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Phish Billy Breathes album cover
3.48 | 58 ratings | 8 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Free (3:48)
2. Character Zero (3:59)
3. Waste (4:50)
4. Taste (4:07)
5. Cars Trucks Buses (2:24)
6. Talk (3:09)
7. Theme from the Bottom (6:22)
8. Train Song (2:34)
9. Bliss (2:04)
10. Billy Breathes (5:31)
11. Swept Away (1:16)
12. Steep (1:38)
13. Prince Caspian (5:19)

Total Time 47:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Trey Anastasio / guitars, vocals
- Page McConnell / keyboards, vocals
- Mike Gordon / bass, vocals
- Jonathan Fishman / drums, vocals

Note: The actual instrumentation could not be confirmed at this moment

Releases information

Artwork: Phish & Alli with Danny Clinch (Mike Gordon photo)

CD Elektra ‎- 61971-2 (1996, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PHISH Billy Breathes ratings distribution

(58 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PHISH Billy Breathes reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Latest members reviews

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1478506) | Posted by aglasshouse | Thursday, October 22, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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 not ... (read more)

Report this review (#118285) | Posted by Disconnect | Friday, April 13, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 comm ... (read more)

Report this review (#33648) | Posted by | Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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