Recording information: Colchester, VT (02/2013); Hopkinton, MA (02/2013); Colchester, VT (04/2013); Hopkinton, MA (04/2013).
Photographer: Chuck Anderson.
Here's the thing. Mike Gordon is the bass player from Phish. Even though he is also a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, filmmaker, and a whole lot of other things, and has several solo albums and other projects under his belt, the frame of reference for Gordon is always going to be Phish, in the same way that whatever Ringo Starr does is always backlit by the fact that he was the drummer for the Beatles. Helping this perception along, though, is Gordon's penchant for mixing the same elements into his solo albums as Phish always did, crafting songs that ride on thick grooves, always shifting and expanding, full of space and turns, and lyrics as whimsical and fleeting as rainbow smoke. Overstep is a case in point. Produced by Paul Q. Kolderie (the first time Gordon has used an outside producer on one of his solo projects), with songs co-written by Gordon and longtime collaborator Scott Murawski, and featuring the drumming of Matt Chamberlain, Overstep unfolds exactly like a Phish album. The songs twist and turn in the same fashion (although Gordon brings more pure pop touches to the table than Phish does) and a kind of warm whimsy invades everything. The opener, "Ether," sets the tone, and Gordon sings that he gets seen by a Cyclops, launched into the sky, and in the sky he finds rocket components which he attempts to assemble into a new girlfriend, and that's just the second verse. In "Tiny Little World," which is set in a coffeehouse, he actually sings "you hot like a hibachi." The reggae-based "Yarmouth Road," which starts out as a song about pouring concrete in a hole and ends up being about a candlelight dinner and renewed hopes as yet unanswered, has a sunny vibe that could even land it on the radio. That's the tone here, and Gordon and his assembled band can play like crazy, which means Overstep is exactly like a pretty good Phish album, quirky and propulsive, light as dragon's breath, full of winks and asides, from Phish's bass player. ~ Steve Leggett