Hearing Aide: Umphrey’s McGee ‘The London Session’

We have all made memorable achievements in half a day or less, whether it was writing that 20-page final paper, painting the entire upstairs, or completing all the holiday gift shopping. Umphrey’s McGee has one-upped us all.

Given twelve hours and the world-famous Abbey Road Studio 2 to work with, Umphrey’s cranked out an album. The London Session, which releases on April 7, features ten tracks including some old gems, a few tunes off 2014’s Similar Skin, a Beatles cover and a new favorite. TLS showcases the band’s versatility; each track adds a unique element and, when stacked on top of each other, we get a glimpse into the multi-layered, ever-evolving and unmistakable visage of Umphrey’s McGee.

“Bad Friday” debuted on the last day of 2013 and made the cut for that year’s Hall of Fame album. Its popularity hasn’t waned and its flow has grown smoother each time played live. The London Session opens with its studio debut, a succinctly smooth, groovy jam. The vocals are on-point and riffs show off Umphrey’s funkier side.

Umphrey’s changes gears with “Rocker Part 2,” which also debuted on New Year’s Eve (2007) and has only been previously featured on a Hall of Fame album (2010). This song may exemplify the band as well as any one song on the album. It opens with warm piano parts, features high-energy percussion, and ends with heavy shredding.

The album’s tone shifts quickly again as the next three tracks originated on Similar Skin. Number three is an acoustic, yet fairly straightforward version of “No Diablo.” The acoustic arrangements added to the next tune, “Cut the Cable,” give it a folksier feel than its Similar Skin version and make it one of the most interesting new takes introduced in TLS. The fifth track, “Out of Order,” possesses one of the album’s supreme jams during its final two minutes.

Perfectly situated in the middle of TLS is “Glory.” Listen to it, take a deep breath, and listen again. If you’re having a bad day, listen twice more. You’re wont to find a more aptly titled song. The staple of live UM shows loses none of its triumphant splendor when brought to the studio for the first time.

“Plunger,” which is often a vessel into deep, heavy jams during live performances, comes next. TLS version is relatively tame, but perhaps the song that epitomizes Umphrey’s most on the album. With an upbeat tempo and similar vocal arrangements, “Comma Later” brings us back to the funky feel that “Bad Friday” opens the album with. The final original track on the album, “Eat,” delves once more into UM’s darker side.

The London Session concludes with an homage to the band that made Abbey Road famous, a cover of The Beatle’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” A fan-favorite UM cover, the tune is an exclamation point at the end of a brilliantly produced album. Umphrey’s puts its own mark on the song while honoring the original. The first cover to make an UM studio album is the final piece to a diverse and delicious album.

Less than a year after dropping Similar Skin, Umphrey’s McGee have unleashed another fantastic album that highlights UM’s versatility and originality. Whether your prefer their upbeat dance tunes, heavy rockers, folksier ballads, or prefer a cover, The London Session packs it all into ten tight tracks.

Key tracks: Bad Friday,  Rocker Part 2, Glory

Bonus key track: I Want You (She’s So Heavy)