The String Cheese Incident

Trick or Treat

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With String Cheese Incident either a done deal or on an extended hiatus -- no one was really saying anything definitive one way or the other -- the group's members decided to release both a massive, limited-edition, nine-CD box (seven complete sets) and pared-down two-disc collection culled from its annual Halloween shows. While hardcore Cheeseheads will likely want to spring for the full set, the less-fully committed will suffice with this tidy best-of. SCI habitually used their October 31 gigs to spring an assortment of choice, unpredictable cover tunes on their open-minded audience, and that's what comprises nearly all of the package. That they also took many liberties with those covers should come as no surprise, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. These gigs were intended to be loose and fun, and anyone who went to one looking for musical perfection on a night when the jam band randomly chose to have their way with tunes by everyone from KC & the Sunshine Band and Black Sabbath to Cat Stevens and the Clash was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two Beatles tunes populate the first disc, a relatively straightforward "Come Together" and a trippy "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," the latter preceded by a spacy intro that hints where it's going long before it actually gets there. Keller Williams' "Freeker by the Speaker" is given a quasi-bluegrass spin, and the Police's "Walking on the Moon" is a ringer for the original. Fellow jammers Phish are saluted with "The Wedge" and the aforementioned Sabbath with "War Pigs," giving SCI all the reason they required to show just how much of a metallic stomp they could create when they wanted to. Disc two is no less kooky, running from a tight, fusiony workout on Miles Davis' "So What" to Bob Marley's "Exodus," a churning "L.A. Woman" (the Doors), "Under African Skies" (Paul Simon), "Rockin' the Casbah" (the Clash), and "Peace Train" (Stevens). Not all of the collection relies on cover material though: keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth's "'Round the Wheel" and guitarist Bill Nershi's "Restless Wind" provide a reminder, at the tail-end of the two-fer, that when they weren't sampling from their iPods, these guys could write original material on par with some of those covers they enjoyed playing so much.

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