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Phish - Billy Breathes CD (album) cover




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3.46 | 53 ratings

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4 stars 'Billy Breathes' is Phish's 6th regular studio release, and is also the album that helped to connect the band to a wider audience. It turned out to be the band's biggest seller, even if it was less commercial than the previous album 'Hoist'. Most of this is due to the single released from the album 'Free', which is the first on the album. Some of the music on the album had already been perfected in concert performances, which is a technique Phish often uses.

This is a pretty good Phish album, though not their best, it still has some great music on it. It starts out with the very popular 'Free' and continues in the upbeat, rocking vein with the next track 'Character Zero'. Both songs are quite straightforward rock tunes, and are enjoyable, but not really progressive. Following this is 'Waste' which is a slower and more acoustic track, with that unique Phish-Folk feel. The song does build to a strong chorus and bridge, but remains driven by acoustic piano and guitar throughout. From that, we move to the next song that rhymes with the previous. 'Taste' starts out with a quick piano riff and a clacking cowbell. This one is more complex with an almost tropical feel as it builds as it goes along until it reaches a great climactic instrumental ending.

'Cars Trucks and Buses' is an instrumental that has quite a sly organ riff/melody and an infectious beat. The intermediate section is a great improvised jazzy piano solo supported by the rest of the band which ends the song. 'Talk' ends the first half of the album with another mostly acoustic tune that once again hints at Phish's version of prog-folk.

The 2nd half of the album is more of an experimental feel. It starts off with one of my favorite Phish tracks 'Theme from the Bottom'. It is the most upbeat song on this side of the album and probably most accessible, but it has the vibe of the best Phish classics like 'Chalk Dust Torture' or 'Maze' It is more progressive, slightly, and is much better developed. It starts off quiet and builds in intensity to the chorus, then follows an alternating pattern until the last half where it gets heavier and remains intense to the ending. The last half of this track gives you a good idea how tight this band is, especially in their concerts, where they act as a single unit to create amazing improvised music unlike any other band out there. Then suddenly, near the end, all of the music drops off as the band harmonizes together in a ridiculous, but catchy vocal riff.

After this, the album turns quite soft and mellow. Next is 'Train Song' written and sung by Mike Gordon. It is a solo guitar and vocals, with Trey doing some harmonies, but the lyrics are silly and complex at the same time. Later, a xylophone joins the guitar. This song sounds simple, but is strangely complex. 'Bliss' is another short track which features a solo processed acoustic guitar with a nice echoing effect. Next comes a very complex and progressive 'Billy Breathes'. Remaining in the soft, acoustic vein, two vocal melodies start to form, sometimes contrasting and sometimes coming together. Again, we get that folk-ish feel in a more progressive context. Soon a weird horn (?) joins with a banjo as more vocal layers harmonize and contrast with each other. Halfway through, piano, bass and electric guitar compliment each other in an atmospheric and lovely instrumental section.

Two very short tracks follow. 'Swept Away' is strummed acoustic guitar and Trey's vocals with a little harmony. 'Steep' moves from this quiet song to a more dischordant track which is a little unsettling, and two vocal melodies work against each other. Strange, processed noises ensue as things get psychedelic. Eventually, this all flows into the closer 'Prince Caspian'. A strummed electric guitar and piano takes us out of the noise mode into a more peaceful feel. Things flow for a little while, then vocals start again, this time with a more conventional sounding melody. Drums join in and things meld together nicely as intensity increases. The melody is nice here, but the lyrics are a little too repetitive. Nevertheless, it is a nice closer that seals that album together.

Again, this wasn't their best album, but it was better than the previous album, as it pulled the band back to their original feel. Overall, you get a good mix of straightforward rock and progressive folk with a little bit of an experimental and psychedelic feel. It is not so much of a jamming record, and is a little light on the progressive side, but it is still challenging enough to keep the progressive listener interested, yet accessible enough to not be over indulgent. Great album.

TCat | 4/5 |


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