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. DryIceFactory Says:

    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

    Well done, Miner. I’m happy to see you didn’t overreact to your first listen a week ago when most of this board was ripping it to shreds. This is a GREAT album.

  2. MiA Says:

    I have slowly evolved in PG/RL … I can feel the hatred

  3. Random Poster...Nutbag Says:

    MiAniken? I kid. Actually, that’s not cool since Aniken was so “teenage angst” in the movies so I take that back. The other sith lords were much cooler, so pick one of them.

  4. Stoney Case Says:

    somehow miner claims the album is heavily produced, and captures the live sound.

    #confusing

    I like the album fine. Just can’t ignore the creatively written inconsistencies in the review.

    On my listens through, ‘The Live Sound’ is the furthest thing from what I’m hearing.

  5. MiA Says:

    Miner, what is your gear setup?

  6. Stoney Case Says:

    “MiA, I’ll be up in 3 hours. Check back then”

    -MinerBot

  7. btb Says:

    Live sound = half assed Toby guitar work 😉

  8. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BBers…

    ….I got the record and the downloads….either way, I enjoy the record, except for Wombat; it is the only song on this album that I don’t like the final product of. The horns save it at the end, but otherwise, I really enjoy the album and can’t wait for SPAC!

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Stoney Case Says:
    June 25th, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Phew!

    CouchTour confirmed, as exSPACted

    ^wait…what? Where are you seeing this Dr Case? LRAFO might be in order if so. Living Room A… Freakout.

    Cheer up MiA. Funky Friday is nigh. As is terr.

  10. Stoney Case Says:

    Song most likely to replace a 2nd set jam:

    “Devotion To A Dream”

    #Numberline’d

  11. Stoney Case Says:

    Jerome, I scooped Scoop and got it online. It’s kangfirmed.

    https://twitter.com/jambase/status/482156598991675392

  12. Phamily Berzerker Says:


    En Fuego!

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    Miner must have reviewed this in the shower if he thinks this sounds live.

    3 hours is way optimistic Stoney. He takes showers at 2am.

  14. Kaveh Says:

    Waiting All Night on par with Billy Breathes and FEFY…in the ballad slot of a show. Nice breather every once and awhile.

    @stoney: I hope they play everything and then some off the album and not just a few choice numbers as they did with the Joy tunes. We will see what happens. DTAD might make a good opener.

  15. MiA Says:

    I do like the two guitarists overdubbed after 5:00 on Wingsuit.

    Now they just need a second guitarist. 8)

  16. MiA Says:

    Sing Monica has overdubbed guitars too.

  17. MiA Says:

    I refuse to listen to Wombat to find out if it has overdubbed guitars too.

  18. MiA Says:

    It’s all the overdubbed guitars. Sounds more GD because now Trey is playing Bobby’s parts.

    Trey is becoming Bobby.

  19. Stoney Case Says:

    Winterqueen is a mash-up of all the SOFTEST shit they’ve ever written or sung, tied into one song.

    #Charmin

    bringing inflatable ponies on tour, just in case this tune drops

  20. sumodie Says:

    Stoney, i too was confused by reviewers citing both Ezrin’s heavy producing touch and the live feel of the album

    Miner’s review today was the first time I understood what they mean by the live sound of the album

    From Miner’s review:

    ” 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”

    There is an overall relaxed, natural feel to the songs and album flow. Again, this speaks to to comments citing the live feel of the material (as opposed to recording each instrument separately, including vocals, and reassembling the parts into a finished song, a common studio approach to recording)

  21. Stoney Case Says:

    I hope Kaveh’s second sets are filled with /Devotion’d jams and Winterqueens

  22. Stoney Case Says:

    Sumo, here is the line that really gets me confused:

    “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’.”

    There is no fifth member on stage. No horns, no over dubbed guitars, no slide, etc. Tons of vocal tweaking, especially the backing parts.

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Stoney and Mike need hugs…

    Go USA

  24. sumodie Says:

    Gotta let peeps get the scoop once in a while!

  25. Stoney Case Says:

    kiss my ass Palmnuts! I’m in a good mood! Filling in my Fuego reviews on the appropriate post. You jerks jumped the gun and shredded the album before Miner had a chance to tell you all how great it is.

    Stoney’s been two steps ahead of you fluffers since last fall. I called the Halloween set. Called the fact the songs would be changed, re-arranged, and re-ordered before the album. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the read. I’m back to work in a couple hours. Gonna be another boring, ‘Stoney-Free’ weekend with the same 6 or 7 of you telling each other how great this all is. Enjoy the perspective and color while it lasts!

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