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4 stars Quite possibly their strongest ever collection of songs!..steve lillywhite production means that it is at times a little somewhat over produced, never he less this is a good place to start anyones introduction to Phish's sonic attack and crarfted song writing. Phish swimming in their most commercial waters but actualy sounding like a band coming of age rather than selling out, there would be better moments but how can an album fail that includes tracks like - Free Character Zero, Waste, Billy Breaths, Prince Caspian, Swept away (cruely cut short) and the majestic Theme from the bottom! - 4.5 stars!
Report this review (#33648)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Song-for-song, this is Phish's best studio release. After the sub-par 'Hoist', we see the band focusing on more brief, structured song types (which allowed more room for improvisation live).

Although not a perfect album, this is a very strong release from start to finish. Of special note is "Theme From the Bottom" - check out the emotional crescendo the guitar solo builds up to, probably the most moving piece of music they ever composed.

This is a great pickup for anyone. It shows the band during their last peak, right before they went into a freefall decline with their studio stuff.

Report this review (#118285)
Posted Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars For those of you who have been familiar with classic rock music, this album would come easily into your ears as some tracks represent what so called as classic elements of rock music: blues orientated with some rock flavors, augmented with some ballads. As I have stated in my previous review about Phish, the music sounds to me like coming from jam session in structure-less composition. As time went by, the band members perfecting the music elements and integrate all into one song.

The opening track "Free" must be easily digested as it contains blues-rock elements in relatively straight-forward composition. Trey Anastasio proves himself as excellent guitar player (heavily influenced by Frank Zappa) and vocal. The song takes its roots from conventional rock music with some addition of ambient style that moves the music naturally from start to end. It sounds strange if you claim yourself as classic rock music and you don't like this composition.

"Character Zero" (3:59) demonstrates Trey's expertise in caustic guitar work accompanying bluesy vocal line. The song moves into a straight forward structure with good melody and excellent vocal augmented with piano work by Page McConnell. The song's chorus reminds me to conventional rock music overlaid excellent guitar solo and piano's sounds.

"Waste" (4:50) starts with an acoustic setup which reminds me to Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song". Vocal line is set for low register notes supported by acoustic guitar rhythm. It does not sound something melodious but it works for some of you who enjoy acoustic setting. In a way it sounds something like early Pink Floyd. It even continues the style into the next track "Taste" (4:07) with a bit combination of Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa styles. It might be considered as prog track as it has richer textures as the song goes, especially on the combination of dynamic drum and nice piano work.

"Cars trucks buses" (2:24) is a short track with excellent Hammond sound that reminds us to the early development of prog rock. "Talk" (3:09) continues the acoustic setting with guitar as main rhythm section. "Theme from the bottom" (6:22) is the longest track in the album which contains bluesy style combined with a kind of country music. The combined piano and acoustic guitar overlaid by vocal harmony is nice. Some might consider it as a pure ballad song.

The album title track "Billy breathes" (5:31) is another nice ballad in the similar vein as "Cars trucks buses" with a bit mellow style. The concluding track "Prince Caspian" (5:19) is another exploration of piano work combined with guitar rhythm section accentuated with deep bass lines and bluesy vocal line.

Overall, this is a good album with good songwriting and performance. The album is much catchy at the beginning part with songs like "Free" and "Character Zero". The rest will suit well for those who enjoy early psychedelic music. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

DragonForce "Live in Jakarta: May 19, 2007". Featuring The Fastest Metal Guitar Virtuoso

Report this review (#120951)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Phish have always been a difficult band to categorise. They tend to get lumped in with the American Jam band scene with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic and The Dave Mathews Band although they don't really sound like any of them. They draw their influences from many styles of music including Rock, Country, Funk and Jazz. Live they are known for their extended Jams but although not always the case, are generally more concise on their studio releases.

"Billy Breathes", their 1996 studio offering is the most commercial of their albums and concentrates on strong melodies and well executed backing vocals whilst not forgetting their excellent musicianship.

An album full of strong material, particularly notable being opener "Free", "Waste", "Theme from the Bottom", "Prince Caspian" and not forgetting the sublime title track.

Anyone wanting to dip their toes in the Phish back catalogue could do no better than start here with this excellent release.

Report this review (#138608)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Since this is my first Phish review, I need to get this off of my chest: I have been a fan of this band for a long time. I saw them a few times back before they made it big, when they would come down to Boston to play in a small club. But since they became the new Grateful Dead, the "Phishheads" have become a nuicance. The last time I tried to see them (luckily I had promo tickets, or I really would have been pissed), I was stuck in a traffic jam ten miles from the concert venue, because fans without tickets blocked the roads. Finally, almost two hours after the show started, I sold my tickets at three times the face value to someone who walked up to the car, begging for spare tickets. The guy didn't have a chance of actually getting there.

Anyway, this album (with it's most hideous cover), and the above experience, marked the end of my interest in the band. The album itself is less inventive to my ears than most of the preceding Phish disks. The songs are mostly folky rock, with a touch of country and psychedelia. I founs very little of the group's usual humor, and no extended jams.

2.5 stars from me.

Report this review (#299184)
Posted Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Through a Phish's eye

The rather unnerving fish-eye image on the front cover of this album and the unappealing title may cause the casual music fan to pass this 1996 release by. Among the (Phish) informed though, this album is highly regarded. (With apologies to Mike Gordon of the band, whose face it is on the cover. It is the way he is photographed which is the issue! On the other hand, this is the first time any member of Phish has appeared on a front of an album.)

While born from the usual jams in which the band specialise, especially in the live arena, "Billy breathes" is an unusually tight Phish album, and it is without doubt this aspect which led to it becoming one of their best known releases. The opening "Free" is simultaneously light and heavy, up front piano combining with feedback on the lead guitar and an anthemic refrain of the title to form one of the band's most appealing and accessible numbers.

While the first couple of tracks are pretty powerful, overall, there is a slightly softer feel to this album, with a bit more emphasis on acoustic instruments. This is particularity so on tracks such as the delightful "Waste", one of the band's most sensitive performances.

As usual with Phish, there is not much here which is prog or even prog related really. The closest we get is probably the brief instrumental "Cars trucks buses", which features some nice Booker T. style organ playing and a slightly jazzy riff. One thing which does stand out here is the vocal harmonies, with tracks such as "Theme from the bottom" boasting some fine Crosby Stills and Nash type vocal arrangements. This track, which is the longest on the album also has an impressive instrumental break.

In all, an album which sees Phish presenting what is probably their most cohesive album. The diversity (or eclecticism if you prefer) which can make other Phish albums hard to digest is largely kept in check here, in favour of a succession of pleasantly accessible pop flavoured songs.

Report this review (#455700)
Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first saw this album's cover and was slightly unsettled by its unfortunate cosmetic it was sporting. This factor is most likely the main reason it took me a substantial amount of time to listen to it, and only then it was because my friend very graciously gave it to me as a gift. To me this really says something, because to me an album's physical presentation may be just as if not more important financially than the actual content of the album. But, unbeknownst to me, Billy had something in store for me, and it wasn't disappointing as he lead me to believe.

Phish was already gathering steam from their getting signed on in '89 and the release of their first album in the same year. The albums that were released from that year till '96 were, as their dedicated fan-base of "Phish-heads" proclaims, some of their best material. Amongst these were the aforementioned debut, Lawn Boy (1990), Picture of Nectar (1992), and Rift (1993). Others like Crimes of The Mind (a collaboration with The Dude of Life) (1994) and Hoist (1994) were less impressive but still added a few songs to the band's repertoire to be extenuated into long, superfluous jams played in their vastly increasing number of live shows.

1996 came around, two years after their last album, titled Billy Breathes. This was a year before what can be undoubtedly described as one of if not the best year of Phish's career, where Phish as a whole made around 10 million dollars from their performances played seemingly every day. Billy Breathes was the last album to add to the collection of songs that would be played, and it really deserves it.

Billy Breathes contains perhaps the most heartfelt and diverse music Phish has ever performed. It blends perfectly aspects of classic american rock, jazz, acoustic, ambient, and of course the ever-present Phish tomfoolery. There are a few short but sweet acoustic guitar-led songs that utilize beautiful ambient soundscapes, such as 'Bliss' and 'Swept Away'. The shorter songs also do a very good job at piecing together into a larger song if they're placed side by side in the tracklist. Prog litters the album, and although not thorough, it is noticeable. 'Theme From the Bottom' is a very nice piece, and an early ode to Picture of Nectar with it's lyrics and composition. The title track is very similar to it as well, though has more folk than past Phish did.

Before I spoil anything more I suggest that you buy Billy Breathes. It is one of Phish's best works if not THE best. If Phish isn't your taste, I'd still suggest this any day for it's creative ability to draw you in with talent alone.

Report this review (#1478506)
Posted Thursday, October 22, 2015 | Review Permalink

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