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


Umphrey's McGee


Crossover Prog

3.66 | 39 ratings

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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.

TCat | 4/5 |


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