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Billy Breathes
Billy Breathes
Genres: Alternative Rock, Jazz, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1

You're either a believer or you're not when it comes to this hugely popular live band. Well, the lines get blurred here, just as they did a quarter century ago on the Grateful Dead's American Beauty. As he did with the Da...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Phish
Title: Billy Breathes
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 2
Label: Elektra / Wea
Original Release Date: 10/15/1996
Release Date: 10/15/1996
Genres: Alternative Rock, Jazz, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock
Styles: Jazz Fusion, Jam Bands, Rock Jam Bands
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 075596197120, 0075596197168, 755961971202

You're either a believer or you're not when it comes to this hugely popular live band. Well, the lines get blurred here, just as they did a quarter century ago on the Grateful Dead's American Beauty. As he did with the Dave Matthews Band, producer Steve Lillywhite puts a crisp stamp on 13 likable, easy-going songs and instrumentals. --Jeff Bateman

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Member CD Reviews

Joshua B. (littleborge) from ATHENS, GA
Reviewed on 11/23/2020...
One of the better Phish studio releases is contained within this disc. It is clearly a settling down of the more wacky songwriting on the first few releases and is defined by the clean production from Steve Lillywhite (who also produced fellow H.O.R.D.E. tour dudes Dave Matthews Band). This is less a band of merry pranksters and more a radio-friendly jam band a la American Beauty...with radio-friendly song lengths. And to that end, if I may editorialize for a moment, I don't "get" live Dead and that is my cross to bear. Live Phish is more relatable as a unique and enjoyable undertaking. And I understand there's a whole "thing" with the live experience for Jerry and Trey. But if I'm not at the show then it probably doesn't make sense to listen to the show unless it's a straight-up nostalgia trip. So Dick's Picks #4,321 and Slip Stitch and Pass are going to take a backseat to American Beauty and Billy Breathes every time for me. It's like Junie Jones said to Grandpa Miller, "You have five dollars. I need five dollars. BOOM! Do the math!"
Elizabeth F. (celeria)
Reviewed on 8/7/2006...
Relaxing, mellow. Good for driving.

CD Reviews

Phish's Best By Far
David W. Madeira | Nashville, TN USA | 06/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With the end of the last of the great live rock bands coming near, and taking the studio albums that have spanned Phish's entire career into account, this album remains the band's best by far. From a standpoint that considers composition, performance, production, and general album aesthetic flow, this record is simply unparalleled.Those who would ignorantly dismiss Phish as a stereotypical "jam band" would do well to educate themselves with a thorough listen to "Billy Breathes." I'm not saying Phish isn't a jam band--indeed, they are THE jam band--but Phish completely transcends the negative stereotype of the genre, especially in "Billy Breathes." From the beginning to the end, this record shows the band's wide range of abilities: from full out rocking solos to perfectly-articulated, through-composed, rhythmically and melodically sound compositions. It is this balance of so many areas that makes Phish as great as they are.The album opens with two songs that are now staple goods in live Phish shows, two of the band's many signature rock anthems, "Free" and "Character Zero." These songs draw you in and show the band's ability to rock, and "Waste," a semi-charged anthem carries the flow of the album from the rock into the rolling melodic style of the rest of the album."Taste" is one of the greatest and most underappreciated songs in Phish's repertoire, probably because of the difficulty it presents in a live atmosphere. This studio cut, however, is nothing less than phenomenal. The song opens with the guitar and piano in a fast 6/8 feel juxtaposed over a duple-meter 2/4 feel by Fishman on the cowbell. The cowbell is more prominent, and you feel your foot tapping in 2/4 until Trey starts singing in 6/8 and the aesthetic whiplash that results takes a few moments to recover from but leaves your mind stimulated and ready to go for the rest of the track. After the second verse and chorus, the drums lock into 6/8 establishing a final sense of completeness for the beginning of the development. The final jam that carries the song to its brilliant climax is of the utmost quality. The guitar and bass moving stepwise up the D-scale while Page plays (circular?) chords in the treble of the keyboard carry you right in to the final resounding chords which conclude the piece. "Taste" is the kind of song that anyone who thinks Phish is a "stupid hippie jam band" would do well to listen to and then go play in front of a bulldozer.Another highlight to the album is "Talk," a beautiful acoustic ballad that again shows the talent behind the band's writing. Trey picks on a C chord with a stepwise chromatic line descending from the tonic all the way down to E, at which point the pattern is repeated. When Page comes in with a simple but profound little line in thirds over the top, the effect is chilling to the bone. The song doesn't develop much from there, it is a quaint little ballad where less is so much more than most other bands can put together.What follows "Talk" is another gem of Phish's repertoire, "Theme from the Bottom." Page opens the the song with a simple melody line that begins on D and F# but widens chromatically on both ends as it progresses outward to larger intervals. After a few progressions of this the rest of the band enters in a tasteful groove with the guitar and bass arpeggiating in harmony with each other. The song proceeds through the verse and chorus (a nice alternation between moving melodic lines and then chords) a few times, and after the second chorus a jam sets in that utilizes one of Phish's trademarks: one chord is established, and then the tonic of that chord becomes an extended pedal tone as the band moves around different embellishments. In this case, Trey and Mike crank out the pedal tone while Page hammers out different extensions of chords, moving up and up the keyboard as the chord grows and grows. At the climax, the instruments fade out and the band sings a beautiful a capella progression--a play on the words in the title--and the instruments slowly move back in. Another enormous build ensues, and as everything swells each instrument slowly loses its rhythm, as every musical element (rhythm, harmony, form, melody) fades away except for that one tonic "D" note which grows out of everything else. It's a brilliant ending, one that seems so simple but took such a brilliant band to come up with.The title track, "Billy Breathes," is simply gorgeous. It is an instrumental masterpiece, and a good deal of the credit must surely go to Steve Lillywhite, the producer, who is basically behind the wheel of every great band's greatest album. A complex harmonic structure used in such a way that you may never notice is supplemented by tasteful brushes on the drums, accentuated by a simple but effective organ solo, and reinforced by some great banjo playing in the background. Trey's guitar solo is one of the best I have ever heard. It is clearly a written solo, and it could not have been written for the style any better. One of the best guitar solos out there in terms of taste and aesthetics.The album begins to resolve with two interesting little pieces, "Swept Away" and "Steep," before going back to its roots with a powerful rock ballad "Prince Caspian," another epic finale tune that pops up now and again at live shows.All in all, you can't beat this album. If you don't think you like Phish, listen to this and repent. If you have heard a little Phish and would like to get better acquainted, this is it. Simply put, buy it. You'll be glad you did."
This may be the best one yet
jovaldo | 04/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Kudos to Phish for once again stepping out, doing what they want to do, making the album they want to make (and isn't that the reason we all love them so much!)I saw my first Phish show many, many years ago in front of less than 1,000 people (evidence that I'm not a newbie...and why do some Phish fans get snobby about new fans?) So I remember the club days, the wild experimental days...and I can honestly say, I don't think this album is out of line. Phish is all about changing, evolving, testing the limits (and their own limits), etc. This is a change for them...a test of sorts. If you look at wonderful past albums like "Junta," "Rift," "Lawnboy," "Picture of Nectar" we see the band trying to "re-create" jams in the studio, which somewhat worked. Here though, the band has crafted true songs, that in some ways are actually more open to being experimented with. Sure, songs like "Talk," "Train Song," & "Waste" will be performed live pretty much like they are on album, but songs like "Taste," "Free," "Theme From the Bottom," & "Character Zero" have opened up into monstrous live jams that can be extremely unpredictable (see the version of "Taste" on "Slip, Stitch & Pass" or find a tape of the 35-40 minute version "Free" performed a few years ago.) The band is to be praised not only for the fact that they tried something new (a cohesive set of songs that wouldn't be "live" studio takes), but because they tried it & it worked! (And no "Hoist" doesn't qualify for the above had some great songs, but wasn't at all cohesive.)Who can deny that the Bliss>Billy Breathes>Swept Away>Steep>Prince Caspian segue is a thing of beauty? So what if these are slow songs, or if they cover serious subject matter...that isn't a bad thing. It's just different from what most people were expecting (and thumbs up to the band for not being complacent...change is good!) I'm not saying this is what I want Phish to sound like forever more (they've even changed greatly with "Story of the Ghost"), but it is a nice document of what they were like for this particular point in time...still the best band in the world (although they were a kinder, gentler Phish.)The fact is that Phish is primarily loved as a live act, and they should be, that's what they're the best at doing. Any of their three live albums ("A Live One," "Slip, Stitch & Pass" or "Hampton Comes Alive" --the last being the best) or any live tape can't compare with actually being at a concert, so why should their studio efforts be compared to being at a concert? The answer is simple: it shouldn't. There's live Phish, taped live Phish, and studio Phish. Three very different entities all to be loved and enjoyed in different ways because they fulfill different needs for the band and/or fans."