Written by Fumo Verde
Talk about putting magic on disc, Umphrey's McGee has done it again. Pack a fresh one, find the lighter, turn the volume up loud, and enjoy sitting courtside in the studio as you listen to the boys of UM put together another one of their fantastic CDs. The Bottom Half is all about goes deep into how one of the world’s premier jam bands puts together the music we are all coming to love.
Disc one is the ten-track CD that has the songs and jams that didn't make it on their last album Safety In Numbers. There are really only nine tracks because track four is the band discussing a song they want to play, which is track five, but that's just a taste of what they give us. Disc two holds the diamonds in the rough, with songs sung a cappella, short guitar jams that are discussed and will be expanded on in future shows, and other bantering amongst band mates that only studio walls usually get to hear.
Disc one starts with the title track, the unmistakable sound of UM comes alive, and I wonder why these songs didn't make it because they sound great to me. UM's lyrics have a truth to them, a meaning that comes through, giving us something to relate to. "I try not to be rude/ You know how I am/ I tend to bitch and moan…" I personally related to this line myself. "There's not a thing worth remembering when tomorrow brings someone new/ Get used to the thought you can't be what you're not, life has already got plans for you" flows the chorus, followed with the crashing of guitars, horns and drums. The keyboards smooth out the ruckus only to be chased by the flames of guitar riffs burning the song into its final embers.
Track two, “Bright Lights, Big City,” has a ‘70s funk sound as the lyrics flash images of where the band has been and what they have seen. It ends abruptly and leaves you hanging and wanting more. "Great American" follows and is a great jam because it brings in all of UM’s instruments into play, It takes you on a journey that at times feels like you're shooting the rapids of the Colorado river, yet slows down creating that lazy feel at the beach.
Disc two is where the fun really begins for the true fans. Twenty-eight tracks made up of jams and more of the band discussing what they liked and didn't like about what came out of that "last track". Starting off with “Words,” it is sung a cappella and highlights the natural harmony the men have together. No other band is so organic, so real and true to what they are.
One of my favorite tracks is called “Time Eater” and the reason why begins with the track that came before it. As the previous track’s guitar solo ended, the boys were asking the guys at the soundboard how long the solo took. When finding out the answer, the band was happy and stated that that little jam was a "time eater" and that during live shows that jam could be expanded "big time." Sounds great to me! Disc two is the jewel as you listen to songs you've heard before, but here they may sound a little different, and that's pretty cool.
This is a band that needs to be seen live; they have a relationship with the crowd that is hard to find in a world of sound bytes and one-hit wonders. This double CD reveals how a band of this caliber works and thinks. It gives insight to how a band can make music sound like it is done effortlessly. We can hear the effort these guys put into the work they love, which is music we enjoy and keep close to our souls. Thank you, Umphrey's McGee, for giving us, your fans, this chance to see how you guys put it all together. For any UM fan, this is a definite must-have.