Leaving Phish was a huge endeavor for Trey Anastasio. He was scrutinized more than other members of the beloved jam band, but the good news is that he's moved beyond that. If his new solo album were a stinker, he might have more questions to face, but it's not. It's a sweepingly upbeat record that should prompt open-minded fans to shout a hearty congratulations.
Appropriately, the new CD is called ''Shine." The recurrent theme is rebirth, and it's loaded with apparent allusions to his post-Phish life. And musically, he moves into a more convincingly straightforward, classic-rock sound versus some of the jazz-funk quirkiness of Phish.
Most songs, which were co-written by Anastasio and producer Brendan O'Brien (famed for his work with Pearl Jam), deal with a newfound confidence. The title track is centered on the verse, ''And when the day's come and gone, you know we all shine on." The muscular, Tom Petty-like ''Air Said to Me" has Anastasio singing, ''Believe what you want to believe, step into the air." And amid the country lilt of ''Invisible," he adds, ''This time, what are you waiting for? Is it your time to walk away?"
Yes, Phish-ologists are going to have a ball with this CD.
Anastasio shares some self-doubt -- the song ''Black" has the line, ''Time for drifting . . . on your own now" -- but he erases it with a metallic guitar solo that obliterates everything in its path. Fans who appreciate the tougher side of Anastasio's muse are going to revel in this music.
Not only does Anastasio inscribe heavier guitar licks than usual, but he also enlists powerful drummer Kenny Aronoff to make sure they have an extra kick. Plus, O'Brien acquits himself beautifully on bass and keyboards, making for a taut ensemble sound. (No Phish members play on the record.)
Anastasio, who headlines the Orpheum Theatre Nov. 16, basks in the freedom that this solo CD provides. He always had the skills -- and now he has the license to extend them as he wishes.