Spin Doctors – Pocket Full Of Kryptonite (Anniversary Edition)
I recently went to a record show and picked up this double disc anniversary edition of Spin Doctors‘ debut studio album. I haven’t listened to the original in quite some time, but I heard this was out and the band has been playing the whole album in concert to promote it and it piqued my interest. I immediately fell in love with this album all over again. 20 years ago I over-played it, as did Radio and MTV, and I got sick of it. I’ve picked up their subsequent releases and I listen to their Homebelly Groove…Live album most often. They are one of the funkier “jam bands” to emerge in the early 90′s and the combination with their pop-songwriting abilities makes for an infectious groove (somebody should use that as a band name -Ha!).
The “doctors of spin” came out of the NYC music scene with Blues Traveler. Singer Chris Barron and Blues Traveler’s John Popper were high school friends and Pocket Full Of Kryptonite has Popper guesting on a few songs. You don’t have to read the liner notes to know which ones either, since Popper’s tone and Yngwie J. Malmsteen approach to harmonica give him away.
The lead off track “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” has been stuck in my head for a week. It’s so damned catchy. I hate it and love it. It has a great premise for a song – Jimmy Olsen in love with Lois Lane keeps a pocket full of kryptonite so Superman can’t interrupt him if he gets his chance with the fiery journalist.
I also forgot how crunchy their guitars are. The music and lyrics have an irresistible whimsy that hides the grit lurking beneath the surface. Guitarist Eric Schenkman plays bluesy fills and uses a variety of chord voicings to keep even the simplest riffs fresh. His methods are in full display on disc 2, which is full of demos and a few live tracks highlighting the progression of the songs that made the final cut for the album. A few of the songs turned up on later releases – “Big Fat Funky Booty” and “Hungry Hamed’s” ended up on Turn It Upside Down (1994).
All together, I’m enjoying the Hell out of this disc. Hopefully I won’t get sick of it again by over-playing it. I’ll have to temper it with some live shows from archive.org.
Phish – Live Phish 15, 10.31.96
Someone in the Allman Brothers forum on Hittin’ The Web posted about how much they hate Phish and that prompted a strangely polite debate on the virtues of Phish. It got me thinking about them and since someone suggested this Halloween show I thought I’d take it off the shelf and give it a spin. Phish wears a musical costume by performing the Talking Heads album Remain In The Light. Of all the Halloween shows featuring Phish in “costume” I enjoy this one the least. I just don’t like the Talking Heads and Phish covering them doesn’t really make it any better for me. However, “Remain In The Light” makes up only one of four discs and that leaves plenty of room for wild Phish jams and quirky musical moments. The spirit of Halloween is alive in other covers too, like AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” and Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
“You Enjoy Myself” clocks in around 23 minutes and features some vocal acrobatics from the band. One of the complaints on the ABB forum was that Phish vocals are no good. I always found their vocal talents quite pleasing and their harmonies are especially good. They occasionally employ fugue and round vocal forms, painting dense harmonic landscapes with just their voices. For guitar junkies like me there is always plenty of six-string workouts at a Phish show and although Trey Anastasio can occasionally meander and “noodle” (as a few people have called it), he usually finds his way and comes up with some inspired solos. In a 23 minute jam it is unreasonable to expect it all to be stellar, and it usually is not but the band is going for it, hoping and working for that transcendent moment when it all comes together. You can’t get there without trying and the guys in Phish keep pushing onward time after time.
What are you listening to?