Since I’m watching the developments on the new Umphrey’s McGee album closely, ya’ll get to benefit by getting updates. It seems that January 20th is a long way off, so the UM camp has figured out that they are going to need to keep the fire going by throwing out little tastes of the album and bonus goodies to the fans.
Yesterday it was announced that the monster Chicago FM station XRT would be playing the first track from Mantis— “Made to Measure” as part of their new music Thursday today.
Additionally, a one-minute audio “teaser” was posted to The Floor today (the band’s blog). It has snippets of a couple of songs in it. Click Here to listen.
And, if that wasn’t enough– everyone who has pre-ordered Mantis will be given instructions on Friday on how to download an mp3 of “Made to Measure” for free!
I have been watching the Umphrey’s McGee Mantis page for updates on newly unlocked Levels and as a result I’m signed into the Meebo chat (as “playbsides” if anyone wants to talk). Other than the grand debate about whether 1000 copies of the Deluxe Package depreciates the “value” or rarity of it versus the fact that some fans are bummed they didn’t get in on it– there hasn’t been a lot of useful chatter. I’ve helped some folks understand what the deal is with the pre-order mostly.
But, today I happened to catch someone mentioning the free downloads in the UMLive accounts and sure enough– I signed into “My Stash” and in addition to the pre-order for Mantis, there was another item ready for download called “Mantis Pre-Order: Early Bird Bonus” which showed available for download! I didn’t get an e-mail about it, but my e-mail gateway does whitelisting so it bounces the mails for resend and that adds some time to e-mail receipt for me.
At any rate– very cool deal! I got two tracks: both from the amazing 10-31-2008 Halloween show at the Warfield in San Francisco. This show was pretty cool in that they decided to do live performed “mash-ups.”
The two tracks we got were “Women, Wine and Song” (a 128Kbps rip) from the show and a Backstage Vocal Rehearsal of the band working out the vocals to “Thriller” which was mashed with “Another Brick in the Wall” (a 192Kbps rip).
In other cool news, the Umphrey’s Camp has noticed my Mantis Bonus Watch article and linked to it from The Floor, which is their blog. It’s driven my page views to the highest they’ve ever been! Hello to new visitors, I hope your stay is pleasant.
On January 20th, 2009– Inauguration Day– Umphrey’s McGee will be releasing their next studio album, Mantis. According to their press release, Mantis is different from their last studio albums in that it is entirely new music written in the studio as opposed to songs that had been given workouts on the road. The band considers this the “centerpiece of a new era” and extending the notion of innovation, they have set up a unique pre-order for Mantis.
So, hang tight– this gets a bit complicated. I have done my pre-order already, and recommend that if you’re interested you do, too. Here is the shizzle:
First, there are three versions of Mantis. In addition to the CD and mp3 versions you’d expect, the band is pressing a very limited number of 180g LP’s! That’s right! VINYL! The vinyl is included in the Deluxe Package which includes a CD and mp3 download plus other goodies.
The CD version of the album is will be the “key” to unlocking exclusive bonus content that the band will be providing throughout the year through Push Entertainmentincluding live versions of the Mantis songs, rehearsals and impromptu “bus jams” and more. This content– referred to as “Bonus Part II” will be available to anyone who buys the album either as a pre-order or after the release date.
As if that isn’t cool enough, anyone who pre-orders the album in either CD format (for $19.99) or as part of the Deluxe Package ($49.99) will have access to “Bonus Part I.” This is where it gets interesting. If you pre-order the album, you will get a free download of the album in mp3 format to make sure everyone who pre-orders can listen to the album on its release date in case there are unpredictable mailing delays. In addition to that, the band will be making available up to 8 Levels of bonus material encoded as 160Kbps mp3’s that will be available on January 20th as well. The number of levels made available will be based on how many pre-orders are placed of either of the versions. Pre-orders were taken starting October 27th, and as of 11/5, five of the eight levels are unlocked. The special Mantis page has a progress bar at the top of the page that shows how many levels are unlocked and floats a box with what is included in each level. On December 4th Level 1 will be available for download to all who pre-order.
Anyone who pre-orders will also receive a lifetime subscription to the digital edition of Relix Magazine, and be entered in a drawing for a “RelixBand” which is a bracelet made from guitar strings from Jake and Brendan used in a live performance.
When the pre-order opened, there was initially only going to be 500 of the Deluxe Package, but they sold out in TWO DAYS! So, the band increased the number to 1000. At this moment, there appear to still be some available for order. The Deluxe Package has a bunch of great content, and totally worth $50. You get the CD of Mantis, the mp3 download, the 180g vinyl, a special DVD of the 10th Anniversary Retrospective that was shown at last years’ New Year’s Eve shows plus some other video content, a Mantis poster plus other goodies from UMHQ all in a box signed by the band! Apparently, every box will have slightly different extra goodies added by the band themselves.
Here are the levels for the pre-order Bonus. The band scoured the Internet boards to see what rare content was most in demand, so that determined what they’ve included. As cool as the pop-up boxes on the website are, I’ve decided to type it up here, and I will be updating this as the new levels are added, so check back or subscribe to updates on this article to stay up-to-date.
Level 1(8 tracks total, and available in December to pre-orders) unlocked
1 track from Greatest Hits Vol. III – The long out-of-print first record selected via a fan poll.
4 tracks from annual Acoustic Christmas Show 2005
2 tracks from Jake Cinniger’s home studio 4-track archives -One track you’re likely to recognize and one you’re not.
1 track from inside the studio control room during an album tracking session – Fly on the wall perspective.
Level 2 (8 tracks total) unlocked
1 track from ‘beat guru’ Andy Farag -Andy often spends his spare time cooking up a variety of hip-hop and r&b beats that are rarely released for public consumption.
Jake’s original demo version of feature track ‘Made to Measure’ with different lyrics. Long before this song evolved into its current state, Jake sang about the joys of man’s best friend.
‘Made to Measure’ alternate take with scratch vocals.
2 acoustic tracks from the soundtrack The Trip There written and performed by Brendan Bayliss.
2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from the title track “Mantis” – Hear instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away, a microscopic view inside a dense Umphrey’s composition.
1 potential album cut that was ultimately left unfinished.
Level 3 (7 tracks total) unlocked
2 control room montage tracks – Experience what it’s like to be a fly on the wall inside the control room of our studio. Hear songs come to life (or be put to death) as the recording process unfolds.
3 tracks from UM sound checks – “What songs are we going to screw up if we don’t practice them?”
Early sketch version of album track #4.
4-track studio version of the song EAT, recorded in Jake’s home studio.
Level 4 (7 tracks total) unlocked
‘Dance Remix’ of album track 5 from Andy Farag
‘Work in Progress’ track – Listen to the conception of album track number 7 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
4 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2006.
‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.
Level 5 (8 tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/5)
2 live tracks from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
2 tracks from Jake Cinninger’s home studio 4-track archives.
Early demo version of album track #6
Mistake Montage – Listen to the less glamorous side of being in the studio with UM.
2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from album track #4 – Hear various instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away.
Level 6 (8 Tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/16)
“Radio” edit of an album track
“Work in Progress” – Listen to the conception of album track #9 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
Early 4-track versions of track #7 including Jake’s first scratch version from 1994. Yes kids, 1994.
3 tracks from the Acoustic Christmas Show 2005.
Time Relevant Track – The original solo guitar audio that became “Wizard Burial Ground” recorded during album brainstorming sessions.
Level 7 (7 Tracks Total) unlocked (as of 12/11)
‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions, and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.
2 alternate versions of Jake’s guitar solo from album track #6. Listen to the options we sorted through before deciding on this monstrosity.
Umphrey’s Round Table Pt. 1 – A discussion of all things Mantis.
2 tracks of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
Early rough version of the title track ‘Mantis’ recorded in Joel’s attic in early 2007.
‘Puncle Wally’ – Video the lone performance at historic CBGB’s in NYC.
1 track of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2005
2 tracks from Joel, Jake & Andy from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
Mantis Ghetts – Just wait and see. Guaranteed to please!
1 track from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Unreleased track from the Acoustic Planet Tour ’06 featuring Bela Fleck
2 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2008
Level 9 (1 Track + Video + 1 Live Set) Unocked (as of 1/7/09) A new level added after 8 unlocked to drive more presales!
FOH Jam – Video from the soundboard jam on 12/31/07
Early scratch version of album track 1348
Entire set from the 1/19/09 CD Release show at the Vic Theatre
I have to say that in the last year since I became aware of Umphrey’s McGee, one thing I have been really impressed with is how they’ve embraced new avenues for keeping the fans up-to-date and providing content as well. They have had regular podcasts with interesting songs from shows, their site provides RSS feeds, the band as well as their soundman regularly blog with photos, you can purchase every show, they allow taping and trading as well. They have also implemented an interesting TXT service via kadoink that sends updates to your cell phone and provides the ability for the band to send recorded messages and music to your phone. This new approach to releasing an album is just another step. It’s clear that Umphrey’s McGee understands their fanbase and seems to cater to them. The Mantis website has an embedded player that is getting updated daily with recent live tracks and has an embedded chat tool as well that the band seems to check.
Click Here to visit the Mantis Website and pre-order Mantis. While you’re there sign up for updates from UM, and be entered into a contest for the “Ultimate Umphrey’s Package.” The grand prize is tickets to any and all 2009 UM shows, a signed copy of Mantis and a signed lithograph of the Mantis artwork, ten first prizes are tickets to three shows and the signed album and litho, and ten second prizes are a signed Mantis and litho.
Click Here to subscribe to an RSS feed of this article to watch for updates.
This is the longest I have taken to write a review of an album. I received the promo for Umphrey’s McGee’s newest live album Live At The Murat back in October of 2007. Unfortunately, at the time I received the promo I didn’t feel I was informed enough about the band to give this album a fair review so I “lived” with it for a while.
I was fairly familiar with the band, and liked parts of The Bottom Half, which was their last studio release (also released in 2007). The Bottom Half was the remains of the studio work from the previous 2006 release Safety in Numbers. As a result, I was pretty interested to hear this release, but was immediately overwhelmed by it in that I realized that the release didn’t have many songs from either of the last two releases so I wasn’t familiar with the songs.
In my review of Keller Williams’s album Dream, which was also on SCIFidelity, I told a story of my first Phish concert. This was the tour supporting Farmhousein 2000 and by then, Phish had already been together for seven albums. I hung with Phish until shortly after the hiatus before the subsequent breakup in 2004. During the time I was a fan I had a lot of catching up to do with Phish. While Farmhouse was regarded as Phish’s most accessible album, the albums to date were generally not as nearly as accessible and usually based on some amount of fleshing out of the material on tour. So, the previous releases had their own established history with the fans and the live shows. As a music fan who loves to dig in with a band– it really was a very daunting idea to do this with Phish. You had the officially released catalog as well as all of the taped shows and the volumes of information and statistics that were kind of a hold over from the Grateful Dead’s fanbase. I jumped in with both feet and even bought all of the LivePhish releases with the costume Halloween shows as well as the official releases. After the Hiatus, and the release of Round Roomin 2002, I kind of fell out of the collecting mode with Phish and I really even became sort of tired of listening to their stuff. I eventually sold off the LivePhishseries as well as some of the promos and other items I had. I still have the studio releases which are really allI feel I need. I didn’t follow the solo careers of the members after the first two Trey Anastasio albums and the Vida Blue release from Page McConnell.
And, so it is with Umphrey’s to an extent. Like Phish, Umphrey’s is a band with history of a growing and fervent fanbase. 2007 is nine years after their formation, and Live at the Murat is an attempt by the band to capture where they are these days with their live show. It is their first official live release since Local Band Does Oklahoma in 2003 and one the band spent time preparing for. While the album itself is based on two nights at the Murat Egyptian Room in Indianapolis, the show had some prepwork done ahead of time to plan some of the performance.
The album itself is a collection of new material, some of the planned “interludes” as well as some “fan favorites.” Since I got this album, I have had the opportunity to download some other shows to kind of catch up on what Umphrey’s shows are like. Like Phish and the Grateful Dead before them, a live show from Umphrey’s McGee while largely improvisational has a meticulously planned setlist with a focus on not repeating themselves. While this is great and guarantees that a fan gets a different show every time, this makes comparing a live album against any given show sort of pointless (unless you want to get down to discussing different dates of “In The Kitchen” which I’m not interested in doing).
In my opinion, the first five tracks on Disc One set the bar pretty high for the album with one of the strongest sequences of material I’ve heard in a while. There is a reason that “In The Kitchen” is one of the fan favorites and we get a cool transition of an acoustic version which after a couple of improv segments turns into an electric version. Very nice and I listen to this part of the album the most when I return to it. I really like the dramatic piano at the end of “Electric Improvisation” and the chord change that leads back into the reprise of “In The Kitchen.” This is followed with the only song on a studio release in two years, “Higgins” from The Bottom Half. I would have expected to hear more material from the last two albums as this is what most bands do with their live albums. This makes the album essential in the catalog since it provides many unreleased tracks.
I listen to my fair share of music in the course of a week and between my CD player and my iPod I always have something playing. I have found that Live at the Murat really stands up to repeated listenings for me. To that end, I might even recommend this album to anyone who was interested in hearing the band for the first time. It shows off the band’s astounding live chops as well as their ability to craft a song. One thing that this band has going for it for me is that their influences draw from some progressive bands that I listen to. The Wikipedia article on Umphrey’s lists Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis as well as bands like the Police. I have pretty extensive King Crimson and Pink Floyd collections and I picked these influences out right away. One track that took me by surpise is “The Triple Wide” which is a dancey, electronic instrument propelled partially by an 808 beat carrying a buzzy synth line to a dual with guitar at the 4-minute mark.
Since last year I’ve been following the very excellent and recommended Podcast. In addition to the selected live shows provided we get to hear the very laid back sense of humor that seems to contrary to the virtuosity of their performance. We are provided with their sense of humor on this album as well even without stage banter. The band gave the audience some chanted cues which show up in the recording. One notable one is the “This album sucks!!” that closes out disc one. We also get some “FUCK YEAHs” during the great Fripp Guitar Craft-alike “Angular Momentum.” We get the requisite stoner humor in “The Fuzz” (“There goes my BOOOONNNG!”), bathroom humor in “40’s Theme” with the warning “Tomorrow you’ll be on the shitter.”
Of course, this isn’t really what Umphrey’s McGee is about at the end of the day. Umphrey’s is ultimately a band who is all about the music and really about bringing great shows to the fans and Live at The Murat is a great portrait of the band in it’s element. The twin-guitar attack of Umphrey’s provides a well-adapted and flexible tone surface. The band likes to stretch out in searing guitar solos and soaring anthemic building bridges. While I’m not part of the regular in-the-know fanbase, yet, at the end of the album I find myself looking forward to seeing a show.
As reported by their Facebook page and their website, Umphrey’s McGee–upon hearing of the tragedy that was the shootings at NIU in DeKalb, IL on February 14th decided to give back to the town that had been good to them over the years. All sales from UMLive, Umphrey’s McGee’s online store for live show downloads, poster sales and ticket sales on April 8th were donated to the NIU February 14th Memorial Fund. In an additional act of giving, Umphrey’s posted a fantastic-sounding matrix recording to Archive.org of their April 8th show at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb that day. Mixed by sound man/band archivist Kevin Browning, the show includes one of the new songs added to their set “Rocker Part 2” as well as some fun teases. Certainly a great gesture on the band’s part. The recording is available in FLAC as well as OGG and VBR MP3. I’ve been listening to it on and off since I downloaded it, but it is a good show and a good picture of UM Live.