On Fuego

fuego_custom-e4db94af0938af438397d4147bf82958ba2fb334-s6-c30As Phish started leaking their album track by track on the Internet, I heard a lot of production. In fact, when I listened to those “Waiting All Night” and “The Line” from NPR, the production was just about all I heard. My thoughts totally transformed today, however, when I spun Fuego on vinyl for the first time on my home system. The music completely opened up, gaining a richness and depth that NPR’s mp3s could never translate. And above all else, I could hear and appreciate Bob Ezrin’s production as it was meant to be heard. As opposed to adding a glossy layer to the music that dilutes the band’s interactions, Ezrin’s work enhances the playing of Phish, adding dreamy layers that provide just enough aural cushion to support the music and make it pop. But the core of the Fuego’s sound is live Phish. In choosing to record live takes with all band members in the same room playing together, Ezrin retained thePhish’s sound capturing a vivid canvas with which to work. He then stepped to the plate as the temporary fifth member of the band, whose influence is felt on Fuego as much as the other fours’.

Ezrin’s greatest success on Fuego is taking a stylistically diverse set of songs and making them into a cohesive whole. The album possesses a flow from beginning to end, and more particularly, retains a sound throughout that is anchored in its retro, psych-pop production. Musically, Fuego contains a certain dreaminess that comes through in waves on tracks like “Halfway to the Moon,” “Winterqueen,” “Waiting All Night,” “Wingsuit” and the title track, itself. This musical thread provides a cerebral narrative to the album, one that touches on themes of loss, hope and, ultimately, redemption.

artworks-000080207042-wz0gbp-t500x500Though Fuego’s story is told in chapters via one well-executed track after another, its two gems are undoubtedly its bookends, “Fuego” and “Wingsuit.” In fact, these two tracks may just be the pinnacle of Phish’s studio repertoire. Both contain unparalleled work from Ezrin, leaving “Fuego” sounding like a medieval adventure, and “Wingsuit” like a lucid dream. Each possess a strong emotional quality that will undoubtedly translate to the live stage. Though Phish has recorded plenty of great songs over the course of their career, “Fuego” and “Wingsuit” represent legitimate studio tracks that can stand up against the work of other great artists.

Interspersed in the album’s surreal narrative are the upbeat selections “The Line,” “Devotion to a Dream” and “Sing Monica.” “The Line” provides an excellent sonic juxtaposition to “Fuego,” and flows impeccably from the title track. “Devotion to a Dream,” sounds quite good on the album and fits in with the album’s thematic narrative congruently. The overlapping chorus of this one really shines with the Ezrin’s assistance, though “Devotion’s” bluesy, Allmans-esque  palette is one of Fuego’s furthest stylistic stretches. “Monica” is another, and this one barely rounds into place. Its brevity, however, makes it only a speed bump and not a true obstacle to flow. Rounding out Fuego are “555” and “Wombat.” Gordon’s writing contribution to the album, “555” came out as one of its highlights, as the horns and backing singers further the bluesy grit of the song. Upon listening to the album as a whole, “Wombat” didn’t strike me as so out of place. Silly? Sure. With its placement between “Waiting All Night” and “Wingsuit,” it likens one of those tripped out dream interludes make any sense in the morning. But the inclusion of “Wombat” and “Monica” suggest the only place where Phish might have dropped the ball on this album—leaving off “Steam.” Not only is it a more-than-worthy track that could supplant both shorter ones, it absolutely fits the fantasy-like theme of Fuego. But who am I to blow against the wind.

10345776_10152015825926290_960017832947971992_nFuego succeeds where so many Phish albums fall have fallen short, its whole amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Though it is not a perfect record, its sonic cohesion and thematic narrative and outstanding production bump it right up to the top shelf of Phish’s twelve. I am not here to argue that it is their best record, for that is purely subjective, however I will nominate it as their best produced effort, and one that deserves recognition among the band’s strongest recordings. It’s been a while since Phish emerged from the studio with an album that they could hold up not only to their fan base, but to the industry at large and garner acclaim. Fuego is such a record, and the band should be proud.

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3,208 Responses to “On Fuego”

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  1. Fly Says:

    Have a great day and great rest of the week, all. Phresh Phish next week!!!

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Nice review Miner. Interest piqued to spin orange Fuego vinyl.

  3. George W. Kush Says:

    my copy was skipping last night as well…

  4. Dorn76 Says:

    Canadian Vinyl?

  5. George W. Kush Says:

    maybe I need to grease my player needle with poutine

  6. voopa Says:

    It’s probably their best album since Rift, and I like most of their studio stuff. But this comes off as their most professional attempt to date, at least to me.

  7. RoosterPizza Says:

    http://www.st-hubert.com/epicerie/produits/categorie-sauces/instantanees/classiques/melange-sauce-poutine.en.html

  8. Darth Vaper Says:

    I like Bryce Goggin. Everything is subjective.

    I nominate him for making the best sounding recordings.

    Miner, go listen to Slip Stitch and Pass on your new stereo.

  9. btb Says:

    Interesting

  10. MiA Says:

    It is always interesting when people get new stereo gear, especially tube amps and decent speakers and start hearing “midrange” especially on vocal albums and jazz.

    It’s always based on the original recordings but listening to an album like “there goes rhymin’ Simon” and suddenly songs have two to three instruments you’ve never heard before.

    So many producers have produced their music with tons of loudness to accommodate the #1 way people listen to music. Cheap(er) headphones.

    For some it’s mixed for car Strereos.

    Mixing for vinyl is very specific too. Due to bass frequency response and needle cartridges, and a big technical discussion, stereo bass is rare. Infact any stereo under 3400 hz is rare.

    Vinyl does not improve the quality of the sound. It improves your attitude about listening to music.

    If you like to collect vinyl, great, it’s fun. But save me the “it sounds better” argument.

  11. sumodie Says:

    Thoughtful on point review, Miner. I like the album a lot more than I initially expected to, for the very reasons you cite

    Summer tour is feeling promising, very promising

  12. MiA Says:

    Tl;dr I’m a grouch this morning.

  13. George W. Kush Says:

    Mia there is a warmth that you don’t get on the digital side esp with heavier gram vinyl. Also the little crackles and pops are endearing but can detract in some cases from overall sound. “better” is relative.

  14. sumodie Says:

    Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood

    6-22-14 Edmonton – Canada

    MP3 in my orange or hop on the etree torrent
    http://bt.etree.org/details.php?id=573171

  15. George W. Kush Says:

    best pre-summer hype since 2009 due to new album and Letterman set?

  16. MP Says:

    This album is a fire breathing beast. Summer tour is going to be a scorcher. Amphitheaters across the country will be reduced to smoke and ashes Burn em down boys!

    On a less elated note, I still don’t get why WSP can stream all shows live on Mixr but Phish won’t do that for their fans. Help a father out! #fatheroftheyear

  17. Dorn76 Says:

    Rainbow Pony needs to get outta his paddock. And soon!
    Vinyl sounds better cuz science. Fact.

  18. MiA Says:

    I vow not to argue/discuss this with anyone.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    Mia is snapping off on fuckers lately. I like it. I only have Lawn Boy on vinyl. It sounds stupendous.

  20. dorn76 Says:

    Def, KushBush. Stir in a little Cajun Disease, Fishman radio interview, Randall’s Festyish vibe, return to the Mann.

    Tour opener among home sweet Snowcones, where the fellas cut their teeth before a big audience….

    GIDDYUP!

  21. sumodie Says:

    I don’t care whether or not vinyl sounds better, I still detest the format. And I’m glad vinyl has seen a resurgence in popularity; great for those who do love it

  22. MP Says:

    Vinyl reproduces the original waveform of the music exactly. Digital recordings take snaps shots of it at whatever the rate is (for CDs that is 44.1kHz) and assigns one of about 65,000 values to it (assuming 16bit recording). So it should be obvious some aspects will be lost giving the fundamentals of the digital medium.

  23. dorn76 Says:

    There is no life in the VOID.

    Only vinyl.

  24. btb Says:

    Sounds awesome on drugz 🙂

  25. dusty Says:

    Mastering and pressing LP is an art. Cutting CD’s is a science. The end product is not the same. MiA is right on.

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