Friday, November 24, 2006

FDF Takes a week off...

Forgotten Disc Friday is enjoying the long holiday weekend. Hope to see you next week. Thanks for clicking over.

Friday, November 17, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 37: Phish - Billy Breathes

Album - Billy Breathes
Artist - Phish
Key Players - Mike Gordon - bass + vox, Trey Anastasio - guitar/ lead vocals, Page McConnell - keyboards + vox, Jon Fishman - drums+vox
Produced By - Steve Lillywhite + Phish

Release Date - October 15, 1996

What caused me to blow off the dust? Phish released a 1988 live cd from a Colorado run of shows. It was time to look to one of their studio records.

Overview - This is the 8th studio album from the Vermont "jam band" Phish. Phish formed in the early 80's and reached a rabid fanbase in the early 90's that continued to grow for better or worse until the bands 2004 breakup. The bands core members never changed and no two live shows were the same, making a Phish tour stop in your town all the more reason to go as who knows what songs they'd play. Billy Breathes and the follow-up "Farmhouse" are both records that brought them a little more in the record sale department (the band only has a few gold albums =500K+ sold in the USA to date) but nothing could compare to the live experience. The band took a hiatus in 2000 for 2 years only to play 2 more years before calling it least for now.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Most of the songs on the record were written by Trey and long time collaborator Tom Marshall. "Free" begins the record with a fade in and all the members crashing in together. Anastasio sings the lyrics lightly and its a surprisingly mellow, yet catchy song. The chorus is sung in earnest with all four members harmonizing on the word "free". The track is mixed well and you can hear bass, to piano, to ride cymbal all very clearly. Gordon utilizes his liquid bass effect at one point that is always a treat (used most famously in the intro to Down with the Disease from the bands Hoist album). "Character Zero" begins with just Anastasio and a heavily plucked guitar for the first verse and then with a short build up the band envelopes the solo sound. One of the highlights as as the song begins to fade out the high harmonies from Fishman. You have to strain a tad to hear them but it will bring a smile to your face. "Waste" is a very quiet acoustic driven song. Phish as a collective really could sing pretty well, realizing the vocal capabilities of each other and once again the band shines on this song. The song gets a little louder with the strong piano work of McConnell. "Taste" is a fun song...thing "this needs more cowbell" and you get the idea. This is another strong piano driven song and about 1:45 into the song the band starts some call and response work on the verses. Its a great touch. "Cars Trucks and Buses" is one of the tracks not written by Anastasio (penned by McConnell). It sounds a little bit like Baby Elephant Walk but its pretty short and you are in and out before you know it. Its a totally instrumental track as well. "Talk" follows and once again a track opens with acoustic guitar and a swooping baseline. Its a pretty song that doesn't take time to get the point across. "Theme From the Bottom" is the longest track on the album just over 6 minutes in length. Phish, well known for taking songs to extra lengths via jamming use the studio work to create the seed of what will be cracked later in a live setting. This song was always a live crowd pleaser as it opens with some single notes on the piano and the band builds after the second verse. Fishman crashes on the cymbals signaling the chorus "So I ask you why if I'm swimming, don't you see anything that you'd like to try?" "Train Song" is not a break from what we've heard to this point. Gordon is the singer on this track. "Bliss" follows and is another pretty short totally instrumental track. "Billy Breathes" is a rather mellow song with some banjo work tossed in for good measure. The band really has not gone any place off the charts the last few tracks though. "Swept Away" and "Steep" both clock in under 2 minute. "Swept" is just Anastasio on acoustic guitar with some harmonies on the chorus. "Steep" is a piano driven song which sets up perfectly the closer "Prince Caspian". There is nothing to NOT love about this song. This to me, is a classic Phish song. It has all the elements (at least studio wise) that make them a great band. Good lyrics as well as even keeled playing by the four members. To this day I get chills when Trey goes high on the chorus..always a live show favorite of mine. Perfect album closer in every sense of the word.

Where are they now? All the members are very busy. Trey Anastasio has released a few solo records including 2006's Bar 17. He also works with Les Claypool (Primus) and Stewart Copeland (x-Police) on Oysterhead. Jon Fishman has a side project called "Pork Tornado" which appears to be inactive as well as some work with the Jazz Mandolin Project. Mike Gordon has released some solo records, works with some other side projects including film and often tours. Page seems to be the most "quiet". He formed Vida Blue and they released 2 albums. As recently as 2006 Anastasio is quoted as saying a Phish reunion is not 100% out of the question.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The band never had a lot of radio success so the live performance is what made the band legendary. From performing albums such as the Beatles White Album in its entirety to playing 9 hour sets. I had the pleasure of seeing Phish live 12 times. It pales in comparison to what some "Phish heads" saw but still I saw a good mix of shows ranging from "moderate" to down right great. I never travelled out of New England to see a show of theirs but felt that in the years I saw them (starting in 95) to the "end" in 2004 each had great moments.

FDF Overall Take - Billy Breathes is the first studio record I'd suggest to any person that may want to figure out what the big deal is/was regarding this band. It was often said that nobody ever tosses on a Phish studio record for a road trip, rather they'd resort to a live recording, but this is really a good look at what Phish was all about. I think you'd be pleasantly surprised with this one.


Friday, November 10, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 36: The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It

Album - I Just Can't Stop It
Artist - The English Beat
Key Players - Dave Wakeling (guitar/vocals), Rankin Roger (vocals), Andy Cox (guitar), David Steele (bass), Everett Moreton (drums)
Produced By - Bob Sargeant

Release Date - October ??, 1980

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Just the desire to "finally" do this. It needs to be covered..that simple.

Overview -
This was the first album released by the band (called simply "The Beat" in their native UK). This record is viewed as the launching pad for the "revival" of Ska Music which began to materialize in the late 1970's with Madness the Selecter and others. The band would only release 3 official albums under this name but members would break off and continue with the bands sound with other projects. Dave Wakeling once told a reporter that every great band only has three really good albums. And true to form, The Beat decided to call it quits after their third album.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - ** The cd was re-issued in it's original form back in 1999. The cd that I own was bought well before this time so it includes a few tracks you will not see if you look this up on amazon for example.***

Opening with "Mirror in the Bathroom" the band starts up right away. The guitar work you'll swear you heard Andy Summers (Guitarist for the Police) doing. The ska wave had taken over many bands at the time. The click clack drum tempo with very punctuated guitar parts are just the top layer to the horn section and the rolling bass line. Although not a huge barn burner of a song its one of the bands trademark songs, one of the many found on this record. "Hands Off...She's Mine" has the reggae feel that a more mainstream audience may identify with. This sound was very new to audiences at the time. The horns are great and there is even a section where vibes are brought up in the mix. "Two Swords" and "Twist and Crawl" are both driving songs delivered with much urgency. "Two Swords" seems to be a little more uptempo than the darker "Twist and Crawl". "Tears Of A Clown" is a beyond fun version of the "Miracles" song. The saxophone parts tossed in as well as the swooping bassline make this song such a great cover tune..perhaps one of the finest covers versions of any song (there I said it). "Rough Rider", the longest track on the record has all the trade mark English Beat moments. The clicky guitar, the sax doing brief fills, the spoken lyrics all trademark English Beat."Click Click" is the shortest song on the record. The machine gun guitar intro sets off the furious pace."Ranking Full Stop" the tempo of the song is infectious and the band has fully gelled by this point of the record. It was mixed correctly to give you the one two punch at the right time. "Big Shot" a dig at the wealthy. The songs have been political in nature but "Click Click" and "Big Shot" tell you right in the song titles and each express discontent on some levels. "Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret" a politically charged song directed to then Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher. The drawl of the accents about "Stand down Margaret stand down please stand down Margaret" harkens back to the Cold War era and gives almost a compassionate sound that is thankfully behind us. "Noise in This World" the lyrics are delivered with machine gunlike speed. The band holds down the tempo but Wakeling had one to many cups of coffee you'd think before laying down the vocals. Given with urgency there is no breakdown. "Can't Get Used to Losing You" has a very "lounge-like" feel. Even the chorus has "ooh wahh ooohs". "Best Friend" to this day one of the best songs ever written. You'll find a jump in your step when this song is played. If an attempt was made for a new fan to the band this would be the first song I'd play. Its catchy, a good tempo and has everything the band can offer. Gold. "Jackpot" wraps up the record in fine form. Organ is brought up and the ska guitar lines are great. The saxophone is used just perfectly. A great way to close off a groundbreaking record.

Where are they now? Dave and Roger formed "General Public" and did a few records. Now days Dave continues to tour and write music, Andy and David Steele went on to form Fine Young Cannibals. Andy is now focusing on art while David has been working on a solo record and doing producing work. Everett and Roger are touring in various capacities most notably as "The New Beat".

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The original band broke up before I even knew who they were. The "reformed" version(s) doesn't/don't have me rushing out. Get em all together and I'll be there.

FDF Overall Take - Inside 40 minutes you'd swear you are listening to a best of collection. The band knocked this one out of the park on their first record. I'll be first to admit that reggae/ska can be overly repetitive at times. This record runs the gamunt from easy laid back sun soaked tunes to political rockers. Well worth your time..and attention.

Friday, November 03, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 35: Helmet - Meantime

Album - Meantime
Artist - Helmet
Key Players - Page Hamilton - guitars/lead vocals, Peter Mengede - guitar, Henry Bogdan - bass, John Stanier - drums
Produced By - Helmet

Release Date - June 23, 1992

What caused me to blow off the dust? - The other day the mood just hit and this was the "one" to grab.

Overview - This is the bands second album and first on a major label. This record would go Gold in the USA (their first and only to do so) and could easily be looked at as a cornerstone of the alt-rock genre. With odd time signatures and overall heaviness not very commercial at the time it was the bands watermark release.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Opening with the blistering "In the Meantime" its not unlike much of the syncopated heavy rock you hear these days but try to remember when this was not common. An article I recall reading around the time this record came out was how the band used "silence" to their advantage. For everything that was going on there always seemed to be a second of "silence" at the right point. "Ironhead" follows and if you don't catch yourself air drumming to this one well you must have your two hands on the steering wheel. Andy Wallace had mixed the bulk of this record (Steve Albini had done the lead off track) and Wallace was known for heavily mic'ing the drums. You get a very rat a tat sound from them thru the record. "Give It" has a bass intro that chugs back and forth until the band comes in. Its a slightly slower song than the previous two. "Unsung" is probably the song that most folks would recognize. Beavis and Butthead liked the video and the song can be found on a few video games. Videos were made for two other songs on the record but this song and video all seemed worth it to the label (Interscope) who was rumored to have spent over a million dollars to just sign the band. The return of investment seemed good at the time. The intro alone up to the vibrato guitars will make you want to drive your car 100 miles an hour. As the vocal verses begin the band locks in to the chugga chugga that would be its namesake its easy to hear where so many of the harder bands get it from today. "Turned Out" just might be one of the better hidden gems on the record. The drum breaks (of silence mentioned earlier) are evident and the bass has some good punch to it. "He Feels Bad", "Better" and "You Borrowed" all continue with this signature Helmet sound. "FBLA II" follows. Barring the "hit" this is the song I'd play for someone new to the band. Stanier absolutely pummels his drum kit. Rather than tapping out the standard 4x4 drum beat he is all over the place. Terrific and "fast" fills are used to the band advantage. Towards the end the band does some good break downs allowing the drum work to stand out and "lead" the band. (think of how "cool" that drum part is in "tom sawyer" by Rush and you get the idea). "Role Model" closes out the record on an equally as high a note.

Where are they now? - Helmet initially broke up in 1998 sighting "tensions" as well as weaning support from the label(s) and arguably the fan base. The band reformed in 2004 with Page as the only original member. The band released Monochrome in 2006 but after headlining the Warped Tour this year the band has all but "quit" on Page again. Rumors have it Page has new members and is looking for a guitar player to continue under the Helmet moniker.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I was lucky to see the band on 4 occasions. The first was 8-19-94 opening for The Rollins Band. I got the set list from the sound booth. That was a habit at the time, trying to get the set lists (it still is if I can pull it off). The next was 12-13-95 in Providence on a headlining tour then a year later (12-9-96) as part of a local radio stations "holiday rave" show. The final time was 3-31-97 in Providence. The re-formed version hasn't grabbed and pulled me back in. There have been a few chances to see them since, but its going on 10 years which is a surprise as I write this.

FDF Overall Take - This really is a great "rock" record. At the time alternative rock was heavily geared towards the UK bands (which I liked mind you) but was sometimes looking for something more driving. Its probably pretty easy for a new fan to put this cd on and roll their eyes with a "been there done that" kinda attitude, but at the time this was really pretty ground breaking. I don't bat the word "classic" around but this is pretty darn close.