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2 stars Hmmm.... I didn't want to be the first to review this album, as I think many will lose respect for my opinions and may hate me.... but I have to do it anyway.

I have to admit, I generally lean more towards free and creative Phish music, with more focus on "in the moment" chemistry between the players which is why live Phish is always the best Phish to listen to. And the earlier albums were closer to this then the newer ones and "Joy" is just another notch on the studio album list. I know people grow up and things change, and thats all good and fine. This album is still better than a lot of music on the radio. But it's just not the Phish that I grew up with and learned to love. I could not pick a favorite album by these guys but if I was made to, it would most likely be one of the first 4. I am not a "jam-band" lover by any means, but when these guys get into that state of mind and play the longer songs, one can only express that it's pure beauty (ex: esther, stash) in musical form. But it seems they tightened up over the years, but not necessarily for the better. There are too many die-hard Phish heads out there that think everything these guys do is great.... and even though they are an amazing band, this album is kinda disappointing to me. Hey I'm am just one person and expressing my true feelings. If one was new to Phish, I would say, "hey listen to this new album, they are a good band....but check out "Junta", they were awesome back then!" Since there are no 1/2 stars, I will give this one 2.... but it should technically be 2.5 if the scale was made that way. I would say my favorite album is Rift, with Junta being the toss up..... great fun songs back then. But all albums have wonderful music on them... every one of them. They are amazing, but they definitely play a different sound these days. To all you Phish heads, dont hate me.... cuz you know I am just speaking the truth

Report this review (#241649)
Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Over the years, Phish has had a knack for writing their own music. I don't mean in the way of coming up with their own compositions of course. What I mean is, they tend to play whatever they feel like regardless of boundaries or social musical norms. Phish revels in the times where they have a chance to produce more music simply for the enjoyment of both their peers and fans. 2009 was not an exception, where Anastasio and company jumped on the chance the rekindle the light that meant so much to them, as well as to many music listeners in the public. What came from this excitement was a bundle of creative happiness aptly titled "Joy".

Phish wasn't doing too great during the 2000's, especially in the crowd that enjoy them most for their experimental jazzy qualities as well as their ode-like style reminiscent of Grateful Dead. Phish moved more away from this and closer to a pop-rock, alternative rock style that became explosively prominent during the late 90's and of course the 00's. Starting out the year with Farmhouse, whose title track is the most listened song of their discography to date, the disappointingly bland Round Room in 2002, and Undermind in 2004. Undermind seemed to be the temporary breaking point for these jazz giants, as they quickly descended into a hiatus that lasted a whole five years. As I said before, this created an environment where the entire band was ready to participate wholeheartedly. This also made for a very light-hearted album with more odes to earlier jazz bands, as well as a largely inspired tracklist that has some highlights that are much more melodic for Phish.

Joy starts out with perhaps the happiest song, titled 'Backwards Down The Number Line'. This song I've found to pick me up even when I'm in a bad mood. This is sort of expected, seeing as the song follows the happy highlights and feelings from Anastasio's life. At moments, you can almost notice him smiling during the song. That's something that is hard to do, even for a band like Phish. The track immediately after, 'Stealing From the Faulty Plan', is completely the opposite. A very 70's-esque beat and vocals, with some awesome drumming by Fishman. High pitched guitars lead the way, the way Pink Floyd sort of incorporated it in their more arts-y albums, especially '72 and afterwards. The backstory of the song is also the opposite of it's predecessor, this time following the story of Trey Anastasio's sister's death from cancer. Even with this morbid base the song still seems to throw up very jaunty moods and one of the greatest guitar solos ever to rock the band. The title track is a very...well, earnest. What I mean is, the song is the musical incarnate of good memories, ones that you'd remember from your childhood. In fact, the word "happy" is used numerous times throughout.

After 'Joy', the albums descends more into the jazzy Phish of the 80's and 90's. 'Sugar Shack' combines funk elements with bouncy dual vocals making for a very sing-a-long type track. 'Ocelot' is a clear ode to Grateful Dead, with more barreling piano and country feelings. I don't exactly love it, but it's obvious that the band (especially Anastasio) loves Grateful Dead and decided to make a song dedicated to their main influence. 'Kill Devil Falls', by no means a bad track, is perhaps my least favorite. It has a very boring mood that ceases to interest me very well. Again, not awful but definitely the one song that I'd pass. 'Light' has some interesting and unexpected Who-ish elements, especially with the gravely guitar and fluid drumming. 'I Been Around' is basically a little quick, funny song made solely by Page McConnell. I love the song just for it's comedic, almost skit styling, as well as of course Page's piano skills. The microphone effects makes it seem like he's almost right in front of you. 'Time Turns Elastic' is another one of my favorites. This thirteen minute long epic encompasses so much that I love about Phish, that it's hard to explain them all. I suggest that you listen to it for yourself to get really in touch with it, because this song is not only very progressive, but simply good. 'Twenty Years After' is the closer, and very much like 'Kill Devil Falls', is pretty boring. Although more compositionally complex, the songs retains mostly the same features that made me not like the former. Some interesting parts I've found to intrigue me, which at the very least kept me pretty enthralled to listen to it all the way through and come back to it occasionally.

This album is something that I never expected liking so much, but I've found that giving it a chance and a thorough listen, that it is definitely a great album by any standards. Therefore, I give this album a rating of 4.5/5, and suggest that you go listen to it. Maybe it will fill you with as much joy as it did for me.

Report this review (#1395450)
Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars After 5 years with no Phish album and a needed rest for the band to explore their own individual projects, the big question was, would this album reflect an improvement for the band or would it be similar to the last 2 albums which were disappointing, even to Phish phans, to say the least. "Round Room" and "Undermind" were the last albums that we heard, and they were underwhelming, and reflected the fact that something had to happen.

Well, joy of joys, "Joy" proved that the time off for the band was a good thing. Though not as good as the earlier albums like "Junta", "A Picture of Nectar", "Rift" and "The Story of the Ghost", this album was still better than what had come immediately before, and after listening to this album several times now, it seems as if part of the creative and cooperative spark had returned.

Personally, I am more of a fan of the studio albums than the live shows of the band, I'm not fond of the long jams that the band is famous for. Sure I admire the fact that they play off of each other so well, but to just listen to endless jams tends to make each song sound too much the same. I do love their earlier albums, most of them with longer tracks, but mostly because each song had it's own personality and there was a lot more variety. Each song had a life of it's own. The fact that this album has a lot more life to it is enough to raise it a few bars over the last 2 albums, but it is still missing that variation that the older albums had.

There are some great songs here, which help to raise the level of the album. "Backwards Down the Number Line" is a spirited opener with a great guitar solo, "Joy" is the happy number it is titled to be with a nice jazzy hint of improv which is a great set up for one of those long jam live songs, "Sugar Shack" has a more of a funky feel to it with vocals by Mike Gordon, with a great hook in the chorus and would make an interesting sing along for live performance. The 13 minute epic "Time Turns Elastic" is the highlight of the album and is the progressive piece of the album, and it is quite a turn from the "poppiness" of the rest of the album. It has a lot of rhythmic and meter changes with some great lyrics, multiple melodic turns and great instrumental interludes, but the driving force behind this track are the lyrics and Trey's vocals, which almost follows the pattern of vintage Genesis songs.

So, even if it really has nothing that stands out as much as some of the older albums did, with time, the better tracks here can become Phish classics. The biggest standout being "Time Turns Elastic" is worth the purchase of the album, but the stronger songs hold there own also. Because the element of variety and a lack of dynamics exists here, it does not make it to the status of an essential Phish masterpiece, but it is still an addition to your collection to be proud of. It is nice to have Phish back again and maybe, with time, their studio albums will take on the originality that they once had, but in the meantime, this album is a definite relief compared to the two previous albums. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1434956)
Posted Saturday, July 4, 2015 | Review Permalink

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