Monday, January 11, 2010 OHMphrey CD Review

by Jesse James Mazzoccoli

There are so many good things about the self-titled debut record from the band OHMphrey. First, just thinking about the incredible quality of musicianship that could come from taking three members from Chicago’s jam-band Umphrey’s McGee and two members from Chris Poland’s OHM and blending them into a musical compound is overwhelming and almost unbearable. All too often when members from various bands decide to get together to collaborate on a side project, regardless and sometimes adversely measurable by the individuals’ virtuosity, the outcome is mediocre at best. To remain politically correct, no examples of this will be given, however, one wouldn’t have to think too hard or even perhaps search their CD or MP3 stock to find several releases that fit into this category. This is absolutely not the case with OHMphrey. Read more


Gay singer ADAM LAMBERT is grateful to his parents for accepting his sexuality and supporting him throughout his younger years, insisting he is "fortunate" to have grown up in such a liberal household.

The former American Idol contestant confirmed his sexuality to the public in a tell-all interview with Rolling Stone magazine last year (09), shortly after he finished second in the reality TV showcompetition.

Lambert went on to shock fans with a sexually charged performance at the American Music Awards in November (09), in which he simulated a sex act with a male dancer, prompting more than 1,500 viewers to file complaints to broadcaster ABC.

But despite the controversy, the gay star is proud that he is able to be himself - and has credited his parents with giving him the confidence to flaunt his sexuality.

He tells music channel Fuse, "My dad is a Deadhead (fan of rock band Grateful Dead), my mom's a Jewish-American princess from Jersey. They never got hung up on stuff like that, and I'm fortunate, because there's a lot of people who come from households where it's not OK."

Mr. Miner Makes His Case for Miami MVP

The Man of Miami

Phish’s greatness emerges when the musical spotlight shines not on one band member, but the group as a whole. When Phish engages in top-botch improv, as in Miami, the notion of naming an “MVP” of the run seems absurd. Any musical heights reached directly results from the virtuoso mixture of four, rather than one all-star performer. The old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts has never rang more true than with Phish. That being said, Mike Gordon annihilated Miami like a like a bass-driven assassin, owning his instrument in a display likening a musical Harlem Globetrotter. While leading most jams of the weekend, Mike cast down bass line after mind-expanding bass line, defined by his one-of-a-kind phrasing and unparalleled fluidity. From nuanced effects to ludicrous runs up and down the fretboard, Mike’s mastery jumped from the stage in Miami, and continues to surface with every shows’ re-listen.

When Phish decided to reunite, Mike returned to the band in the best musical shape of all. Hot off two acclaimed tours with The Mike Gordon Band, and having just scribed his first solo rock album, The Green Sparrow, Gordon came back to Phish already thumping. (His only other solo project was 2003’s Inside In, the soundtrack to his film “Outside Out,” with a host of guest musicians.) Gordon dedicated himself to his solo project, becoming a band leader for the first time, while playing his originals as well as an eclectic array of covers. Far more active than Trey, Page or Fish in 2oo8, Mike didn’t need the same adjustment period as the rest of the band.

But over the year of playing together, not only did Phish regain their band-wide communication skills, but Gordon grew from a beast into a musician that now has his way with his instrument like Michael Jordan crossing over Craig Ehlo. His playing steadily improved from summer to fall, and peaked over New Year’s Run in a superlative bass expose. Forging transcendent pathways in “Tweezer,” “Back on the Train,” Ghost,” and “Piper,” Mike left his mark on each of the weekends most successful jams. But not only did he guide the band through the astral plane, he also peppered their compositions and simpler songs with unique, ever-changing phrases in a non-stop display of creativity. Hell, he even improvised bass fills during “Auld Lang Syne!” All weekend long, Mike launched a personal, bass-led jihad on Vice City, romping around the neon-purple jungle as if a musical King Kong. Read more at Mr. Miner's Phish Thoughts

From The Archives: Rolling Stone Reviews Billy Breathes 12/9/96

By Richard Gehr

Phish's last album, the double CD A Live One, distilled a decade's worth of dedicated road work by a group that has reinvented improvised rock for a new generation. If Phish have an identity, it is one characterized by endless change and musical risk, a yesterday-today-and-tomorrow sound that draws liberally from rock history and jazz innovation. Combine that with a rich, interactive mythology binding the band and its audience into the coziest symbiosis since you know who, and you've got a cultural force to be reckoned with. An exhaustive -- and nearly exhausting -- consolidation of Phish's tightly wound tunes and electrifying jams, A Live One, which went gold, finally gave the rock mainstream a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

Then, on their seventh record, they rested: Phish take a well-deserved breather, so to speak, on Billy Breathes, shedding much of the sophisticated trickery that has been their musical trademark. Billy Breathes, the group's first studio release in two years, is a quiet gem of an album, and it confirms that guitarist Trey Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon and keyboard player Page McConnell are much more than a jam band from Burlington, Vt., with a swelling fan base. As rustic as the New England countryside, Billy Breathes is a warm declaration of optimism packaged in concise, radio-attractive songs.

Phish's studio work has always been iffy. While the band's self-produced 1988 debut, Junta (re-released by Elektra in 1992 with extra material), still buzzes with novelty, 1993's Rift is just shy of being a great concept album. Lawn Boy (1990), A Picture of Nectar (1992) and Hoist (1994), listenable albums with bright moments aplenty, seem more like rough sketches that get a lot juicier onstage. Downright organic in comparison, Billy Breathes -- co-produced by the band and Steve Lilly-white -- flows like a stream dream.

The album begins with "Free" (first line: "I'm floating in the blimp a lot") and ends with "Prince Caspian" (first line: "Oh! To be Prince Caspian/Afloat upon the waves") -- songs that celebrate the weightless ecstasy of the group's instrumental allure. "Character Zero" and "Swept Away" start out unplugged before veering off into something wilder and more electric; "Waste," "Talk" and "Train Song" have all popped up during the acoustic mini-sets that Phish recently began integrating into their shows.

If A Live One was Phish's variation on the Grateful Dead's Live/Dead, Billy Breathes is part Workingman's Dead and part Abbey Road, focused on musical essences often obscured by rock-concert spectacle. The songs -- written mostly by Anastasio with his longtime lyricist, Tom Marshall (whose craft has matured big time since his "rhinothropic microgaze" period) -- unspool guileless images of transcendence set against the struggle to evade the pitfalls of everyday miscommunication. "Talk," one of several song titles reflecting the album's elegant simplicity, could be directed at either a lover or an intruding crowd: "Nothing's ever soaking through the filter that surrounds your thoughts," sings Anastasio sweetly.

Birth is the subject of the loose suite of tunes that constitute most of the disc's second half -- no surprise, since the album's title is a nod to Anastasio's baby daughter. With its intrauterine imagery and dank-underwater jam, "Theme From the Bottom" could refer to society's rejects or a resident of the womb. The blue-grass-flavored "Train Song" is imbued with the surreal Americana of O. Winston Link's photographs of the last steam engines; in the lyrics, passengers hope "to review the coulds before we were born/And to invite a new game of can'ts."

The suite proper begins with Anastasio's mantralike acoustic-guitar solo, "Bliss" (written originally for an injured fan), which segues into "Billy Breathes," an airy lullaby with the refrain "Softly sing sweet songs." Anastasio's sustained feedback opens onto a shimmering, Enoesque soundscape. "Swept Away," an appeal for respite from a pressing mob (of fans?), glides into "Steep," a psychedelic instrumental portrait of a 19th-century factory. This fades into the yearning chords of "Prince Caspian," in which Anastasio longs for an austerity symbolized by a grotesque desire to have "stumps instead of feet."

While a folky vibe prevails in the back-porch guitar picking and the band's gorgeous vocal harmonies, condensed suggestions of Phish's style of surging stage jams are heard intermittently. The arrangements contain secrets -- whispering drum brushes, the mating call of a theremin -- that I didn't catch at first; they echo a wide host of influences, some obvious (the Beatles, Traffic, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd), others less so. McConnell's "Cars Trucks Buses" recalls the funky sound of the Meters and the jazz organist Jimmy Smith, while some of the album's short, fractured song hooks almost call Pavement to mind.

Full of subtle detail and unfashionable heart, Billy Breathes changes moods like a cloudy spring day. It contains one too many ballads: "Waste," with its supplication to "Come waste your time with me," is just too precious. But like the band itself, Billy Breathes is a living thing, low in irony and high in deceptively laid-back ambition. Consider it a breath of fresh air from the country's biggest cult act.

Live Rehearsal Setlist: Furthur 1.10.10 142 Throckmorton ~ Mill Valley, California

Set One: Here Comes Sunshine, Jack Straw, Til The Morning Comes, The Wheel > Althea, Throwing Stones

Set Two: St. Stephen > The Eleven > Drumz, King Solomons Marbles, Unbroken Chain, Wharf Rat, Touch of Grey

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