Bananafish – Boston Bananafish | Album Review

Bananafish – Boston Bananafish

Treated And Released Records

CD1: 12 tracks; 47 minutes
CD2: 7 tracks; 27 minutes

Reverend Freakchild has become a familiar name to readers over recent years as he has produced a steady stream of idiosyncratic releases that have referenced Hendrix, eastern mysticism and the Grateful Dead, amongst others. What may not be so familiar is this band which was based in Boston in the 1990s, led by vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Fordham Murdy who would later become Reverend Freakchild.

These recordings date from the period 1993 -1996 and were originally only available off the bandstand; The Reverend has remastered them to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the band’s end point. Most of the material was written by Fordham, with a few contributions from keyboardist Dan Simone. The rhythm section clearly changed a fair bit, bassists Ben Chen and Ry Cavanaugh working with drummers Joe Bulkin, Dave Barrett and Marcus Gratama. Matt Rae adds lead guitar to four of the tracks. The material is a mix of almost everything: jam band, rock, blues, folk, jazz and psychedelia. The first CD is classed as ‘Songs’, the second as ‘Instrumentals’.

The first CD opens strongly with melodic rocker “What’s Been Going On?” which is very much in line with bands of the period like Hootie & The Blowfish. Good guitar and attractive piano work feature though the lyrics are fairly repetitive. Far less convincing is “Red Car Coming” which has a frenetic, garage-rock approach, combined with wordless asides by Fordham; fortunately it’s a very short cut. “Luck & Work” chugs along with indistinct vocals and the tale of an ill-fated romance “Casey And Hayes” is enhanced by some good piano work.

“Holding On” is more country flavored, one of the tracks featuring Matt Rae’s solid fretwork. “Underneath The Porch” features psychedelic guitar and some fairly incomprehensible lyrics about getting high. “Nobody’s Fault” bounces along on acoustic guitars, reminding this reviewer of Paul Simon’s early solo albums while “Keep On Keeping On” and the extended live track “Talk Good About Me” sound like outtakes from a Jefferson Airplane album; the vocals on the live track are indistinct. “Penumbra” is a short, frenetic track which is virtually an instrumental, apart from the cry of ‘Bananafish’ – definitely in jam band territory here! Another lengthy tune entitled “Belpre At Night” starts quietly before building in intensity as Fordham wigs out on guitar before the song disc closes with the only cover, Lennon & McCartney’s “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

The instrumental CD opens with two short tunes: “Mrs Moriarty” changes rhythms and times throughout and “Planet Garbonzo” (another track with Matt Rae on guitar) has a jazz-rock feel. “Smoking Gaia” features some driving bass work interspersed with torrid guitar breaks, sparkling piano solo and a percussion breakdown – very strange indeed. “Mauve” and “Avereen” again add Matt Rae’s guitar, the former a fast-paced, jazz-inflected jam with organ and acoustic guitar, the latter a lighter tune with flute-like keyboard effects adding a folkie dimension to the tune. “Crazy Karma” is a short piece driven by the drums and featuring what sounds like vibes before the CD closes with “Nobody”, a longer cut which ranges widely in styles, one moment gentle and pastoral, then a riff-driven rocker, then a discordant section; at times one can just discern the theme of “I Ain’t Got Nobody” (Fats Waller) struggling to emerge.

This set will clearly be of interest to anyone with fond memories of Bananafish back in 1990’s Boston and to those who are fans of Reverend Freakchild and want to track back to his earlier work.

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