Phish Album Review - Fuego: A Success

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Vermont's most famous export since Ben & Jerry's, Phish is quietly one of rock and roll's most successful acts of all time.

Generating well over a quarter billion in ticket sales since the early 80's, the guys have never had a radio hit or even a popular music video.

Their wisest decision was to never rely on the sales of recorded music like 99% of other huge rock bands of the 80's and 90's and focusing on long tours and word-of-mouth marketing tactics. So when the recording industry crumbled about ten years ago, Phish must have been laughing (maybe because they were stoned) but mostly because they never really sold many albums in the first place! Their cash cow was always their live shows which were usually placed in huge outdoor venues suitable for packing in thousands of Phish "Phans." This could certainly be a large reason of why Phish is still the same four guys and no one has ever left the fold.

I can't think of ANY other band that has been going for over thirty years with the same line up.

Also, with Jerry Garcia's passing in 1995, Phish kind of took office as go-to jam band for millions of college students and aging hippies alike.

It's been five years since they last released a new record, so Fuego comes as big news for their huge community of like-minded individuals.

Bob Ezrin, who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall and Nine Inch Nails' sprawling "The Fragile" made me think that Fuego would be a colossal, pompous concept album with multiple movements and an air of blowhard-ness.

Let's face it, Phish have always had trouble editing themselves and jam bands in general could all use a little more of punk's get-to-the-point ethics.

To my surprise, Fuego is not only a fairly streamlined set of songs, but it is also their most rewarding long player since "A Picture Of Nectar" over twenty years ago! The opening title track sets things off with funny lyrics but also an ear worm melody which has never been one of their strong suits. "The Line" is a heartfelt ballad that never comes off as corny.

"Sing Monica" is classic Phish road-song with a steady beat and funky organ. "Wingsuit" ends the program with killer guitar solos and forlorn lyrics perhaps discussing singer Trey's recent sobriety.

All in all Fuego succeeds in giving the band a nice batch of tunes to hit the summer festival circuit with but also sharpening their craft at the same time.

Old fans and new fans alike should find solace in the fact that Phish are still finding new ways of exploring the edge of their sound. I give it a strong 4 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

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