- by Kevin Hogan (@radiator9987)
30) Roggae - Story Of The Ghost
Many of Phish’s best studio vocal performances occur when the band uses layering to create a deep warm sound, this is a perfect example. Each voice is introduced in the opening couplet and then weaved in and out of each other as the song builds. With its gentle reggae leaning combined with an almost country twang, this is one of Phish’s most beautiful studio cuts.
29) First Tube - Farmhouse
A bass-driven juggernaut, this is another TAB song co-opted by Phish for the Farmhouse album. A full-on rocker that is expertly executed. Completely different from the rest of the album it jumps from the speaker, technically flawless in the production. Phish at their San Francisco Psychedelic best starting a new millennium.
28) Reba - Lawn Boy
With more money and better studios, Phish’s Lawn Boy was a jump both sonically and stylistically. Reba shines on an album full of heavy hitters with Fishman driving the song. This was a great summation of Phish in 1990, intricate with self-deprecating in the lyrics. The knock, another case of overproduction on the vocals.
27) The Horse/Silent in the Morning - Rift
Almost inseparable, Horse and Silent in the Morning have to be included together. Anastasio’s plaintive ballad Horse leads up to the closing track of 1993’s Rift where Page McConnell provides a calm after the chaos that proceeded. Behind a beautiful soundtrack, we find a resolution and awkward end to a nightmare night. Horse is that pre-conscious state and Silent in the Morning is a distillation of the 1000 images we have seen, leaving us with hope.
26) Blaze On - Big Boat
Blaze On represents a shift in the band and Anastasio/Marshall’s songwriting. It is a quintessential blues-rock groove and is one of the few tracks on the album that comes alive in the studio. Much of Big Boat sounds sterile and phoned in by the band, largely due to Bob Ezrin’s production. Here is a band enjoying making music simply for the pleasure of it.
25) David Bowie - Junta
One of Phish’s most loved songs is preserved here like a blueprint for some of Phish’s most ambitious recordings. The crispness of the recording, from the opening high hat to Discipline era King Crimson runs, is amazing as this was a first album and self-produced. The knock here is the unnecessary sound effects that clutter the extended instrumental section.
24) Rift - Rift
Rift may be the most perfectly placed song on any Phish album, opening its namesake with a quasi-back story that sets the stage for a series of nightmarish dreams until we reach the final track. The production showcases the hyperactive guitar which seems equal parts Free Jazz, Prog, and Cowpunk which Anastasio and McConnell bounce back and forth over.
23) You Enjoy Myself - Junta
If one song is most associated with Phish, it’s You Enjoy Myself. Here we find it in an awkward place on the album, the second song in, and flat compared to live versions. That’s not to say it still isn’t a strong studio cut, keeping it under 10 minutes while staying true to the spirit of the song. Gordon steps it up for the funk break down, pacing the band to the song's thrilling conclusion.
22) Sand - Farmhouse
Phish made full use of the studio on this Trey Anastasio Band song from 2000’s Farmhouse. The post-production touches make this one shine, giving Trey’s voice and the misty background vocals an ominous sound. With no real solo to speak of this is one of their most interesting studio cuts, feeling almost like something you’d hear on a Chemical Brothers album.
21) Waves - Round Room
Bryce Goggin gave Phish a lot of space on Round Room, coaxing moments of greatness like this gentle zephyr of a song. The lyrics are secondary, providing brief moments of rest before heading back out to the simple majesty of the band’s playing while Anastasio lays down a mix of old school fuzz funk peppered with Hendrix flourishes.
20) Scents and Subtle Sounds - Undermind
Phish brought in Indie veteran Tchad Blake to produce Undermind with mixed results. The album is all over the place and many of the songs seem like notes more than realized visions. This is the exception, with Fishman’s hi-hat and snare rolls propelling the song while Anastasio’s guitar comes in dirty before releasing to the gentle melody of the lyrics. They also keep it short, adding to the song’s punch.
19) Brian and Robert - Story Of The Ghost
Well composed, well-executed, and concise, everything Phish is said to shy away from, is found here. As close as Phish ever got to a Beach Boys vocal performance with beautiful harmonies swirling over lyrics reminiscent of God Only Knows. This is paired against a simple accompaniment floating along to Anastasio’s almost atonal drone, similar to the Robert in the title’s Frippertronics.
18) What’s The Use - Siket Disc
At over 11 minutes, this may not seem to fit into our parameters, but the genesis of the Siket Disc that it comes from tells another story. Taken from jam sessions for the Story Of The Ghost album, John Siket and Page McConnell created a series of collages and soundscapes, some more successful than others, to create an album that echoes Eno or Fripp from the late 70s. This dreamy cut, built on Gordon’s lumbering bass and the raw, antagonistic guitar of Anastasio is as close to no-wave as the band ever got.
17) Tweezer - Picture Of Nectar
Tweezer has become a monster jam vehicle for Phish, sometimes stretching for 30+ minutes, and they attempt to catch that spirit on vinyl with mixed results. At a little over 8 minutes, they take the basic riff and get into some interesting improvisation as a sampler of the song's potential, but it never feels like they gel. The importance of the song in their catalog demands its presence on this list.
16) Backwards Down the Number Line - Joy
Phish in their triumphant return opened 2009’s Joy with an arena rock anthem as only they can. An ode to old friendships and platonic love, it is Tom Marshal’s most pure and transparent lyrics. The acoustic guitar is prominent in the mix with McConnell’s piano fills happily bubbling underneath.