(Stream is SBD Ghost->Lizards, DL is just Ghost and audio from phishshows.com due to LP release)
Background (Ghost Position: Set 2 – Song 4 of 6)
During the legendary Island Tour, Ghost is played in Providence towards the end of the second set. It is the fourth song, in a set where every song was at least ten minutes. The Island Tour is well known for its heavy funk and this Ghost is no different. This version is also well know for being “radio un-friendly”. I have included Lizards and the awesome segue. Who doesn’t love Lizards?
Composed Section (1:32-4:23)
The intro to Ghost includes some fantastic banter from Trey and Fish. They announce that Ghost is “radio un-friendly” because it is “really long, and really slow”. Fish laughs it up about how “they hate that”. Talk about a great lead in!
After a Trey count off, Ghost drops at the 1:32 mark. This is a very solid start that is upbeat and funky. As it is the case with many of the Island Tour songs, this composed section gets some extra funk, and some extra love. You can certainly hear the enthusiasm in their voices and instruments. The solo section has that little extra fun kick. There is a pretty long pause and a great drop in. Great intro, you have to love Island Tour.
Intro Jam (4:23-6:09)
The jam begins with some sectioned off playing and then Fish sets the pace to funk. After the sectioning, the jam breaks down very quickly. Trey and Page play almost nothing, allowing for Mike and Fish to take things down. Mike’s bass lines are basically steps we take on the way down to the spaced out funk hole.
Things start to get super spacey around the 5:30 mark. Trey plays a lick at 5:48 that always makes me think of Western. It makes me feel like Trey brought a holstered pistol to this funk fight. At 6:00, Mike finds a deep tone that really gives some life to the jam.
Wading through the Funk Sea (6:10-8:30)
At 6:10 Trey plays hands down, one of my favorite series of notes. Seven seconds that seems to stay with me forever. The jam moves into a new direction from there. Mike continues to take the jam down, while Trey solos through the murky funk that surrounds Providence. Fish locks this beat down and allows for the band to navigate their way through this section. Trey is very controlled and is in perfect harmony with everything else going on.
At 7:10, Trey starts to take things up a bit, and Page sees it as the perfect time to move to the piano. At 7:17, Page hits the keys and start to bring rays of light to this dark jam.
At 7:43 Trey holds a note for a bit, and Fish uses this opportunity to push the pace. As Fish pushes things, Page starts to play bigger chords, while Trey and Mike move around the jam.
The Build (8:30-11:30)
At 8:30, Trey starts to repeat a riff over and over to help build the jam. Mike climbs with Trey, while Page plays delivers some beautiful chord work over the top. Everyone starts to become louder and louder as each measure passes. Page is especially killing this section. When everyone locks down space, and they are in this build, Page can really shine. For my money, he is as good as anyone in the business at taking in all the sounds around him and finding what will blend perfectly.
The great thing about this build is the patience being shown by the band. Trey latches onto the build groove he has created and never lets go. When Big Red does deviate from the build groove, it is just for a second, and within the construct of the build. Fish is locked onto the beat he started at the 7:43 mark, and does not move. Gordon moves within the jam providing the appropriate texture for this section.
Gordon Bass Line Injection (11:30-14:15)
Around the 11:30 mark, Trey has started to solo a bit more and veer off the path a bit. At 12:10, Trey is repeating a fast lick and building tension. Mike starts to play a very scary bass line that sounds like it belongs in a horror movie. Trey continues to climb, though things have taken a step back from the build.
At 13:05 Mike finds a bass line that gives new life to the jam. Page drops some heavenly notes around the serious groove from Mike. Trey solos around it beautifully, and does some gorgeous playing in this section.
Blues Brothers take over the Island Tour (14:15-17:20)
At 14:15, Trey starts playing the theme from “Can’t Turn You Loose”. Although recorded by Otis Redding, and played by many others, it is the Blues Brothers I always think of when I hear this tune. Very cool spot for Trey to infuse it, as the jam was looking for a place to go.
It starts to really pick up steam by the 14:30 mark. As with a lot of covers, Phish does a great job with it.
The “Can’t Turn You Loose” theme is short lived and a very cool outro jam comes from it. Page and a fast paced Fishman blend some great melodies as they set up a very cool transition to Lizards. Great outro and even better segue.
Island Tour is legendary for many reasons. Many people call it the best run in Phish history. A very solid Ghost, with a fantastic build, but not a version that I would not put in the upper tier. Page had some top notch playing in sections, and this Ghost flows very well. It is well played and “Can’t Turn You Loose” is very cool. I view Island Tour Ghost as a solid part of the run, just not one of the defining moments. It never reaches that next level I am always looking for in order to give out the highest scores.
Great Video of this Ghost is embedded below