|With so many icons and pioneers from the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age or passing on, it has become ever more important to preserve and archive great performances and artistic creations for future generations to enjoy. Through modern techniques and advancements in recording technology, projects once thought lost are coming back to life. Such a project is from Bananafish, a Boston based rock ‘n’ roll jam band from the 1990’s, which is releasing a 25th anniversary album (2022 remastered release) from recordings that were only previously available at their live shows.
Fronted by vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Fordham Murdy, known now as Reverend Freakchild, the energetic band also consisted of Dan Simone on keyboards, and Ben Chen and then Ry Cavanaugh on bass. The band had a series of drummers starting with Dan Simone when the band was known as The Davenport, before Simone moved full time to keys. Joe Bulkin was then the drummer for a brief time followed by Dave Barrett and then finally Marc Gratama. The band played extensively in the northeast.
The double album features one side of a dozen vocal tunes and another of seven instrumentals, recorded in Boston and Brookline, MA in 1993, ‘94 and ‘96. The original tapes had to be “baked,” in order to be played and then transferred to digital for mixing and re-mastering; an arduous task, that one would only undertake with genuine love and affection for the music.
Reverend Freakchild, who is well known to jam band aficionados and forever fans of the Grateful Dead, wrote or co-wrote all the tracks while leading the group, except, of course, for one Beatles classic reinterpreted the way the Haight Ashbury progenitors might have done. The opening track, ‘What’s Been Going On?,’ rolls out with an easy freewheeling west coast style, followed by the frenetic country punk blast ‘Red Car Coming.’ The Rev then leads the band through the hypnotic groove ‘Luck & Work,’ featuring greasy slide guitar and organ solos.
The southern fried piano driven ramble, ‘Casey and Hayes,’ tells the tale of an ill-fated romance, while the easy-going track ‘Holding On,’ finds the Rev speaking of conquering his demons through hope and diligence. The slinky ‘Underneath The Porch,’ is laced with touches of psychedelia; while ‘Nobody’s Fault’ sails along with some fine piano and guitar work, and the moody ‘Keep On Keeping On,’ has a slow-burning 70’s soul groove. The live track, ‘Talk Good About Me,’ must have sprung from an improvised jam during the band’s heyday of playing clubs around the Boston area. Curiously, the manic track ‘Penumbra,’ is placed on the first disc as the mostly instrumental tune has only one lyric “Bananafish.”
The expansive tome, ‘Belpre At Night,’ paints a picture of the town at the crossroads between North and South on the Ohio river, revealing the band’s instrumental prowess. The two-minute tribute to the Fab Four on a country flavored reading of “With A Little Help from My Friends,” closes disc one as a sweet bonus track.
The seven instrumental tracks on disc two demonstrate the musical telepathy the Bananafish group honed during their years together beginning with the time shifting ‘Mrs. Moriarty,’ then the funky ‘Planet Garbonzo,’ one of three tracks to feature lead guitar work from Matt Rae. The driving ‘Smoking Gaia,’ has great tribal sounds and a Linus and Lucy reference. The rapid-fire double time tune ‘Mauve,’ must have a been a favorite dance track from the band’s live shows, and the sweet sounds of ‘Avereen,’ are a mix of Celtic and Jazz tones. The grinding ‘Crazy Karma,’ could have been from a spy movie soundtrack, while the dynamic final track, ‘Nobody,’ tells another story all its own.
Fans, who witnessed the Bananafish experience in person in the 90’s will revel in this collection and its resurrection.
Rick J Bowen