Umphrey’s McGee’s, The Bottom Half, is a collection of acoustic takes, alternate versions, instrumentals and even a disco number – culled from numerous studio sessions, primarily captured during their time recording 2006’s Safety In Numbers. It’s a two disc set chock full of nearly two hours of rarities from the ever-growing Chicago prog-rockers.
The first half of the diverse sampling of B-sides begins with a few longtime concert staples (an acoustic version of “Divisions” a highlight), horn sections (notably the title track and “Higgins”) and the crisp “Bright Lights, Big City,” with each member’s distinct sound popping out across the song’s vast landscape. The latter half offers insight into “Words,” with an accapella version, the structuring of the chorus into a big build up and an instrumental version that caps off the album.
This gem of a release is obviously a must-have for Umphrey’s fans, but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible for the casual listener. If anything, the varying approaches to songwriting help both the avid collector and the first-timer equally appreciate all the work that goes into the band’s intricate songwriting process.