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”

  1. Bwana Says:

    Wow, webcast already can be rewatched. Where to start… Carini?

  2. Berkeley Head Says:

    Congratulations everyone….

    We must have won something, right? Why are we so lucky?

  3. Bwana Says:

    this waves, wingsuit feels more like a long-paused >

  4. Buddysmyles Says:


  5. MiA Says:

    Why are we so lucky?

    Because we stay up all night to get lucky?

  6. Berkeley Head Says:

    Yes I’m done with the “get em ugly early” philosophy

  7. Berkeley Head Says:

    Remember in Wolf of Wall Street when they opened their emergency stash of ludes… and they ate the entire bottle of the famed lemons… as if they had somehow lost their potency…

    And dude is sitting in the kitchen and he says, “It’s fucking good, right?” (0:21-0:28) That’s what I say and how I say it about Phish Summer 2014.


  8. Stoney Case Says:

    Did fricking Palmer call the Carini opener and the Slave>YEM closer?!?


  9. Buddysmyles Says:

    Say what ya’ll wish… Long live da Phish!

  10. Bwana Says:

    that Piper was chasing the worm, left a little early for the powerful pills but all good

  11. plord Says:

    Not the best night for the composed sections (myfe, fluff, bits of DS, Foam, Bowie, YEM all seemed a little off) but holy shit Trey destroyed that Piper.

    Any Waves is a good Waves; his one had a different internal solo contour and whiffed on a serious bliss jam opportunity but no matter. Funny: when Foam dropped I turned to my neighbors and said “Foam now, heavy waters in set two”. Not smart enough to call the Waves though.

    If we’re gonna get shenanigans then I Didn’t Know is the one I want.

    Great freaking run. I think night 2 is the strongest end to end.

  12. plord Says:

    Fishman the MVP of the run. Trey on fire but fighting his rig at times; like he is getting unexpected feedback, on top of his every day “my palm mut

  13. plord Says:

    Fucking phone.

    “My palm mutin technique is unstoppable feedback”.

  14. plord Says:

    I can’t believe the new tone is just a speaker change. Different compressor or comp settings? No compressor? Doesn’t sound like the no compressor era tone to me.

  15. MiA Says:

    Agreed plord. Trey is stomping some pedals and it’s like he is nailing every note exactly where he wants to.

    The Piper is my favorite so far. Great YEM too.

  16. MiA Says:

    There was great stuff all through that show but I hope phish releases the Piper as the “official” show

  17. MiA Says:

    Video from the show…

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    Wrapping up late night watch. Agreed plord. Trey definitely fighting for tone control at times, sudden shifts in sound seemingly larger than anticipated. Not technical enough to know if it’s just amps but something significant has changed. It’s for the better but I think he’s relearning where all the edges are, if that makes sense – the sudden discontinuities where the sound abruptly jumps. It’s like he’s upped his degree of difficulty a couple notches.

    I wondered if some of the songs were chosen because they call for very delicate control, our at least he certainly isn’t running away from the challenge. I heard it get away from him some, and almost do so much more often, but I don’t mean that as a critique at all. I find it interesting and exciting to watch and hear.

    That and the flubs (which were there tonight) are beside the point, which that was a real high effort show with some truly great stretches of music. I liked how much time trey spent not soloing, but then he crushed a couple when it was time.

    Pretty Carini is always a little weird, but it was a lovely fluid jam. Very nice waves of course. Unfortunately the more I hear Wingsuit the less it works for me, the opposite of most Fuego material. That’s ok though.

    Funny/interesting good show

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    Jams shift into conversational mode very quickly these days. Frequent incremental shifts until something settles. They’ve just got that switch figured out at the moment.

    If they (he) could hold that beautiful patience long enough to stretch a transition like the one into Waves out over one minute, literally sixty seconds, it would make a huge huge difference.

  20. Kaveh Says:

    Really good night of music. A great three show run. Enjoyed SPAC to the fullest potential. It will be a place I would gladly return to.

    Summer Tour = go get yours!

  21. sumodie Says:

    Beer in hand at last. Carini on replay…

  22. Stoney Case Says:

    Wow. Undermind. So slick. Love the Carini waves and Piper.

  23. Stoney Case Says:

    Damn. I even like Wingsuit now. Phish wins again

  24. the Baker Says:

    Summer Tour = go get yours!

    I ran across the EMT boss on the back lawn…she told me that she’s ALWAYS too busy at her clinic WORKING to come hear the Boys.
    She said that “we” collectively came thru SPAC Cleaner than ever!


    *tonight was pure bliss*


  25. bobby weird Says:

    ^ what does this mean?

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