Mike Gordon
Inside In


Mike Gordon is obviously well-known for being a member of Phish, of which he is the creative and versatile bass player and - to a lesser extent - a singer and songwriter. The long "hiatus" made it possible for the four members of the band to dedicate themselves to solo projects. I was pleasantly surprised by Clone, the CD that Gordon recorded last year with Leo Kottke, the guitar player that for a long time had been one of Gordon's favourite musicians. A fine photographer and director, Gordon found also the time to make two full-length films: Rising Low, a documentary of the recording sessions of Gov't Mule's The Deep End (two CDs - Gordon appears as a bass player on vol. 1); and Outside Out (now available on DVD) which is a quite surreal movie that was well-received at the time of its release.

Inside In is in a way an extrapolation of the soundtrack to the Outside Out movie, but is a self-sufficient work that can be judged as a separate entity, though it shares some of the themes that appear in the movie.

Those who are familiar with Mike Gordon's work with Phish will find here many familiar traits: his high, colloquial vocals; obviously, those bass part which seem to be so spontaneous but which reveal themselves as the product of a deep compositional intelligence (by the way, in these times when instrumental finesse is at a premium we should rejoice that such a mature, never showy, performances exist); those strange, surreal lyrics; his love for country music.

All traits that are to be found on Inside In, an album where Gordon wrote all music and lyrics and where he plays the bass (obviously) and all the guitars, plus many instruments, some known (keyboards, banjo, accordion), some not ("blue button, vibe tube"?). Country elements are quite apparent on Take Me Out, which opens the CD, and Take Me Out II, the latter featuring Buddy Cage on pedal steel and Vassar Clements on fiddle. Among the instrumental tracks I really liked were Bone Delay, with its bizarre coupling of trombone and pedal steel (the latter instrument played by Gordon Stone, one of the heroes of this record) over an obsessive rhythm that sounds as almost techno; and the nice jam called Major Minor, the moment on this CD that sounds more similar to Phish. There are also songs that are impossible to classify: The Beltless Buckler, Soulfood Man, The Teacher, The Lesson. Nice drums performances by Russ Lawton, from Trey Anastasio's band; also noteworthy are the banjo parts by Béla Fleck and some performances by Jon Fishman.

Fifteen tracks in fifty minutes for an album that ultimately appears to be all of a piece even though its elements are quite dissimilar. Maybe an album that's too individual to be appreciated by a lot of people - but isn't too much uniformity and predictability what we often lament the most in music nowadays?

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003

CloudsandClocks.net | Sept. 7, 2003