For this week’s column of The Curtain With Josh, I start to delve into one of the most exciting years in the history of the band, 1993. Phish had spent much of the late 80’s and early 90’s touring the country non-stop in efforts to expose new listeners to the band. 1993 was a year full of not only changes for Phish, but for our country as a whole. President Clinton was firmly entrenched in the White House and our country was enjoying a period of economic boom and prosperity. Phish took the country by storm and 1993 proved to be one of the most important years in the bands history.
There are several different areas that one could take a look at when examining 1993. I decided that given the significance of the year, in order to do it justice, I could not just dedicate one post to the entire year. Over the next several weeks, I will examine the many changes the band made that helped them spread their music well beyond the Northeast, and become a touring powerhouse.
I would like to begin by examining the impact of the release of their fourth studio album, Rift. On February 2, 1993, Rift was released via Elektra Reocrds. Having been recently signed to Elektra, the album was the band’s major label debut and their second “concept album.” The first being 1987′s The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, but that was never officially released. The songs on the album seek to convey the experiences of a man dreaming about the rift in his relationship with his girlfriend.
For me, Rift is one of my favorite studio works by the band and ranks right up there with 1996’s Billy Breathes. The albums 15 tracks clocks in at just under 68 minutes. The contributions Rift has made to the bands live sound are immeasurable. Songs like “Maze”, “My Friend, My Friend”, “Fast Enough For You”, “Mound”,”The Wedge”, “It’s Ice”, “Weigh”, “The Horse”, “Silent in the Morning” and “All Things Reconsidered” would go on to become fan favorites in the band’s live repertoire. The album is also a favorite of many longtime fans.
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One of the advantages of being signed to Elektra was that it added significant financial resources to the band. The band brought in Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section alum Barry Beckett to produce the album. The result is perhaps the bands most polished sounding album to date. This is in stark contrast to the raw sound that Tchad Blake brought to the Undermind sessions.
For me, Rift produced one of the most beautiful and moving songs in the Phish catalog, “Fast Enough For You.” “FEFY” made its live debut on November 19, 1992 at Ross Arena in Colchester, VT. The song focuses on what relationships might be like if the burden of time was lifted from them. What if there wasn’t that pressure that we all feel in our day to day lives of racing toward the next big milestone or crisis that needs resolution? The song tells a very poignant story and while many fans will always have mixed feelings about the bands many ballads, “FEFY” seems to receive praise throughout the community as a not only welcome change of pace during a set, but now as a rarity that many fans want to hear. While I have actually have never heard the song performed live, the simple melody and heartfelt lyrics make hearing any version of “FEFY” a treat. Be sure to check out the live debut, which features Gordon Stone on pedal steel guitar. You can download the show here (compliments of the Phish Google Spreadsheet).
For next week, I am going to take a look at some of the fruits of being signed to a major label that allowed Phish and their crew to upgrade their equipment. The band also made the move to outdoor amphitheaters and larger arenas. If you don’t own Rift, you can head on over to Live Phish and purchase the album (It’s not on Spotify!). Don’t forget that Phish donates a portion it’s from LivePhish.com purchases to The Mockingbird Foundation.
Check out this performance of “Fast Enough for You” from August 8, 1993.