Never one to shy away from giving fans something unexpected, prog-rockers Umphrey’s McGee have surprised their followers by releasing their second studio in album in less than a year. Just ten months after the fantastic Similar Skin was produced, the band took advantage of an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record music in the famed Abbey Road Studios in London; the same room that iconic artists like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, Fela Kuti, and Radiohead all recorded some of their best work.
The final project, aptly named The London Session, was the brainchild of longtime UM producer Manny Sanchez and came during the band’s short stint performing at the London Brooklyn Bowl last June. After calling in a few favors, the band had booked the studio for one whirlwind day with the intent of recording a few of their newer tunes; however in less than twelve hours the sextet had managed to lay down ten completed tracks.
At first glance, this may not seem like a necessary album. Three of the songs presented here have already appeared on previous releases (two of which, “No Diablo” and “Cut the Cable” were on their last one), many of the other compositions the band has been playing in their live shows for many years, and the final track isn’t even one of their original songs.
Yet upon further review the final cut is anything but unnecessary, as the songs are each unique and fresh in their own right. The aforementioned Similar Skin tracks are stripped down to appeasing acoustic renditions, and the updated recording of “Plunger” is more powerful than its predecessor heard on 2004’s Anchor Drops. Older concert tunes like “Out of Order” and “Glory” finally get the studio treatment here, while newer staples like the uber-funky “Bad Friday”, the proggy “Rocker Part 2”, and the Steely Dan-esque “Comma Later” give the listener crisp versions of these current fan favorites.
Oddly enough the most engaging song on this album is one to which they cannot even lay claim, which of course is the cover of the vintage Beatles tune “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. The band has always been one of the modern best at covering other artists’ songs, and they more than prove that by presenting a ridiculously good construction and adaptation of this beloved rock classic, fittingly recorded in the same room more than 45 years after the original.
While known mostly to the music industry as an interesting live act, the fact remains that Umphrey’s McGee have shown over the course of their last few albums they are extremely comfortable and acclimated to the studio setting, and The London Session is no exception. The ability to continuously craft unconventional yet catchy songs is already extraordinary in today’s environment, however to record those tracks in under a day is astounding and is a true testament to just how bold this incredibly talented band has become.
The London Session is available for pre-order now at umphreys.com and the official release date is April 7th