The guy I’m feeling for a bit these days is Mr. Michael Eliot Gordon.
To my mind he has released a gem of an album. The Green Sparrow is whimsical yet personal, familiar yet unpredictable.
However, I’ve read some of the initial press on the disc and while it seems to be generally favorable, it never fully addresses Gordon’s achievement. Instead much of it is tempered by references to the bassist’s longstanding gig with another band (“The Phish,” remember them?).
Yet I’m confident that The Green Sparrow would be engaged in an altogether different manner if somehow Mike’s musical lineage were not entwined with that group but rather linked instead, to say, the freak-folk movement (which if you think about it, is not that implausible). If music critics were liberated from assessing the work of “Phish bass player Mike Gordon,” it might well grant them the license to appreciate (and more significantly, to enjoy) the new disc on its own terms (or nearly so, but alas, at times it seems that outside permission is required).
So okay, the mainstream press is not giving him an altogether fair shake because he’s a member of Phish but he does have hundreds of thousands of longtime supporters whoare not giving him an altogether fair shake because he’s a member of Phish.
Based on what I’ve heard and read here and there, it appears that certain folks otherwise predisposed to Mike’s songs, find themselves a bit reluctant to commit. Now that Trey Anastasio has withdrawn any categorical denials about a theoretical Phish future, many of these fans are ambivalent about whether they should “dig further down” with Mike’s new band because it is seen as a transitional affair before the return of Mike’s old band.
So after devoting a “Year of Daily Songwriting” to this project and assembling a touring group with the stated intent of developing something from scratch, the Patron of the Purple Pants has been hemmed in by talk that “Fulfillment of the Brahphecy Is Nigh.”
It’s really too bad, because unless you’ve been distracted by my repeatedly invoking Phish Phish Phish, I assume you gather that I really dig the new album. This is Mike’s first offering that doesn’t aspire to thrive on quirk alone. Frankly, I doubt he would have developed these songs if he were still out there with Phish. Then again, I also doubt he would have developed these songs if he had never been out there with Phish.
Which admittedly is where it all becomes convoluted. After all, he is “Phish bass player Mike Gordon” even when he isn’t, which I have to believe, by turns, proves both frustrating and gratifying.
Still, my tip of the day is that after you spend a few minutes musing on what “Traveled Too Far” might sound like with Phish (smashing, btw), you should open "Another Door" on its own terms.