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. vapebraham Says:

    df: i liked it fine, but need to respin it. the dwd through theme is what really grabbed me. and the first tube closer was intense and possibly strongest set II closer of the run so far.

  2. bob dylan Says:

    With RES, I’m wondering how I went without a login for so long. This is gonna be one refined piece of art once I get a little bit of time. Eliminating half the garbage on the front page alone is a win-butler.

    Thanks C for the encouragement boost. Will try to help with the 24/16 links while you are out. Once I get a handle on this stuff.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I’m not in love with last night as many others.. 7/4 was the bomb…

  4. bob dylan Says:

    i only video streamed thursday and saturday hence my heavy fluffing on those. on listen back tho, the 4th prob had the best cliff diving. last night to my ears trey was en fuego.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I only really listened to all the second sets…and only once at that…. so , my opinion isn’t really valid… Ha…

  6. Stoney Case Says:

    Looking back. SPACeCamp felt like one long jam interspersed with whimsical lyrics and oddly timed pauses.

  7. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Gonna be Deer Creak hot in Philthy Tues and Wed…. Drink Water

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:


  9. Berkeley Head Says:

    If we’re ranking, I’m doubtful many could put any ahead of 7.4. but that probably goes without saying.

  10. Bwana Says:

    Set 2 comparisons: 7/3 solid warm up, 7/4 musically freshest, 7/5 for the feel-good early-Phish vibe (Junta heavy night)

  11. bob dylan Says:

    104 and 100% humidity like 2012?

    C, I see what you mean about the transition from carini > waves. waves seems like the perfect song to come out of a dissolved jam and rev it up. 60 seconds would have been plenty. maybe trey was watching the clock, they went to the very last minute last night.

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    No! Not that bad.. mid 90’s… but an urban mid ’90’s….

  13. bob dylan Says:

    mid-90s in an urban setting also makes people more aggro than normal. everyone be friendly in philly.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    Word Stoney well said

    Bob, Reddit without taking time to unsub from the stupid subreddits and add the cool ones is just asking a headache. Wretched hive of scum and villainy, etc.

    With the right subreddits and RES installed it’s just literally everything good and interesting about the internet in one place – except for in depth conversation which actually sadly rare.

    But fir me it just replaces/condenses my general browsing loops

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    And there’s always plenty of lameness, trolling and dumbshit even once you get it tweaked. But that’s just life these days

  16. Stoney Case Says:

    Y’all busy ranking what I can barely separate. That was storage themed SPACeCamp. 3 nights worth.

    Only one thing to reflect on for me. How great Trey sounds.

  17. Mr. Palmer Says:

    city of brotherly love, yo….. if ever a slogan was completely off base, huh?

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Second listen back to the Limb Queen…… that is my shit right there… Limb off the rails and the WQueen is a great debut ( besides 10/31)…

  19. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Fuego is prob my fav jam so far

  20. bob dylan Says:

    time for you to catch up stoney. I’m already busy finding all the related jams.

    how did all the dead heads find the Major League Baseball jams without the internet?

    4:50 on the gorge sally jam – Calypso Gorge Jam = CGJ
    5:50 and 8:23 of Carini – CGJ jamming

    I know its just a set of notes in the same order, the same as MLB was but it got me thinking about this book I have at home I never finished. It talks about how your brain processes music and compares familiarities in order to understand and make connections. Same stuff we learned in psych class about how the brain files stuff away. I should pick that up again, was interesting but a little over my head at the time. “This is your brain on music”

  21. bob dylan Says:

    Respinning Limb now palmer. These 24flac versions are pretty incredible. Might have to dedicate a hard drive to 24bit summer 2014

  22. bob dylan Says:

    I’ll laugh all the way to the bank if we have Billy Joel to thank for the no covers. To think thats what we needed to get Gin in the 2nd set and fresh jamming on old favorites. Who would have thought?

    Ok, now to try and get some stuff done on a sunday.

  23. Berkeley Head Says:

    It also kinda felt like Waves coulda gone directly into Piper and that would’ve made early Set II continuity better… not that I didn’t like Wingsuit. It’s counter-intuitive, but I think I’d like that as a show opener as a mindset-setter because it’s easy to put yourself inside it (the song; a wingsuit; something; anything) which is where I like to be for a Phish show…. for the most visceral experience…. If you haven’t ever put yourself inside Foam, I suggest you try it.

    “And gliding away, you fly where you choose
    There’s nothing to say and nothing to lose”

    I liked the delicate approach on the Bowie, but I also missed the crescendo? which kinda left me with angst.

    I vote LxL for SPAC most valuable song, SPAC2 for show, and SPAC3 for the existential “Am I growing?” award

  24. Berkeley Head Says:

    Of course “On the wind and underwater” segues lyrically into Wingsuit phenomenally

  25. bob dylan Says:

    I could live inside the storage shed that is the last few mins of this LxL. cowbell ftw.

    Personally the fuego tunes have been fitting in perfectly interspersed in the live setting. Mellow, dreamy, floaty tunes. Even when trey takes off on them, for the most part they still make me just float and bob around. Only hurdle I have is getting past the lyrics.

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