For 18 years, Trey Anastasio has been the guitarist, vocalist and frontman for Phish, one of the most important and influential bands of the past two decades. Phish's music and concert tours evolved into a way of life for millions of fans and changed the way people think of live music - and they've sold a few million albums, too. Now, Trey Anastasio steps out on his own with his self-titled solo debut album. Recorded at The Barn, Trey's studio in Burlington, Vermont, the album features Trey backed by a long list of stellar musicians. Throughout, a four-member horn section dishes out punchy, stabbing counterpoint to Anastasio's ever-inventive guitar work or engages in smart, peppery exchanges among themselves. A mighty three-piece rhythm section nails down the grooves, which range from light to Latin to sweetly funky to wickedly syncopated. The variety of moods, styles, lengths and tempos - from sinewy funk to pastoral etudes to structured improv - results in a kaleidoscopic yet cohesive listening experience. It's a kind of marriage between composition and improvisation, between written songs and the spontaneous, inspired moments that erupt when talented musicians are cooking up a storm.
guitarist Trey Anastasio's solo debut--not counting One Man's Trash
, his limited-release odds-and-sods assortment--is the affable, something-for-everybody, more-or-less-mainstream album that the avant-arena rock quartet was always too collectively freaky to record together. Anastasio's new group--an eight-member powerhouse with a rock-solid rhythm section, slamming horns, and a string player or two--is a versatile vehicle for eclectic compositions ranging from a trio of dangerously mellow 3-minute acoustic ballads (including the Bob Marley
-inspired "Ether Sunday") to the explosive 11-minute head charge "Last Tube." Anastasio updates the horny Tower of Power
legacy in the Latin funk of "Alive Again" (with guest percussionist Cyro Baptista
), the wailing R&B of "Money, Love, and Change," and a rocket-fueled commercial for decadence, "Push on 'Til the Day." His stated goal was to mesh composition and improvisation. Here he invokes composer Charles Ives's regionally inspired chamber music in "At the Gazebo" before cranking up the Oysterhead
y psych-rock of "Mr. Completely." All in all, mission accomplished. --Richard Gehr