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Monday, October 15

Album Review" Traveler - Trey Anastasio - 2012

Trey Anastasio
ATO Records

Phish and by extension, it’s individual members, have always struggled under the label of bands that make weak albums but truly shine in concert. I remember lining up for Hoist in high school and being underwhelmed. Then after hearing “Down with Disease” and “Wolfman’s Brother” live, completely changing my opinion of the material. Although, to be fair, I was such a raging Phishhead at the time, they could have crapped in a crystal-case and I would have camped out for days but that is neither here nor there.
The new album from Trey has already been labelled divisive by some of my compatriots and on first listen, it fits my “Trey album” profile.  It seems like nothing special but I’m sure these sounds will translate well onto the stage. I’m a little disappointed that he chose to include “Clint Eastwood” on the release. I love the song live but I think it is space that could have been used better for another track.  “Frost” is an unobtrusive track that I like and could see enjoying in concert, for a breather.  The problem with Trey solo material is that you can’t help but compare the live experience and how it will translate into performance spaces. For example, I love “Ether Sunday” live but on the record it’s a little flat. I have no doubt Trey has a great time making these albums and that really is the point, isn't it? For me, in the light of the last couple of years of epic Phish, I’m glad to have the old Trey back again.  Like the line in “Land of Nod”, “I was asleep for so long” its just good to hear Trey having a good time again.  So yes, I am not super excited that “Let Me Lie” made the track-list but there are worse things that TAB has laid down on wax.  The jam on “Scabbard” leads nicely into “Clint Eastwood” and of course, Jennifer Hartswick kills it as usual.  So once again we are treated to a track-list of tunes that probably won’t get a lot of spins on your ipod/cd player, whatever your choice may be. The genius of TAB is the way these tunes are blueprints that go from mere sketches to full-blown orchestral movements on stage.  From the pure pop to the swinging funk, it’s all there. Of course, the cheesy lyrics are there on “Architect” to indulge the need for the bumper sticker quotes.
What I hear when I listen to TAB albums is a master at work. Not everything is a classic but it’s enjoyable hearing a man surrounded by people he respects doing what he loves. There are no “First Tube” or “Sand” style jams on this disc but in my humble opinion, the energy and musicianship make it a decent addition to the TAB canon. “Valentine” is a worthy addition to the TAB set-list with it’s tempo changes and the sound we've come to expect from Trey. “Traveler” is a good song that could make it to a Phish set-list but I see it as a set closer in an intimate TAB show that I would have a great time at and walk out satisfied and smiling. So this album is another in a long line of Trey solo albums that has potential. With the addition of Peter Katis as producer and the different guests from notable indie bands it had potential to go completely off the typical radar of Trey album, to the dismay of many this album didn't.  That's not to say that it doesn't sound different, new or fresh, because in many ways it does, but it has Trey's hand-print on it more than ever. I probably won’t ever listen to it by itself but the next time I catch a TAB show, I’m not going to be upset by hearing any of the tracks on it. Except  “Let Me Lie”, I just don’t like that song. Overall, a solid effort and still very listenable for a Trey solo album. However, it makes you realize how much of a collective Phish really is and how important the rest of the band is to great music they make.  So, in conclusion, it’s one for the completest but I would rather just buy a ticket and see the man live. Like Marvin & Tammy said, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby”.
Words: Greg Heffelfinger
1. Corona
2. Let Me Lie
3. Frost
4. Land of Nod
5. Pigtail
6. Scabbard
7. Clint Eastwood
8. Architect
9. Valentine
10. Traveler
Purchase the album HERE
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