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.

Tags: ,

3,208 Responses to “On Fuego”

  1. Bwana Says:

    My main set 2 flow critiques from SPAC would be The Line and Fluff, Heavy Things. They’re getting skipped on my playback… And prefer ending 7/4 playback after Theme.

  2. Berkeley Head Says:

    Caveat Emptor-

    I wasn’t there. ha

    But when I was standing in my living room all by myself, man, and Waves ended up going into dead air, I was like, what? And then to your point, I was like, oh, Wingsuit dream interlude. Nice… And then into one of the best Pipers in recent memory.

  3. bob dylan Says:

    Yeah the piper was $$$. wouldn’t have minded if that kept on for a while longer. That was smokin’

    I wasn’t there either but for some reason, maybe its setlist flow, I’m a lot more tolerant of the new songs life than I was when first hearing the album. Maybe its cause I’ve spun it a decent amount or maybe its just that they are so fresh. Either way, they are working for me.

  4. bob dylan Says:

    *live

  5. Berkeley Head Says:

    I like the new stuff a lot. Remember how nondescript Light seemed at first… And we all know where that song is now.

  6. Kaveh Says:

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

    ^ Agreed. Great tone coming out of this guitar.

    SPAC2 was the best; but tons of highlights from all three nights.

    SPACeCamp…I like it.

  7. BingosBrother Says:

    Super surprised how much I liked Winter Queen considering I really hated the album version. Still really dislike the beginning, but damned if I didn’t love the rest of it. Solid lyrics taboot. Phishy fantasy. Very Steamish.

  8. Berkeley Head Says:

    Bingos btw I took your Ray Lamontagne rec off here a couple months ago…. I wasn’t sure if I had heard him…I really like that new album; so psychedelic…. Glad to have that in my rotation. thanks.

  9. Berkeley Head Says:

    There is a section in that Piper jam that sounds a lot like KDF

  10. bearito Says:

    Wow! Really really loved the music from this weekend. Phish is indeed EN FUEGO!

    Text from rom a buddy in south florida:

    “Have a buddy who owns a venue down in Miami. Was talking Phish with him last night and he said he was invited to be a part of booking Phish after parties for Jan 1st & 2nd in Miami”

    Hell yeah!

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Glad you dug it Berk. Very different than his other records. He’s a great songwriter, but was lacking even that the last few albums. His 1st record is very close to perfect though imo. The new one really benefited from Dan Auerbach. Stellar job by him. Great marriage.

    Would love to do Miami. Thanks bearit o!

    SPAC Piper is Chi Pipers bigger brother.

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    word on other forums is the amps are the same?

    something is different.

  13. bearito Says:

    Anyone know where I might find a video rip of SPAC 2?

  14. Dr Pro Says:

    I’m coming from westchester next weekend so I’ll just get off at 125th instead of grand central and walk over and back after. Sure it’ll be a clogged wook shuffle that route.

    The ferry will be prettier and easier if you have the time to wait.

    I won’t be in all day by any means — 3 under 3 mean all hands on deck at all times — but I definitely want to meet up w as many BB as possible

  15. Gavinsdad Says:

    Not sumo approved but:

    -walk from “venue” in randalls south to 103rd st foot bridge bout 2 miles.

    -ferry landing right near venue.

    -125th st is really not a great thorofare on any other day (meaning that part of Spanish Harlem is dicey) but with all those peeps it’ll be better. Mind your ps and Qs. Don’t sidetrack. Wallets in front pockets. The usual stuff.

    -taco mix for tacos, patsy on 116 for coal fired pizza like it oughta be.

    -considering calling uber w 3 others each nite post show have em scoop us when we come off 125th st footbridge on manhattan side.

    Mann looms.

  16. bob dylan Says:

    3 under 3 means you get a babysitter even when only one of you leaves. your beard grey yet?

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/101811118#.

    ^toss a few hop plants out with the herbs and see what heady strains you can get going. then brew those bad boys

  17. jtran Says:

    @C

    I think I messaged you to be added to r/boardtrades

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    gotcha @jtran

    be sure to go back a ways. a lot of stuff has been uploaded already and gets lost in the backscroll. Requests are often filled in the comments and a few comment threads have turned into mega-posting runs as people chip in

  19. bearito Says:

    SPAC 2 whole show up on you tube.

    Schweet!

  20. RicksFork Says:

    First run through SPAC 2 set 2 and I’m wishing I hadn’t left after night 1. Great Odin’s raven! That is some hot shit all the way through. Love the tail end of Fuego and the DWD is $$$.

  21. bob dylan Says:

    I haven’t been to hidden track in ages. Is it dead?

  22. tela's_muff Says:

    Only hit some highlights so far from Spac 1 & 2 but loved Fuego jam and thought the Carini>Waves, Wingsuit section was great. Loving the very chill floaty jam style. Can’t wait to see how it develops over the year

  23. sumodie Says:

    Beware if it’s not Sumo approved! ;0> I get hungry every time gdad mentions Patsy’s coal fired pizza on 116th

    Wiped out after driving the 4 hr r/t back & forth to SPAC (& GW) every night, followed by a few hours of work every afternoon

    However, I enjoyed almost every minute of the run, so absolutely not complaining. No freakin way. Likely I saved enough by not staying in Saratoga to buy Dick’s airfare, my ultimate goal for phish tour

    Just not able to offer much reflection (nor was I able to socialize much at SPAC)

    Randall’s still not a full go, may switch to plan D.132: down & back to Randy Sunday and the same for CMAC (hmmm, sleep doesn’t factor into that plan either)

    Or maybe I’ll make a ritual sacrifice to the All Knowing Couch Tour Gods for a Randycast (I’ll even eat Doritos if that’s what it takes. Srsly)

    Kinda bummed that no attempt was made to jam Wingsuit last night. And I get it; maybe that tune isn’t jam friendly, esp if Mike has to take time to whip out his drill every time at the end of the tune

    Grateful that tour is NOW

  24. bob dylan Says:

    Cant we get mike a drill holster to go along with his fancy clothes?

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/style-profile-phish-mike-gordon

    Sumo, what about saving dicks airfare and just doing randall’s? Is that blasphemy to even ask?

  25. Frankie Says:

    Who’s going to CMAC? I heard Alf and ghostphunk were gonna be there… We’re making the trek down…

    Looking for PAV’s if anybody got any…

    Stoked for Phish 2014! There is no competition!

Leave a Reply