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ANASTASIO was wise to let it all go. Phish was everything, the meaning of life itself to a dedicated caravan of cultists, an endless jam session of sunshine and formless noodling, and profoundly uninteresting to most everyone else. By dissolving Phish last year, to the great horror of true believers, Anastasio finally set himself free.
It shows on "Shine," his first album (in stores Tuesday) since that breakup. This one isn't about showcasing his playing chops yet again, just songs. And maybe for the first time ever, he encourages himself to get to the point, remaking his memories of '70s folk-rock into polished nuggets of elegant pop melody.
His lyrics are dependably humane and too often bland, but it's the music here that flows and flows, allowing this formidable guitarist a mid-career escape from an extremely lucrative rut. "Tuesday" is energized by psychedelic flavor and classic rock guitar muscle. And if "Sweet Dreams Melinda" is maybe too tropical for its own good, it remains another song-centric work that would fit comfortably on the FM dial between the Kinks and Fleetwood Mac.
These aren't profound new sounds, but Anastasio embraces proven rock formulas and makes them his own, free from the cul- de-sac jams of Phish and the expectations of fans and drifters. Some real pop songs could be good for them, and this album is over in less than an hour. May they follow Anastasio once more down the road.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.