Sharin' in the Groove - Celebrating the Music of Phish

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Sharin' in the Groove - Celebrating the Music of Phish (Mockingbird)When it comes to tribute CDs, most are a mixed bag. This one's no different. In fact, it redefines the term. What sets Sharin' in the Groove apart from other tribute albums is the concept taken. Rather than having a bunch of bands doing Phish tunes, the songs are performed by artists who influenced Phish instead of the other way around. The other thing that makes this 2CD collection different is that it's set up to resemble a Phish concert, with two sets and an encore.

Set one starts with Arlo Guthrie & Xavier doing "Bouncing Around the Room." Musically, it's not bad, but Arlo's vocals leave a lot to be desired. Jimmy Buffett's rendition of "Gumbo," on the other hand, is one of the better songs in the collection, and features a great guitar solo towards the end. Listen closely and you'll spot a "Bungalow Bill" tease.

Tom Marshall and Amfibian serve up their version of "The Wedge." While this song was never one of my favorites, it's better than the Phish version, with a cool instrumental jam. The first group to really take the music in a different direction is Hot Tuna, with their stripped down take on "Alumni Blues." Dave Matthews contributes his first ever solo track, "Waste," from the Billy Breathes album.

The Vermont Youth Orchestra's performance of "My Friend My Friend / Guyute" is one of the more interesting cuts included here. Although it's well played, most Phish-heads will probably hear this, go "ohhh-kayyy" and skip it from then on. Still, of all the material that Phish has recorded over the years, "Guyute" is probably the most worthy of the orchestral treatment.

Moving onto disc two, Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe get a nod for most innovative arrangement for their combination of "Tweezer" and "Magilla." Starting with the "Tweezer" melody on bass, "Magilla" comes in over the top for most of the track, and then the vocals from "Tweezer" return at the end. Merl Saunders turns in a cooking, mainly instrumental version of "Julius," but "Cars Trucks Buses" is ruined by Project Logic & John Scofield. This one wouldn't be bad without the scratching, and fades out to the live strains of "Wilson."

The Preston School of Industry rocks their way through "Axilla (Part II)." In a minor typo, the jewel box lists the running time for this one as 10:24, instead of the actual 3:21. Los Lobos may have been an influence on Phish, but "Chalkdust Torture" is absolutely destroyed by the almost punk sound of Los Villains (Louis Perez & David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and their sons' band). In stark contrast, The Boredoms contribute the ethereal, atmospheric "Free (End of Session version)," but you'll be hard-pressed to find any resemblance to "Free."

One of the strangest cuts on Sharin' is the medley of the last three tracks on A Picture of Nectar: "Faht > Catapult > Tweezer Reprise" from Lake Trout. Overall, it's cool, but it's considerably different than what you're probably used to. For the 'encore', FRED serves up a decent acapella version of "Poor Heart," followed by the Stanford Marching Band's big-band take on the first song Phish ever recorded, "Golgi Apparatus."

Sharin' in the Groove is the second fund-raising project of the all-volunteer Mockingbird Foundation, and is available from The Mockingbird Foundation website. All net revenues from the CDs go to music education for children.

Editor's note: There are 2 bonus tracks available exclusively at The Mockingbird Foundation website: "Wolfman's Brother" by Phil Lesh and Friends and "Cars Trucks Buses" by the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

© 2001 Steve Marshall
Purchase this CD from The Mockingbird Foundation