Phish's 1992 studio effort shows off Phish's musical intensity, flexibility, playfulness, but also demonstrates a certain amount of growth past the stoned band that played the second disc of Junta, and the silly collegiate antics of Lawn Boy. Which is not to say A Picture of Nectar isn't a fun album--it's one of their most upbeat albums, and has its roots in rock (with clear influences from jazz and bluegrass) as much as their later albums are solidly built around jazz, country, bluegrass, jam and folk, with marbled stripes of rock and roll occasionally appearing in the grain.

The opener, Llama, comes from Trey Anastasio's epic fantasy musical Gamehendge, and Jon Fishman does the tight sprinting drum line a favor by playing it well and loudly. Sprinkled throughout the album are instrumentals like Eliza, Manteca, Magilla, The Landlady, and Faht, which show off the group's unique sound, their focus on playing jazz and rock jams with laid-back precision. They make it feel easy, but the second your brain isolates a measure of music, you can hear how hard they word to make it sound effortless. There's the token country tune, Poor Heart, which you will either love or hate--Gordon Stone makes a bluegrass cameo on banjo and pedal steel, and the group sings silly lyrics in that high lonesome sound common to most bluegrass. Other obligations and homages are taken care of, and then you get to track 9: the Landlady.

The first half of the album is almost a warm up for the pillar of flame that follows them through the second half--Stash is the only hint on the front side that there is going to be more to come, with its mid-album epic jam. As soon as they start The Landlady, the intensity is up a notch, and you can tell Phish had a good day or two in the studio. Glide's lyrics are throwaway elementary verse, but the tight harmonies and Jon Fishman's near-impossible ambidextrous three against four rhythm drives the song into Tweezer. Phish is famous for stretching the jam in Tweezer over half of a set, live, but here, you get it like Slurpee syrup--totally condensed and BANG! right to your head. The Mango Song and Chalkdust Torture are a great doubleheader, there's a short, calm cool-down with Faht and Catapult, and then Phish takes it home with the finale you're expecting from the beginning of Landlady: and who cares if you've already heard it? It's Tweezer Reprise, and it kicks ass, and when the album ends, you're driving over the speed limit, even if you're sitting in your living room.

  1. Llama
  2. Eliza
  3. Cavern
  4. Poor Heart
  5. Stash
  6. Manteca
  7. Guelah Papyrus
  8. Magilla
  9. The Landlady
  10. Glide
  11. Tweezer
  12. The Mango Song
  13. Chalk Dust Torture
  14. Faht ->
  15. Catapult ->
  16. Tweezer Reprise

The cover features an extreme close up of an orange, on which a strangely shaped shadow appears. It is a ghost-image of Nectar Rorris--a "Picture of Nectar." From the liner notes:

"Eight and a half years ago, we played our first bar gig at Nectar's in Burlington, VT. Nectar Rorris, the proprietor, was happy to give us a gig despite our lack of experience, organization, or a song list long enough to last two sets. The night went well enough and soon we were playing a series of monthly three night stands - three sets a night on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Like countless other bands in Burlington's diverse music scene, those nights at Nectar's taught us how to play. We dedicate this album to Nectar Rorris for 16 years of bringing Burlington live music every night of the week with no cover, and the best fries this side of... France."

Lawn Boy-=*{A Picture of Nectar}*=-Rift

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