‘Cluster Flies’: Tim Palmieri Covers ‘Vultures’

By Team JamBase Apr 28, 2021 1:11 pm PDT

JamBase presents Cluster Flies, a covers compilation reimagining Phish’s album Farmhouse, complete with bonus songs and revamped tracklist. The limited-edition 3LP release was mastered by engineer Joe Lambert and includes custom artwork and a poster created by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. A pre-order is underway now through May 3 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Visit www.clusterflies.com for purchasing information as well as full album credits and tracklist details.

Each of the songs on Cluster Flies will be featured via daily episodes of The JamBase Podcast with interviews with the musician that recorded the cover. Today’s episode features a supergroup led by Tim Palmieri’s cover of “Vultures.” Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.

Phish’s song, “Vultures,” was composed by guitarist Trey Anastasio and lyricist Tom Marshall at one of several writing retreats the pair held at rented farmhouses in rural Vermont in early-1997. While several songs born of those retreats were recorded Phish’s 1998 album, The Story Of The Ghost or 2000’s Farmhouse, “Vultures” is one of three Cluster Flies bonus tracks that has yet to appear on one of the band’s official studio releases.

Trey and Tom’s “Vultures” demo was part of Trampled By Lambs & Pecked By The Dove, a collection of demos from those early-1997, and late-1997 songwriting sabbaticals that was officially released in 2000.

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Phish previewed the first batch of new tunes, including “Vultures,” on June 6, 1997, when they performed a private show at the home of Brad Sands (former Phish tour manager) and Pete Carini (former Phish drum tech). Like many of that night’s debuts, Phish played “Vultures” in both the first and second sets. The event was a pre-tour warm up for Phish’s European Summer Tour 1997 that began on June 13, 1997 with the first of two shows in Dublin, Ireland. Opening night of that tour saw the proper public debut of “Vultures,” with an additional nine performances coming throughout the rest of that year.

Phish began recording what became their album The Story Of The Ghost in April 1998. Sessions were held at Bearsville Studios in Bearsville, New York during which “Vultures” was recorded with a new arrangement. The outtake also saw Anastasio alter the lyrics to reference a “potato to the throat” when singing the “razor to the throat” verse the second time in the song. When Phish played “Vultures” in 1998, all three versions featured the new arrangement, just as all subsequent performances have.

The “potato” lyric was substituted by Trey at the November 27, 1998 show in Worcester, Massachusetts that was released as Live Phish Vol. 6. As Phish.net notes, six of the seven “Vultures” from 1999 featured Trey singing the alternate “potato” lyric. The root vegetable was not mentioned in the three 2000 Phish performances of “Vultures.”

Following the band’s hiatus that lasted from late-2000 through 2002, “Vultures” again made just three Phish setlists in 2003 and only one in 2004 before they started a second hiatus that year. Since returning from that break in 2009, “Vultures” retains rarity status with no more than two renditions coming in a calendar year, and ones with the “potato” lyric among the most elusive.

“Vultures” was covered for Cluster Flies by a supergroup led by guitarist Tim Palmieri (The Breakfast, Kung Fu). Palmieri was joined by an impressive group of musicians, guitarist Amar Sastry, bassist Eric DiBerardino (Tea Leaf Green), drummer Ben Atkind (Goose) and keyboardist Ryan Dempsey (Twiddle), at the recording session held on January 6 at Broad Brook Opera House in East Windsor, Connecticut. Alan Venitosh, from our friends at Telefunken Elektroakustik in nearby South Windsor, recorded and mixed the track. Reid Genauer (Strangefolk, Assembly Of Dust) recorded his overdubbed vocals on the west coast.

Footage from the “Vultures” recording session for Cluster Flies can be seen in the video below:

Palmieri and Sastry recently spoke to JamBase’s David Onigman for today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast. The interview touched on the pair of guitarists’ history with Phish and the band’s music, putting together the session for the “Vultures” cover and much more.

Stream the “Vultures” Cluster Flies episode of The JamBase Podcast below or via all major podcast services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcast:

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