Phish concerts are thoroughly unpredictable affairs marked by streaks of brilliance and improvisational bravado. Does that give guitarist Trey Anastasio and his buds license to jam away and call it an album? "The Story of the Ghost" won't assure anyone about the soundness of this strategy. Real songs are missing in action, and lyrics are as nonsensical as ever. Bits and pieces, though, offer plenty of fun. Dig the funky R&B rhythms, wah-wah guitar and oozing organ that grease "Birds of a Feather," "Meat," "Shafty," "The Moma Dance" and the title track.
Have the Meters been reborn as white boys from Vermont? "Guyute" stretches from a folksy seafaring melody to a music-box effect to instrumental riffs straight out of the jazz-fusion era to heavy guitar crunch. The call-and-response "Limb by Limb" thrives on modified reggae rhythms, while "Water in the Sky" benefits from pedal-steel guitar touches, and the psychedelic "Roggae" gets a lift from CSN-style harmonies. Phish, as usual, has cooked up a tasty pop soufflé, light and crispy -- good eating but hardly satisfying.