fErvor oF tHe mEadow

Location: New York, United States

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

the Cheese Strikes Again

Studio albums from a jam band have always been a paradox. The grand-pops of Jam Bands (read, the Grateful Dead) was too inconsistent with their studio productions (except, American Beauty etc.), Phish was more-or-less successful with their efforts like Picture of Nectar, Hoist, Junta, Rift etc. and ‘course the same goes for Allman Brother Bands. But undoubtedly, the magic of jam music such as, the extended leads, the impromptuness of the player, the enigmatic trips, and overall a fun flow between the players and the audience is difficult to capture always in a studio slot. May be this is the reason why Zero, or Steve Kimock never tried for a studio album.

Perhaps, when the Colorado quintet “String Cheese Incident” planned to create one more studio album, after their mind blowing series of forty albums from “On the Road” series, they kept these things in mind. Their previous studio endeavors like Born on the Wrong Planet, Outside –Inside were having a fair ratio in terms of respect and acceptance term for the cheese friends. Reason? Possibly the studio albums can not produce the actual flair of Cheese, the sheer jamming talent of cheese guys needs time to build up, which is impossible to achieve in a studio album. Secondly, the SCI freaks captured all the songs of the studio albums, later from live recording, where ofcourse the songs belong to a different dimensions. Truly, pieces like “lands end” , “100 years flood” , “pirates”, “texas” , “jellyfish” etc. etc. are so cult jam tracks for any cheese fan, it is difficult to acquaint these tracks as studio recording, where they have to, “start up the jam-reach the crescendo – and slide down” in a mere four to five minutes. The SCI guys knew these very well, and that’s why their latest studio offer “untying the not” is so unusual yet astounding from their rest studio albums.

SCI is always very experimental, and they proved the same again and again in the UTN. The album has thirteen tracks, out of them only five are instrumental (mind this :P ). The album begins with a track called “wake up”. The starting bass and key notes of Moseley and Kyle set a bluesy mood in the ambience. It is really a Zen track, wonderful positive lyrics. The next song “sirens” start from where “wake up” left, and again a punch of good lyrics and music, worth mentioning the Harmonica solos of Keith (boy! He also plays the bass) and Kang’s re- defined mandolin solos. The album reaches the crescendo with their five nonstop instrumental efforts, stretched to the music world of blue-grass, jazz, funky, Celtic whatever you can name! SCI free flowed to different genre and spirits of music so easily in such a short period of time, you will leave wondering about their talents as always. They showed that they are highly inspired by “concept albums” too, for example, the track “Orion’s Belt”; the first instrumental track of the five sets up a very jazzy mood, inspired by “Us and Them” from DSOTM.

The track “mountain girl” once again proved the brilliance and futuristic mind of SCI music, it’s a track where Carolyn “mountain girl” Garcia (Jerry Garcia’s long time girl friend), tells some story and Cheese fills up the gaps with some deep-spaced, funky dreamy music.

The album finishes with a track called “on my way”, taking the title from their all time popular encore “way back home”. May be this is the best way to end up an album?

The musicianship of SCI is always myth. I can’t spend one more word on the same. All the five guys are more than ideal. With this album, SCI also demonstrated that they are easily capable of diversifying from playing long, wonderfully intricate, transcendent jams rooted in a single song, perhaps for what they are actually celebrated.

If you are new to SCI I will advice to grab few live shows first, or atleast listen to few sound checks from their official web site. Nevertheless, it’s a must buy for any Cheese freak, only to feel the sheer dimensions of their music and sense still how much these guys can offer.


Band - String Cheese Incident
Album - Untying the Not (2003)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Under the Table and Dreaming

Dave Matthews Band can really claim to be one of those bands who came out with a sound they could call their own. Heavily influenced by South-African music Dave Matthews and company create a very different sound which comes out very strongly in their first major record release called “Under the table and dreaming”. The compositions and the mix greatly complement the picture they have on the album cover where there is a stream of people traveling on a dream carousel. The album is a good ride with the rich blend of music that the band has thrown in which complements the carousel effect. Quite a few numbers are swingers and literally set your feet tapping. It’s a mix of heady beats and nice punch of jazzy renditions. Dave Matthew’s voice also adds to the uniqueness. A lot of individual virtuosity has been shown by the people who contributed to the music of the album. Tim Reynolds who plays excellent acoustic guitar, which is quite prominent throughout the album deserves a special mention. There are a few tracks where John Popper the famous shredder from Blues Traveler does his little bit. The song “dancing nancies” quite nicely blends a lot of styles of music, including superb violin solos and nice acoustic runs, and is the closest to the jam renditions of the so called jam bands. The song warehouse also adds some spice to the album. A little bit of Afro music thrown in-between the jaunty song really makes it very lively. There is also a unique thing about the album which might be interest a few. The last instrumental piece is called #34 which is actually the 34th track in the album. The titles from 17 to 34 are all empty tracks. It can be quite amusing if you have your player thrown into the shuffle mode. Try listening to this when you are driving, it might give you a different experience, an experience which befits the album cover. Overall a very nice album and does no harm to any collection. Good buy.

Band - Dave Matthews Band
Album - Under the Table and Dreaming (1994)