Thursday 07/12/2012 by Lemuria

BEHIND (& BEYOND) SHARIN'

The following was originally published in the second edition ofThe Phish Companion, about Sharin' in the Groove, which was officially released twelve years ago today and quickly became of the fastest selling "tribute" albums of all time.

In December 1999, more than three years after first organizing what would become the first edition of this book, Craig DeLucia had the idea to extend the work of the Foundation to a cover album, also for charity. It fell upon me, as an opportunity and (I felt) a responsibility, to take that project from idea into fruition. It was an immense distraction, the commitment of which I had not anticipated and still cannot fathom. But it became something far more rewarding, even historical, than I could have imagined.

Though the project was kept relatively quiet for most of its execution,ideas were bandied about through emails and telephone calls among Mockingbird regulars, around campfire discussions with close friends, and through the trial-and-error process of figuring out what it takes to convince some people in the music industry that a) I wasn’t in it for anything other than what it was at face value and, b) I didn’t have a budget. Through these discussions, and defenses, Craig’s idea evolved into a multi-dimensional concept, the boundaries of which were only hinted at in the first edition of this book:

It was to be about completion, since a printed guide to the band and their music could be encyclopedic but not complete; time, given the band’s dozen releases with hundreds of originals that combine compositional brilliance and improvisational delivery; timing, with Phish taking their first “extended hiatus” after seventeen years, a break of unknown length and purpose; family, with more than a dozen acts covering the original music of Phish, including parts of the Phish musical family as well as family of some of their greatest influences; diversity, with blues, bluegrass, rock, jazz, barbershop quartet, and folk; careful compositions, integrative improvisations, loose extrapolations, and a capella vocalizations; influences, including those who had performed with Phish, those whose songs Phish had performed, and those who typified genres which had come to bear on Phish’s music; inversion, taking Phish songs back to Phish influences and looking forward to what the band had become, and has yet to be; change with an instrumental version of a song with heavy lyrics, a funk version of a jazz tune, a newgrass version of a rock tune, and an industrial version of a new age ballad; charity, with everyone involved donating their time, services, and expense, and all of the Foundation’s proceeds providing nonprofit support in music education; and sharin’ in the groove, with artists sharing in Phish’s music just as Phish in some way shares theirs.

While far from perfect, it seems to me to have become at least all that, and a bit more. We sold through several printings, and are looking to re-issue it as soon as possible. It became one of the better selling tribute releases ever, one of the few double-disc tributes ever released, and perhaps the most successful of the many fan-generated tributes on the market.

Several of the tracks have entered their contributor’s repertoire. Among them, Tom Tom Club plays “Sand” with abandon, Little Feat plays “Sample in a Jar” occasionally and had it as the first release of their own album at the time, Merl Saunders has played “Julius” variously including several Mockingbird benefit events, DJ Logic has performed “Cars Trucks and Busses” with several other artists, Amfibian explores “The Wedge” live almost as broadly as their contribution here, and Dave Matthews has performed “Waste” solo, with the Dave Matthews Band, and with Trey on their Dave Matthews and Friends tour. The Vermont Youth Orchestra had of course already performed “Guyute,” but Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe had also already performed “Tweezer.”

Regrettably, there were a few errors and omissions (of my doing) in the sixteen-page booklet. Aaron Woolf’s last name is neither Wolfe nor Woolfe, Saun Scallen’s name is actually Shawn Scallen, and Dave Abrahams has four “a”s in his name, not three. Several additional people should have been credited in my own list of thanks for their assistance, input, and effort, including Dennis Schmidt, Bill Taylor, Mark Hudson, Courtney Bresky, Peter Banta, Noah Cole, Jeremy Goodwin, Craig McKenzie, Mark Toscano, and Phillip Zerbo. Much worse, Mike Weitman should have been credited for playing organs on the DJ Logic / John Scofield version of “Cars Trucks Busses.” Last but far from least, Chris Kornmann was acknowledged and credited for his artistic contributions, but deserves extra kudos for his design skills, crisp execution, and early deliver.

As reported by Chris, the cover photo combined images from the Big Cypress shows, also the source of the background image on the back of the jewel case. The image of glowsticks midair behind the CD jewel case (also printed on the “Set I” CD and as a Polaroid-looking insert on the back) was taken at Lemonwheel. The other two Polaroid insert photos were shot in 1999 at Hampton.

The booklet notes also don’t reflect information of which I had not been aware at the time, such as a possible “Master of Puppets” tease at the end of “Chalk Dust Torture,” a possible “Rocky Raccoon” tease in “Gumbo,” and a tease of “Glide” in “Runaway Jim,” or that the jam in “The Wedge” is actually part of a longer45-minute jam. Additionally, at least nine of the tracks edited, added, or deleted lyrics from the songs they performed: “The Wedge” added a verse, “My Friend” was instrumental, “Makisupa” had both added and changed lyrics, “Sand” had added lyrics, “Tweezer” had both deleted and added lyrics, “Julius” only had the chorus sung, “Chalk Dust” lyrics were altered and added to, “Golgi” was instrumental, and “Free” was a completely different song.

Actually, most of the songs changed in some way, and at least three tracks combined songs in interesting ways. For example, as Trey told Billboard (10/3/01) about the VYO’s “Guyute,” “What I did was combine the intro to ‘My Friend, My Friend’ with the middle section of ‘Guyute’, and rewrote all the other parts for woodwinds and stuff. I took some of the sections that Phish did, kind of like that heavy metal section in ‘Guyute,’ and used it to write all new music. That was a result of the four months starting the day after the last Phish show. I’m more excited about that than pretty much anything I’ve done.”

Sidebar:
Mystic Bowie’s toast from “Sand,” as posted by Tina and Chris to the Tom Tom Club message board:

Didn’t choose one religion
Or party in session
Down with the freestyle jam
Yes, man!
Flow through de funnel
Out through de barrel
Equate my life with sand
Can you heal de symptoms
Don’t let me bow down
Hit my face to de ground
Now dat Im falling
Powers Im calling
Rescue me, someone
Have you ever been pistol whipped
Yo, stick it up!
Mista, move no furdah
Some body can stop dis
Wrestle dat pistol
From my hand, someone
We gonna do to de end
Meet me round de bend
And pull me from de quick sand
In a world of turmoil
Hourglass flipped
Time running out on dis man

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