Phish
Hoist
(Elektra)

This fifth Phish album is the audio equivalent of a Kellogg's Variety Pack, where every cereal tastes grrrrreat. Better yet, there's not that one indigestible box of All-Bran that hangs around in your cupboard for years. No matter what style of music Phish tries to tackle, be it barroom swing (Julius," featuring the Tower of Power horns), funk (Down With Disease"), psychedelic and stadium rock (Axilla [Part II]") or bluegrass (Scent of a Mule"), the band pulls it off admirably.

"Lifeboy" is easily Phish's best-ever song, ranking with the finest work Richard Manuel did with the Band (God never listens to what I say/And you don't get a refund when you overpray"). It helps that the group has toned down the overt cleverness of previous releases and enlisted Paul Fox to utilize the same imaginative production values he brought to XTC's Oranges and Lemons album. Don't pass up Hoist, because it truly is an uplifting experience.--Serene Dominic

Ovis
Schadenfreunde
(Restless)

Shortly after Elvis shuffled off this mortal coil to sing in that celestial choir, along came a guy named Orion who claimed he was "Presley reborn." He sported jet-black hair like you-know-who and sang exactly like him, too, but wore a Lone Ranger mask to conceal his secret identity. This Masked Marauder managed to convince Sun Records to record a couple of his albums before disappearing into a sea of Elvis-related curios.

The King had his Orion, and now Prince has his Ovis. This CD arrived mysteriously without any Ovis pictures or pertinent bio information. All we know from the press release is that Ovis is a successful studio engineer who set out to perfect "the archetypical pop album that existed inside his head." Or, more to the point, Prince's head! This forgery would be unforgivable except for one thing--it's the best Prince in ages! By penning Michael Pennish lyrics to songs that wouldn't sound out of place on 1999 or Sign of the Times, Ovis maintains a consistency of scope and vision long missing from the Purple One's work. Look for "Restless Thing" to be the next great summer single you hear. And who knows? Maybe there'll be an Ovis tribute album someday.--Serene Dominic

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