Bananafish in Boston

Bananafish in Boston

Bananafish in Boston a great album for music lovers who enjoy genre-blending with purpose and poise. There isn’t a pigeonhole for this wonderful, wide-ranging and thoroughly enjoyable record.

Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a great album for music lovers who enjoy genre-blending with purpose and poise. There isn’t a pigeonhole for this wonderful, wide-ranging and thoroughly enjoyable record.

Here is a curiosity of an album that, on its 25th anniversary, is seeing a remastered release to celebrate. Bananafish may well have passed you by but this jam band from the 90s had Fordham Murdy fronting a very skilful band of musicians. Fordham who? I hear you ask…well, he is better known these days as Reverend Freakchild who has been impressing all and sundry on his recent CDs…try the brilliant Bodhisattva Blues or last year’s Supramundane Blues reviewed here on Bluesdoodles for starters.

Bananafish were a Boston based rock ‘n’ roll jam band with roots firmly in the Grateful Dead camp of brilliant, innovative and spontaneous music that often defied the pigeonholes of blues, rock and even psyche. The double CD, Boston Bananafish, features one disc of a dozen vocal tunes a second of seven instrumentals, recorded in Boston and Brookline in 1993, ‘94 and ‘96. The personnel varied across the years but Fordham and Dan Simone were constants. (If you want to research further, be aware that the band share their name with a manga comic/anime series and a number of other musicians.)

This collection has been made possible only by the technology that allowed the original tapes to be baked to ensure they didn’t crumble before transfer to digital…considering the challenges, the sound quality is first-rate.

Apart from a Beatles cover, the hand of the Rev (or Fordham) is behind them all and so you can be sure of some great music…with such a wealth of tracks, I will list my personal favourites, but that is not a criticism of those I don’t mention.

The vocal tunes first, and I have to go with the brilliantly manic Red Car Coming which is rockabilly with attitude, skill and fun writ large…imagine The Goons had formed a band and transferred the daft noises and lyrics of Neddy Seagoon, Bluebottle and “I’ve fallen in the water” Eccles! Slide guitar is one of my favourite disciplines and Luck and Work has a great solo (as does the organ) with some fabulous blues chord work, bass, keys and drums elsewhere. It has a loose but tight sort of Lou Reed feel and is fascinating and addictive. Underneath the Porch is a lesson in judicious pedal use as the psyche backing and melodies inject a bit of blues funk too. The only disappointment is the lack of a solo, but the song is strange enough to get away with it.

Talk Good About Me is an eight-minute Dead jam recorded live. It meanders but entrances as the piano and guitar build a Salisbury from Heep feel to the subtle vocals. The guitar is a little low in the mix for the solo but rewards perseverance. The Beatles’ (or Cocker’s) With a Little Help From My Friends wraps up the vocal disc and, in The Rev’s hands, it is now a countrified blues that works on two levels: it is still recognisable and is totally new…no mean achievement.

The instrumentals are all genius, but my favourites have to be the funk-based but bluesy guitar drenched Planet Garbonzo. The Zappa like Smoking Gaia is a feat of instruments in perfect harmony and layers of rock to discover too.

Avereen takes Celtic influences and weaves them through some proggish rock and jazz patterns and time changes and has some great bass lines pinning it all down. The final track, Nobody, has an Ash layer (!), more prog, more rock, more jazz and somehow it all knits and works.

This is a great album for music lovers who enjoy genre-blending with purpose and poise. There isn’t a pigeonhole for this wonderful, wide-ranging and thoroughly enjoyable record.

Bananafish in Boston

Track listing:
CD 1
What’s Been Going On
Red Car Coming
Luck & Work
Casey And Hayes
Holding On
Underneath The Porch
Nobody’s Fault
Keep On Keeping On
Talk Good About Me (Live)
Penumbra (Thank You – I’m Sorry)
Belpre At Night
With A Little Help From My Friends

CD 2
Mrs. Moriarty
Planet Garbonzo
Smoking Gaia
Mauve
Avereen
Crazy Karma
Nobody

Musicians:
Fordham Murdy: vocals, guitars
Dan Simone: keyboards, vocals
Ben Chen, Ry Cavanaugh: bass
Joe Bulkin, Dave Barrett, Marcus Gratama: drums
Matt Rae: guitar

Connect with Bananafish across SOCIAL MEDIA
Official Website
Instagram

(Next in line on my iTunes is The Band and the piano-led boogie of Shine the Light…I really should give them more time.)

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