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I dropped the ball on AOTW for two weeks in a row there.  Whoops.  Had a busy run for the first half of December I guess.

Anyway, I’m back at it with a great record for this week… and it’s a blast from the past for me.  That’s right, for all the haters out there… I’m putting Phish in the AOTW series, and I don’t feel bad about it.  When I was in high school I thought Phish was God’s gift to music… the perfect band that played the perfect songs and never did anything that shouldn’t be wholly praised.  Well, let’s just say I think a little differently now.  I’ve grown as a musician to the point where I see the legitimacy of much of the criticism commonly brought against the jam band giant, and I’ve not listened to them for more than a hour over the last 6 years.

521092And yet, this week I resurrected their last studio album, called Undermind.  Listen people… it’s good.  Ok?  Just accept it.  Phish made A LOT of good records in my opinion, but this final offer from them is undeniably good, and a record where I think they successfully shed a few of their immature habits from the early years, and in so doing they managed to actually put together a SERIOUS recording from the “Jam Band” genre.

A big part of Undermind’s coolness is the fact that it was produced by the fantastic Tchad Blake.  Blake has never produced anything that didn’t turn into complete awesomeness… and Phish is no exception.  It’s actually a testament to Phish’s ontological cool factor that Blake even agreed to do the record, because I’ve heard he’s prone to rejecting offers from serious bands if he thinks they aren’t hip enough… (rumor has it REM has been trying to get Blake to produce one of their records for 10 years, and he won’t even return their phone calls).  Blake took most of the things I’ve always disliked about Jon Fishman (Phish’s drummer) and “fixed” them, all while keeping Fishman in his element.  The guitar playing is incredible, which is nothing less than expected from band-leader Trey Anastasio (in fact, I highly recommend his self-titled solo album).  The songs are a great example of Phish’s aimless lyrics and smart harmonic composition.  The flow of the record is comfortable and natural.  And the improvising… well, that’s always been their greatest strength.

So, just indulge me and check out Undermind by Phish.  I think you will like it, and if you don’t… I don’t care.

PS.  Let me reiterate that Phish is not just a band with a cool record I’ve been listening to lately.  Phish’s music was the single-most dominant influence in my formative years of playing music.  I’ve seen them 36 times live, and I own over 400 bootleg tapes of their live shows.  That’s right… TAPES.  The band is an enormous link in the chain of my musical development, and although I don’t consider them to be musical divinity like I once did, I still think anyone/everyone who strives to be creative in making music will benefit from listening to Phish.

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