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Phish: Live at Madison Square Garden New Year's Eve 1995

Long revered as one of the best shows the band ever played, this sprawling 3CD set from their 1995 New Years show at New York's famed Madison Square Garden sees Phish in the prime of their powers, exploring musical worlds most bands wouldn't dare go to. This live album makes a nice companion piece to 1995's A Live One, as that set features the band's more commercial pieces along with some extended jams, while here you get hours of fiery rock/jazz fusion/jam band interplay. In fact, with the exception of "Chalk Dust Torture", "The Squirming Coil", and "You Enjoy Myself", both releases have completely different set lists. As always, Rhino Records has put together an amazing package here, complete with a lavish digi-pack design and thick booklet filled with commentary and photos.

The music? Well, like I mentioned earlier, the exploratory nature of the music the band performed that night was off the charts. Many compared Phish's live nature to that of the Grateful Dead, in that the lengthy and inspired jams of both bands seemed to parallel each other. You may or may not agree with that assessment, but Phish's music also had a lot in common with 70's fusion and prog rock acts as well. Guitarist Trey Anastasio launches into plenty of extended and tasty solos throughout this concert, and tracks like "Punch You In the Eye" and "Maze" owe just as much to rock as they do to jazz, funk, and prog. In fact, this band was so hard to classify simply because their music had so many different elements in it. Listen to the avant-garde sounds on "The Squirming Coil" (complete with a great keyboard solo from Page McConnell), or the jam funk of "Weekapaug Groove" for two totally different styles.

The band also offers up a few covers in this set, namely Collective Soul's "Shine" (which is sandwiched in between the humorous & Zappa-ish "Fly Famous Mockingbird"), The Who's "Drowned" and "Sea and Sand", Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein", and the classic "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry. They "Phish-ify" and give new life to these songs, and no doubt the audience at the Garden ate it up. This is one of those shows where you can really tell that the band and audience alike were just having a blast, which along with the fact that the band were spot on that night probably is one of the reasons why this show has been labeled as one of the best concerts of the 1990's. For those who have not really checked out Phish previously, it should be mentioned that Trey Anastasio is a remarkable guitarist, a stellar musician who really stands out even in a band of equally talented players. His tone, phrasing, and chops are of such a high caliber, yet everything he plays is extremely tasty and melodic, even when he is ripping out some fiery licks. No mention of wankery when you talk about Anastasio!

In short, this is an essential purchase for Phish fans, and those new to the band who have a passing interest should also check this out as die-hards consider it one of the best shows the band ever played.

Track Listing
Disc: 1
1. Punch You in the Eye
2. Sloth
3. Reba
4. Squirming Coil
5. Maze
6. Colonel Forbin's Ascent
7. Fly Famous Mockingbird
8. Shine
9. Fly Famous Mockingbird
10. Sparkle
11. Chalk Dust Torture
Disc: 2
1. Audience Chess Move
2. Drowned
3. Lizards
4. Axilla, Pt. II
5. Runaway Jim
6. Strange Design
7. Hello My Baby
8. Mike's Song
Disc: 3
1. Gamehendge Time Phactory
2. Auld Lang Syne
3. Weekapaug Groove
4. Sea and Sand
5. You Enjoy Myself
6. Sanity
7. Frankenstein
8. Johnny B. Good (Encore)

Added: December 18th 2005
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Phish Website
Hits: 2730
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Phish: Live at Madison Square Garden New Year's Eve 1995
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-12-18 08:35:43
My Score:

I have heard a lot about this legendary band but never really 'heard' them until now. Some folks may be appalled at the very thought of that, particularly ardent fans. I did not grow up in the 80's or 90's so they are not one of the bands I latched onto, although I wish that I had now.

Live In Madison Square Garden-New Year's Eve 1995, cited by critics, the band, and fans as their premiere live event, is finally available on 3-disc set from Rhino Records. Based on what I have gleaned from various articles over the years and listening to this amazing set, a live show from Phish was definitely an event like no other.

They took the Grateful Dead improvisation route another step further by giving the nod to all of their influences like The Who for instance, by covering songs and dedicating entire live shows to their music. The Phish original material stood on its own as unique and incomparable to anything anyone else was doing and it still does. This band comes as a revelatory experience to me just as the live Dead and Garcia music I have had the pleasure to enjoy this year. I knew the music was always there but it always seemed like something else I wanted to hear was more important, like albums I had on vinyl so long ago. There are no excuses now; the door is wide open to further my explorations into musical nirvana, much more waits just around the corner.

Three CDs hold a lot of music and even so, I can honestly say that there was not a moment of monotony for me and I enjoyed all of this immensely. It left me wanting for more even after hours of listening pleasure. The rock-fusion-jazz jam band compositions I heard were simply phenomenal. I am really kicking myself now for not checking them out live before they broke up. They not only reminded me of the Dead but I heard some Frank Zappa influences, particularly with their lyrics and phrasing. This awe-inspiring set gives unequivocal proof of the genius of Phish and the awesome musicianship at their command in their prime. It's a cryin' shame we cannot enjoy any new material from them, and then again, there is their catalog of studio albums and amazing live shows like this that will never get old. There is always something new to discover in one of their songs. Those are the things that separate the men from the boys and the legends from the fly-by-night bands. Phish was a great band with few equals. Their following was on the same level as Garcia and friends with good reason, one listen to this and its obvious why.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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