The London Session, the newest album by Umphrey's Mcgee is a brilliant masterpiece full of rich textures, sophisticated arrangements, thought-provoking ingenuity and surprising twists and turns. Here's how I found out about it...
Before last year, I had never heard the music of Umphrey's Mcgee- I had only heard of them. Do I live under a rock, you may be wondering? No.
At a small club in Los Angeles one night last year, Umphrey's drummer, Kris, sat in with the progressive, experimental math rock band Gryphon Labs. He blew me away with his spastic, yet instinctive, groovy drum solo. It sounded like a cross between tribal rhythm and high energy/complexity skilled professional rock. I became suddenly very interested in hearing this band. I went on line and listened to several tracks of Umphrey's Mcgee and started watching their live videos. The London Session struck me as very good from the very first listen. Now having listened to it many times and having played it for friends and family, it is definitely an important part of my music collection. It was apparent right away that Umphrey's Mcgee is a band of high musical sophistication-all of them have a firm grasp of music theory and each is a master of his instrument. It is also obviously apparent that these musicians have logged many hours in together creating this style that they play and crafting each individual song into a masterpiece. The London Session album was recorded by the group in the legendary Abbey Road Studio in which The Beatles recorded Abbey Road many years ago so it has an interesting connection to history.
I was pleasantly surprised how much variety there is in musical styles on this album-at times it rocks really hard and at other times is soft and sweet. Each song has a unique approach by the band. The vocal harmonies are incredible, particularly on "No Diablo"-the duet for the melody line has the ability to pull at the heart strings. There are some poetic moments in the lyrics. No one song blows me away more than the fifth track "Out of Order". I enjoy this song the most for two reasons: it is a real showcase of Kris's most amazing and definitive drumming-wild unencumbered rhythm tangents and the jam is epic, completely mind-boggling. The extended instrumental jam is built on two different grooves and it seamlessly ricochets from the first groove to the second. The result for the listener is a mind trip experience of epic quality. It certainly takes you somewhere way outside of the here and now.
The band's tribute to the Beatles "She's So Heavy" is a respectful salute to the original.
The only thing I would add to this group is a deep, soulful singer with a big grizzly bear voice belting out the melodies. I think that would compliment the intelligent arrangements of these well-written songs in a delightful way. In conclusion, this album is a ten out of ten. This band is really exceptionally good. They clearly do their homework. I found this to be an excellent introduction to this band for me. I can't wait to listen to more! Everyone should listen to this album!