, so I went for their two currently available live DVDs. Those were just as impressive. Then I went for Anchor Drops and Safety In Numbers. Again two more hits. Then I ran into a wall with this one. Maybe their least progressive and my first disappointment. May be over-saturation.

Turns out this is on one disc a collection of songs or alternate takes that didn't make the cut for Safety In Numbers. The second disc is miscellaneous outtakes. All I can say is they must have been on a creative roll when they did Safety to have another disc's worth of material, but I'm kind of wishing I'd saved my money for something else. Not to slam the music on the main disc, it's just that stylistically it's on the whole less prog than what I'd been becoming accustomed to. But, what the hell, even their lesser stuff is quite good.

It may be intentionally ironic that the album cover is symbolic of the contents.

Report this review (#211882)
Posted Monday, April 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Wicket
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A masterful disc of music combining everything glorious about the world of music.

Umphrey's McGee has become one of the great new jam bands that has swept the nation. Not only do they improvise in playing many different styles of music together, but they manage to play a progressive style of music while maintaining a free-flowing structure throughout their live shows. They've literally become a breath of fresh air in the world of jam bands, and music in general.

It's interesting to see this band on Prog Archives, and yet fitting to see them in the Crossover Prog section, because they essentially are. Start up the first track on "The Bottom Half" and the first things you hear are a slow groove accompanied by a smooth sax, light flute and broad guitars, before a quick reggae stint swings back into the main groove. After a catchy chorus sucks you in, the band delves into a hard rock headbanging groove before a few atonal solos come back into the main groove accompanied by Metallica/Tenacious D- esque guitar solos reminiscent of 80's thrash metal.

Keep this in mind that this is the only band in the world (that I've heard) that covered the Beatles' Abbey Road suite and Metallica's "And Justice For All" in the same live show.

I never even mentioned the avant-garde-esque instrumental section in the middle of the song. With most bands that I praise so highly, I can't say anything more than to listen to the actual song/album. The title song is already a good prog track, but then "Bright Lights, Big City" kicks into this psuedo-disco feel and it turns into a great driving song. Now, for most jam band fans (don't know how many are on here, but whatever), the key for a good jam band is to not only have good improvisational songs ("Great American"), but also some very catchy songs that anyone can listen to ("Intentions Clear").

Another interesting facet about , not only this record, but the entire band, is that they're a very light-hearted group of musicians. They're one of a select few bands that can start a very ambitious song with a screw-up, start over and keep that screw-up in the song on the studio record. They're not perfect and they don't want to come across that way. In fact, the second disc is mainly songs the band did in their spare time, snippets of other songs ("Words", "Higgins", "Atmosfarag") and cuts of band conversations ("Time Eater", "Ready Noodles"). They're another humorous bunch in the jam band world. Of course, most are (Phish, String Cheese Incident, The Disco Biscuits), but these guys really do show it in their live shows.

Keep in mind that many of their good songs (and some more progressive tracks) will only be found in live shows. Like Phish, Umphrey's has become infamous with playing songs at live shows not on studio records such as "Eat", "40's Theme" and "Bridgeless". Be it as it may, they know how to entertain a crowd, no matter what music they're playing. They've covered bands from The Beatles to Metallica, Billy Joel to Spinal Tap, Pink Floyd to Talking Heads. They're no stranger to any genre of music. They know how to appeal to everyone. They know how to create catchy music while throwing atonal notes and chord progressions familiar to prog fans.

And it works. The Umphrey's Cocktail works. Now, it might not have been as recognizable on, say, "Local Band Does O.K", but 10 years in and this outfit is going stronger than ever before. So, let me tell ya, if you're looking for one of those groups that plays spirited music while staying laid back and free-flowing, Umphrey's will fit your bill.

Report this review (#566290)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
TCat
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars "The Bottom Half" is the 5th full studio album from the band "Umphrey's McGee". This is one of those bands that I always equate to those jam bands like "Phish", "Widespread Panic" and "String Cheese Incident", however their music is a bit more varied than those bands, but they definitely do fit in that style overall.

This album, released in April of 2007, is a companion album to their album released previous to this which was "Safety in Numbers". The Safety in Numbers album was completed during a time when a friend of the band died, and by the time of it's release had become quite a somber album. The Bottom Half takes the songs left off of that album which consists of mostly upbeat and electric songs that were great songs, they just didn't fit the tone of that previous album.

This is a double disc album. The first disc consists of songs that were left off of the Safety in Numbers album, 11 of them as a matter of fact. The 2nd disc contains various other outtakes, demos and b-sides. They must have had quite a lot of songs as each one of the tracks on the 1st disc are definitely songs that any other band would have been happy with. They are all fully developed, and whether there has been any additional recording done to spiff them up for this album is not known to me.

The variety present on the first disc is quite apparent, and to tell the truth, I can only find 2 songs that are slightly less interesting, those being somewhat lackluster sounding, specifically the jazz-tinged "Red Room" which sounds similar to a "Lambchop" song and "Intentions Clear" which is lacking any emotion in the vocals, but which has a nice brass section that reminds one of "Steely Dan" at least. Everything else here is very good. These songs are well structured and even though they have that Phish vibe, they are definitely closer to Phish's studio work and don't contain a lot of improvised solos. I'm good with that as I would rather get to know the song and become familiar with it before hearing it improvised with long jamming solos.

The first album is comprised of some great upbeat tracks with a humorous and happy edge to them, including the funky "Bright Lights, Big City", the reggae-inspired "Higgins" which develops into quite a progressive track, the easy, southern harmonies of "Memories of Home", and the complex instrumental "Great American". To round off the album, the last two songs offer the lovely acoustic song "Home", and the excellent southern rock epic "Divisions" that has hints of progressiveness and a lot of great guitar and drum jamming that will remind one of The Allman Brothers, but better.

The 2nd disc, being full of outtakes, studio conversations, false starts and b-side is a bit less cohesive, but is something the fans of the band will appreciate. Regular listeners will love the first disc enough that they won't mind having that extra disc around even though it at least has some good full tracks on it if you don't mind skipping through the banter. There are some great instrumental versions of "Higgins" and "Words" on here, plus other worthwhile tracks like "Ocean Billy", "Never Cease" and "Believe the Lie", so probably half of the 2nd disc is worthwhile. But the real highlight is the 1st disc, which is, after all, the main album while the other is some good bonus material with some nice surprises.

Being a Crossover Prog band, you know you don't have to expect music that is wholly progressive, but that will still have some progressive leanings. But you do get an album with some very talented musicians performing some great material with hints of progressive elements. I consider UM a great and talented band and when they are at their best, they can produce an excellent album such as this one. Very enjoyable and high-quality musicianship with something for everyone.

Report this review (#2111515)
Posted Thursday, December 27, 2018 | Review Permalink

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