The Story of The Story of the Ghost

tsofg2When Phish went into Bearsville Studios in March of 1997, they knew they were going to record, but they didn’t necessarily know what. In addition to some demos that Tom and Trey had made, they decided to go into the studio to jam, and what would come out would be anyone’s guess.  After five days in Bearsville, NY during March, and five more in September, the band had a large amount of material to work with.  After the March sessions, they selected their favorite segments of improv and began writing songs around them- lots of songs.  Taking this unique approach to songwriting, much like “The Blob” from Billy Breathes, what would eventually emerge over the course of a year was Phish’s seventh studio album, The Story of the Ghost.

Phish largely reversed the process, focusing on what they do best, and based songs off their creative improvisation.  Remember in Summer ’97 when the band came out with an arsenal of new tunes?  These were Anastasio / Marshall songs written just before, and recorded during, these sessions; “Ghost,” “Limb by Limb,” “Piper,” “Dogs Stole Things,” Twist,” “Vultures,” “Velvet Sea”- I could go on.  But the songwriting that resulted from the Bearsville Sessions was one of the most interesting eras of the band’s career.  Songs such as “Birds of a Feather,” “Meat,” “Roggae,” and “Frankie Says,” all resulted directly from the group’s studio improvisation.  Phish returned to Bearsville in September of ’97 for more experimentation.  Then came more songs- “Fikus,” “Shafty,” “Black-Eyed Katy”- and when all was said and done, they had enough material not only for The Story of the Ghost, but also for the all instrumental Siket Disc, released in ’99.  The Siket Disc was made entirely of outtakes from these same sessions.  And there are still songs from these sessions we have never heard.

Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, NY

Bearsville Studios, Bearsville, NY

When Phish took their abundance of material back into the studios in April 1998, they had some deciding to do.  With over forty songs from which to choose, they had to whittle out an album.  Phish had flirted with the “concept album” with Rift and Billy Breathes, and would make a more outright attempt this time around.  Aside from “Guyute,” and the radio-friendly “Birds of a Feather,” all the tracks resembled an apparition of its whole self that we had come to know live.  Snippets of the entire picture faded in and out like ghosts passing in the night.  With two to three minute musical passages, Phish created their most flowing album to date, piecing together a musical collage.

The sound of the album mirrored the band’s looser live sound of the era, led by Gordon’s round, prominent bass grooves.  The clearest examples of this are found on “Ghost,” “Meat,” “Fikus,” “Shafty,” “Roggae,” and “The Moma Dance.”  The musical character of the album was both funky and sparse, creating a spacious rhythmic palette throughout.  “Guyute” was the one song that didn’t really fit in with the album’s vibe, though the fact that they finally recorded the complex composition offset its somewhat awkward placement.

Fall '98 (T.Wickersty)

Fall '98 (T.Wickersty)

At the end of the album, an insane “Moma” groove fades into the mix as the band begins to sing the lyrics right over the liquid funk.  Just as “Ghost” brings the album in, “The Moma Dance” completes its circle, as the band layers the lyrics to “Ghost” over the crack-like groove.  This is the perfect ending to a pretty perfect album; the only thing is, that it is not the ending.  Phish added the two-minute ambient verse “End of Session” to close the album.  This passage must be significant to the band, perhaps marking the literal end of their recording sessions, because it doesn’t necessarily fit.  A beautiful snippet in its own right, its music diverges from anything on the record, and comes after the album’s natural conclusion.  It translates like a “hidden track” that Phish decided to label, and perhaps that is the point.

Trey recently stated in Rolling Stone that he wasn’t convinced Phish had yet made a great album, upping the expectations for their 2009 installment.  Yet, looking back through Phish’s catalog, Rift, Billy Breathes and The Story of the Ghost jump out as valiant attempts.  With each of these albums, the band furthered the conceptual framework of what they were trying to do.  While Rift had an overall story behind it, Billy Breathes took an idea and began translating it to music, painting a certain mood.  However, when Phish dropped The Story of the Ghost in Fall of 1998, they released the most artistically coherent album of their career.

***

Check out The Phish Archive of reviews and articles about The Story of the Ghost from 1998.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

9.30.95 Shoreline, Mountain View, CA < LINK

9.30.95 Shoreline, Mountain View, CA < TORRENT LINK

shoreline-amphitheatre

Shoreline Amphitheatre

This performance at Shoreline marked the fourth show of the band’s massive Fall ’95 slate.  This show marked the beginning of the band vs. audience chess matches which ran throughout the Fall and would eventually end in a 1-1 tie on New Year’s Eve at The Garden.  Highlights include the first set “Reba” and “Antelope,” while the second set brings a hot “Runaway Jim” and a sinister “Mike’s” jam that segues into “Keyboard Cavalry”- not to mention Fish’s first glorious cover of Elvis.  Trey also dedicated “Blue and Lonesome” to Jerry Garcia, in his amphitheatre, only months after he had passed.  (Here is a link with an overlay of “Steal Your Face” on Shoreline as pointed out on yesterday’s picture- pretty cool.)

I: My Friend My Friend, Cars Trucks Buses, White Rabbit Jam*, Reba, Uncle Pen, Horn, Run Like an Antelope, Blue and Lonesome**, Sample in a Jar

II: Runaway Jim, Fog That Surrounds, If I Could, Scent of a Mule, Mike’s Song > Keyboard Cavalry, Weekapaug Groove, Suspicious Minds# > HYHU, Cavern

E: Amazing Grace, Good Times Bad Times

* The Band vs. Audience chess match is introduced.  Page and a tourhead named Pooh played a 3-4 move intro to set up the board during the White Rabbit jam.  #First time played.  **Dedicated to Jerry Garcia.

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136 Responses to “The Story of The Story of the Ghost”

  1. wanderin Says:

    “I now can have full blown group-mind psychedelic experiences at shows with no buzz at all. Which to me means it’s real.”

    Well said Mr. C

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Dank Canned Beer is the shit!!! Can’t beat Dale’s pale ale from CO Also!

  3. msbjivein Says:

    Off subject for a sec.
    I’m live in Indy and this past Monday New Belgium Brewing Co. dropped Fat Tire on Indy IN CANS!!!!!(they also have the 22oz bottles but that’s it no 12oz) Apparently we’re the only state that has Fat Tire cans. (dude in LQ told me this) New Belgium did it so we can take them into the 500 next month. We have never had any New Belgium brews here before. So this is a treat.(I like it but don’t love it,drank my share while in Seattle) Anyway I bought a case Monday and those fuckers are going down smooth as shit right now.(like any beer after 4-5 cases it will get old) Has anyone else seen Fat Tire cans???????

  4. VTsnowboarder802 Says:

    mmm fat tire

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    @ wanderin – without planning it a bunch of ppl all went to a Trey show a few years ago with no buzz and all had the same thing happen – it was a profound night – no one could believe it happened to everyone else when we talked later! We were all just standing around openmouthed absorbing the implications…

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ what do you mean “had the same thing happen?”

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    I mean, all had extremely intense out of body/group mind experiences, at the same time, with none of us on drugs. All of us experienced being several notes ahead of the music in the same improvised sections. Sort of the classic show trip, but not tripping.

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    it’s happened more since then too. most notably at the Green Sparrow gig here in PDX – I went undosed for this reason, as experiment. puffed a tiny bit. second set I had fullblown tripping experience off nothing but crowd energy with Gordo as the focus. Sublime.

  9. gho2it Says:

    SF’s got the Fat Tire cans, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    Colorado might have the heady brewery scene, but they ALL end up in SF.

  10. wanderin Says:

    Hazed and Infused and Mojo by Boulder Beer should be in cans, but I cant find any in CO yet….check those out if you can they are tasty

  11. Pence Says:

    new belgium is just a commercialized micro brew. Its basically just a good marketing scheme that they put together. Domestic as budweiser. Dont get me wrong It taste ok, but if I had to choose between a Best Brown from Bells (which is starting to do the same thing as New Belgium has done) and a fat tire, id choose the best brown. Its overpriced imo. Illinois has the fat tire cans.

  12. Pence Says:

    dont mean to be a debbie downer, just my opinion

  13. guyforget Says:

    i think fat tire blows too.

  14. spike2518 Says:

    m & ms melt n ur brian not ur hand the m &ms are mushromms and molly.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    lol @ debbie downer

  16. Bandnana Says:

    @guyforgot thank god somebody said it. Don’t get me wrong to each their own, but really people need to cool it on fat tire. The first time my friends and I came west (from Illinois) as soon as they saw it they were like “Oh, fat tire!”. Not bad, just beer. I’ll take a Sammy Smith’s oatmeal or nut brown any day though, mmmmmm.

    @spike They have a thin candy shell. Hmm, surprised you didn’t know that.

  17. guyforget Says:

    yeah, people in AZ love the shit and i can’t figure out why..

  18. hooks Says:

    we just got new belgium in NC, and immediately it’s everywhere. some gas stations and everything all of a sudden. all the hipster yuppie banker types are stoked i guess. I do, however, dig the bicycle reference. i love mountain biking….

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    we had a fat tire phase here in oregon several years ago. it’s over now…I mean it’s around…but it’s not a big deal anymore

    I like the corner/neighborhood breweries, pulling one-off brews that are either great or suck, really handmade by random beer hippies, you could go out every night for 3 months in this town and never drink the same thing twice.

  20. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    SPEAKING OF THE 2009 ALBUM…
    had an opportunity to talk to CJ Eiriksson, the engineer for the new album, last night at a bar. he obviously cudnt give me any details about things or he said he’d have to kill me. but he did say the new stuff sounds great and they should finish up a few days before fenway. just a cool note/experience

  21. Weyoun42 Says:

    @Pence

    Bell’s Best Brown from Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI? I go to see local jam bands in their bar regularly since I live about five minutes away. Good stuff. Granted, everything is on tap there.

  22. Bandnana Says:

    It used to be “cool” because if you were from the east. People always heard about it from tour, or the richies found out while skiing. Thus came richer investments and higher profits. It is still the same beer it was, not a bad beer, but the fact that its everywhere now defeats the purpose. To widen the palette. Thats why all the west coasters have an insane list of micros they love, cuz you can’t get it everywhere.

    People near PA, its like Yiang Liang (misspelled I think). Thats a fine beer, and like the oldest I believe is the claim. Out in the west we can’t get it, so its awesome going back east and getting it. That said, I wouldn’t stock my fridge with it. Its made that much better by the fact that I can’t get it.

  23. guyforget Says:

    sweet info Whale, where are they even recording, NYC?

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    way back a long time ago you could only get Coors in colorado and right around there. It was like this legendary thing people would bring back with them all over the country, OMG Jim brought back a case of coors!

    I remember the first time I actually had one, what a huge fucking letdown, lol

    just more beer that’s like sex in a canoe

  25. Bandnana Says:

    Coors lol. Too young to remember those days, but thats classic.

    You ever get a hankerin for crap they don’t make anymore? Like, I grew up outside Chicago, and I wish I could get Strohs. It was horrible stuff but just for the hell of it I want one.

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