The Green Sparrow – Mike Gordon
There is an issue with this CD, and I see that Dean has already mentioned it. Most of us simply cant listen to new music by Mike Gordon, or one of his three old friends from Vermont, without thinking of the work they did as a band. In part, this is because most of us have a hard time letting go of the old and bringing in the new. But its also because Gordon and co. were more single-minded for a longer time about being Phish than theyve been about anything else, judging from the available evidence.
The main reason for The Green Sparrows success is that its an exception: Gordon spent all of 2007 writing this material. Still, Gordon has not left Phish entirely behind either. For instance, the instrumental bridge of Another Door proves that Gordon can not only write like early-90s Trey Anastasio, he can even play guitar like him. The two tracks where Anastasio himself appears remind us that the combination of he and Gordon was, and still is, one of the most significant soloist/accompanist unions in rock improv of recent years.
As well, the story this disc tells is what wed expect the story of Mike Gordon, post-2004, to be. A daydreamer (Andelmans Yard) has had to set a new agenda (Another Door) and his strategies include staying in touch with his dreaminess (Radar Blip) and working hard (two lyrics find Gordon urging himself to dig deeper). Its not grim (major keys dominate), but it also avoids the goofiness that typically ensues, sometimes to excess, when Gordon writes. In fact, it shows Gordon doing quite a job at reaching the long-standing Phish goal of putting together a good serious batch of songs.
The closer, Sound, represents the disc well. The lyric tells of Gordon trying to bury past negativity, and not knowing whether hes succeeded. The music, however, is upbeat second-line funk. It demonstrates why the disc may not sway folks who found Phish too light-hearted. The rest of us, though, will welcome the suggestion that there are good things in store for Gordon, and perhaps for his three old friends.