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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Country Joe And The Fish - Here We Are Again (1969 us, great west coast psychedelic rock, 2005 remastered edition)

"Here We Are Again" is the fourth--and next to last--album by the original lineup of Country Joe and the Fish. While the group would reunite every so often over the next few decades, this is one of the highlights of their career. The group's multi-songwriter democracy had displayed an admirable eclecticism on the first three albums, but the results often sounded scattershot. While that wide-ranging spirit is all over HERE WE ARE AGAIN, the individual songs somehow cohere into a more satisfying whole.

The addition of a horn section recruited from Count Basie's orchestra adds a jazz/R&B edge to the folk-rock-based songs, a conceit that works better than it might sound. Country Joe McDonald and Barry "The Fish" Melton largely avoid topical material in favor of witty tunes about love and life, making HERE WE ARE AGAIN the least dated of Country Joe and the Fish's original albums.

Recorded at Vanguard's 23rd Street Studio, New York, New York.

1. Here I Go Again - 3:24
2. Donovan's Reef - 4:18
3. It's So Nice To Have Love - 3:25
4. Baby, You're Driving Me Crazy (Barry Melton) - 2:43
5. Crystal Blues - 6:18
6. For No Reason - 3:55
7. I'll Survive - 2:28
8. Maria - 3:30
9. My Girl (Barry Melton) - 2:16
10.Doctor Of Electricity (Barry Melton) - 3:58
All songs by Country Joe McDonald except where noted.

Country Joe And The Fish
*Country Joe McDonald - Vocals, Guitar
*Barry Melton  - Vocals, Electric Guitar
*David Cohen - Guitar, Keyboards
*Gary "Chicken" Hirsch - Drums, Percussion
Additional personnel 
*Mark Kapner - Piano
*Mark Ryan - Bass
*Jack Casady - Bass
*Peter Albin - Bass
*David Getz - Drums

1967  Electric Music For The Mind And Body
1969  Live! Fillmore West

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  1. The quintet formed in 1961 in Berkeley, California, USA. Originally performed as The Instant Action Jug Band. The founders of the group who survived all the composition were the folk singer was Country Joe McDonald and guitarist Barry Melton.
    The first recording of the group - "I Feel Like I'm Fixin 'To Die Rag" (of 1965) was a passionate protest against the war in Vietnam. The next year, a band of the extended McDonald, Melton, David Cohen (guitar, keyboards), Bruce Barthol (guitar), Paul Armstrong (bass) and John Francis Gunning (drums) recorded the EP with their own money is distributed along with the folk magazine "Rag Baby ".

    In 1967, Armstrong and Gunning left; Barthol switched to playing bass and new drummer was Gary 'Chicken' Hirsch. In this amended composition appeared on 17 June 1967 at a festival in Monterey, and a month later,promote debut album "Electric Music For The Mind And Body", one of the strangest production of West Coast 60s.

    "Together"the third album, work of internal disputes harassed group was unsuccessful, which led to a serious reshuffle in the store. In recording the next LP "Here We Are Again" attended a wide variety of musicians, including Peter Albin and Dave Getz of Big Brother And The Holding Company. It was rather inconsistent, but contained catchy and tinged with a little country song "Here I Go Again" (later popularized by the famous model - Twiggy).

    Now this doesn't at all sound like LP"Together". In fact, it doesn't really sound like any of the previous albums. That is not to say it sounds fine and dandy. Somewhere along the line, somebody must have told 'em fishes: "Hey, you guys are cool and all, but when are you gettin' to move lazy asses and play music instead of crappin' all over the catwalk with yer shit?" And look-a here, Country Joe & The Fish make an album that ain't neither psychedelic nor political - an album chock full of actual songs in which they play actual music. Weird, eh? Oh, I mean there's actually still some psychedelia and some politics left, but for the most part the band starts concentrating on melodies, concentrating like there was no tomorrow. Here we are again and we wanna play our instruments. Which is fine and cool, but the problem is, Country Joe & The Fish could not play their instruments. Or, rather, they could (and they added several new members that were actually more professional than the old crowd), but by the general instrumental standards of 1969, they couldn't. They also couldn't pull a decent melody out of their you-know-what if it begged to be let out; no wonder the best songs on here are those that employ the most traditional chord sequences and stylistic patterns. Pretty curious considering the album came out in July '69 - as if they decided to fuck their hippie image even before most hippie bands started doing the same (or fading away). But whatever triggered that change, looks like they joined the "roots-rock revolution" for good, and instead of a shallow, but fun political band-for-one-day turned into a fairly mediocre roots-rock ensemble that at times seems to imitate The Band and at other times seems to imitate late-period Byrds and then at still other times sound exactly like Chicago, only a trillion times less experienced.>>>>

  2. Still, every dog has its day, and every mediocre roots-rock album has its share of pleasant niceties. I count four such niceties here. First, it's 'Here I Go Again', an electric country waltz with tasteful orchestration and touching romanticism-a-plenty and a real tear-bringer of a chorus, opening up a really emotional, really sincere streak in the soul of Joe McDonald that I have never really witnessed before. Then, quite a different feeling - the band that used to end their songs by chanting of 'L-S-D, L-S-D' now sing a song about the tragic effect that chemical substances inflicted on the protagonist's girlfriend ('Crystal Blues'). Melton delivers easily the best soloing of his life, blueswailing as ferociously as Eric Clapton on a good day (actually it seems to be a guitar duet with Joe - check out the ass-kickin' conclusion to the song!), and McDonald's vocals are so grief-stricken I'm a-startin' to wonder if there's an autobiographical message in here: 'she used to be pretty, now she can't even remember her name'. Call this an exception to the rule, but it's a terrific example of first-rate Chicago blues here. And to think that these guys had been wasting time with crap like 'Colours For Susan'!
    My favourite song, though, is the bit of lightweight ragtime, 'I'll Survive', another song about separation and loss, but this time, with an optimistic conclusion ('and I find I'm still living, much to my surprise/It'll be lonesome without you but I'll survive'). New member Mark Kapner plays some nifty piano licks, the strings and guitars add touches of grace and prettiness, and the vocal melody is as catchy as you'd expect from a poppy ragtime-based song. Finally, there's Melton's composition 'My Girl' (not the Smokey Robinson song), sort of a Twenties' pastiche that goes down easy on the ears, ain't too memorable, but, again, overwhelms you with its overaccentuated friendliness.
    But the rest of this stuff? Hmm... More of those lazy, snail-paced ballads like 'For No Reason', about which I can't even say that it "goes nowhere" because it doesn't go. It stays in one spot all the time. Or a ballad like 'Maria', which somehow manages to go overboard with the orchestration trick; where 'Here I Go Again' was a great inspiring country waltz, 'Maria' sounds fake, contrived, and way too sappy - could as well be listening to Barry Manilow. 'Donovan's Reef' tries to build itself up from a jazzy foundation in the same way that a lengthy Chicago jam could, for instance, but doesn't achieve anything during its four minutes; neither does the clumsy 'Doctor Of Electricity', one of the very few "politically-lyricized" numbers on the record, despite having the bass parts played by the notorious Jack Casady himself.
    In short, there's way too much mediocrity, which isn't that surprising. It's actually more surprising that we got 'Here I Go Again', 'Crystal Blues', and 'I'll Survive' on here - three excellent songs which should not be forgotten, especially not by lovers of solid American roots-rock. Hey, we all know a band like CJF couldn't make a masterpiece of their fourth album (at least, empiric evidence usually speaks against such possibilities), but that's no reason to close our eyes on a good song when we see one.

  3. i really like "colours for susan".It is a fine tune.I will have to make an exception to your comment on that one adamus. To each his own i suppose.
    Freddy (the three legged frog)osed

  4. hi Marios, the 'Free Text' link (on the 'Here We Are Again' blog page) is broken. (gives account suspended). Any chance of a 're-upload' of this? Thanks.