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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Country Joe And The Fish - Electric Music For The Mind And Body (1967 us, super classic west coast psych, 2013 double disc remaster)

For many, 1967’s “Electric Music For The Mind And Body” is the premier, defining moment when the attitude and philosophies of the emergent 1960s counter-culture were actually matched by what was in the grooves. The rabble-rousing element of much of Country Joe & the Fish’s subsequent career – the Fish Cheer, Woodstock and their sarcastic musical stance – obscured the fact that the group was responsible for some of the most evocative and striking sounds associated not just with their native San Francisco Bay Area, but the entire late 60s rock movement. 

More importantly, over the years, “Electric Music” has transcended the era of its creation and remains a truly bold and powerful musical statement. Our new 2CD reissue celebrates the fact with the kind of presentation this cornerstone album has long deserved.

Country Joe & the Fish had only really been an electrified unit since early 1966, having emerged from the insular, politicised Berkeley folk scene. Out of the initial chaos, a distinct style evolved: a combination of “Country Joe” McDonald’s strong songwriting and a wilful desire of the musicians to reach out to the extremes of their capabilities. The first evidence of the band’s unique sound came with their second self-released Rag Baby disc (available on “The Berkeley EPs” CDWIKD 153). 

The latter half of 1966 saw the band make inroads into the burgeoning adult rock scene of San Francisco. Original members Paul Armstrong and John Francis Gunning were jettisoned, David Cohen’s organ began to take a larger role in the sound and each player developed their own adroit musical personality, lead guitarist Barry Melton in particular taking to his role with gusto. Bassist Bruce Barthol and new addition Chicken Hirsh on drums made equally distinctive musical contributions, but the centre of the Country Joe sound was the distinctively structured material, by turns angular and romantic, that McDonald brought to the table.

By the time they entered the studio in February 1967 to make their debut for venerable NY folk label Vanguard, Country Joe & the Fish were in the ascendant. They were now one of the hippest and hottest groups in the Bay Area, known for eclecticism and musical unorthodoxy.  The ensuing sessions reflected this with a programme of cutting-edge, frequently original excursions into frontiers unknown, such as the wide-eyed waltz time in ‘The Masked Marauder’ or the elegiac mood music of ‘Section 43’. ‘Bass Strings’ and ‘Superbird’ were knowing and ultra-hip, with a psychedelic nod and a wink, and a sideways glimpse of the biting political satire the group employed on stage. 

The band was no longer folk-rock – they were not even rock, by 1967 standards. The erotic acid trip detailed in ‘Porpoise Mouth’ or the obtuse yet evocative ‘Grace’ had rarely been encountered in popular music up to this point. The strangled guitar, smoky organ lines and poetic whimsy of “Electric Music” would quickly prove to be influential upon a whole generation of musicians. There are very few ensembles of any genre that have equalled the psychedelic magic this album has in spades.

This deluxe edition is the first time producer Sam Charters’ original stereo mixdown of “Electric Music For The Mind And Body” has been reissued on compact disc. In the decade after the album was first released, the 2-track master suffered irreparable tape damage and oxide loss. In the early 1980s, a decision was made by Vanguard to remix the record, and that is how it has appeared in subsequent repackages. 

The mono mix, which has notable disparities to the stereo, has also not been available since the late 1960s. All the members of the group as well as Charters and manager ED Denson contribute to a lengthy and illuminating note, accompanied in the booklet by many eye-catching examples of the iconic art that was associated with Country Joe & The Fish in their early years. As McDonald proudly but quite accurately puts it, “If you want to understand psychedelic music, and you haven’t heard “Electric Music For The Mind And Body”, then you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.”
by Alec Palao 

Disc 1 Mono
1. Flying High - 2:48
2. Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine - 4:27
3. Death Sound Blues - 4:27
4. Happiness Is A Porpoise Mouth - 2:52
5. Section 43 - 7:25
6. Superbird - 2:09
7. Sad And Lonely Times - 2:23
8. Love (McDonald, Melton, Cohen, Barthol, Gunning, Hirsh) - 2:27
9. Bass Strings - 5:10
10.The Masked Marauder - 3:12
11.Grace - 7:03

Disc 2 Stereo
1. Flying High - 2:43
2. Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine - 4:24
3. Death Sound Blues - 4:26
4. Happiness Is A Porpoise Mouth - 2:53
5. Section 43 - 7:36
6. Superbird - 2:08
7. Sad And Lonely Times - 2:25
8. Love (McDonald, Melton, Cohen, Barthol, Gunning, Hirsh) - 2:25
9. Bass Strings - 5:05
10.The Masked Marauder - 3:14
11.Grace - 7:08
All songs by Counrty Joe McDonald except where indicated

Country Joe And The Fish
*Country Joe McDonald - Vocals, Guitar, Bells, Tambourine
*Barry Melton - Vocals, Guitar
*David Cohen - Guitar, Organ
*Bruce Barthol - Bass, Harmonica
*Gary Chicken Hirsh - Drums

Country Joe discography
1965-71  The First Three E.P's
1967  I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die
1968  Together
1969  Live! Fillmore West
1969  Here We Are Again
1970  CJ Fish
1970  Tonight I'm Singing Just For You
1971  Hold On It's Coming
1971  War War War
1973  Paris Sessions 

Free Text


adamus67 said...

Founded on Berkeley campus of University Of California around early 1965 Country Joe & The Fish (prior known as Instant Action Jug Band) have become a premier US psychedelic act in the following years. The band's classic incarnation included Joe McDonald (vocals, guitar), Barry Melton (vocals, guitar), David Cohen (guitar, organ), Bruce Bartol (bass, harmonica) and Chicken Hirsh (drums) – all talented folk/blues musicians, who've met while the revolutionary going on the West Coast was at its peak with Berkeley being the eye of the hurricane since 1964. Country Joe & The Fish were one of these first few outfits to ride the high wave of new psychedelic sound, dipped in storming LSD experience, supported by acid poetry and ironic, political commentary, which soon was to rule the minds of young Americans and Europeans.

Once and for all, the Fish prove that there ain't a major, or even a simply good, songwriter anywhere in the band, and that they're not going for professionalism either - or maybe they were just too stoned while recording, because at times I can almost feel the drummer slumping over his seat and starting to punch the instrument with his nose or something. But it would also be useless to deny the spark of creativity: this album was done with a passion, and you can certainly see how these guys were really bent on "shattering boundaries", both in the musical area and the lyrical one.

Their first album "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" (released in February 1967) was recorded in Sierra Sound Laboratories in Berkeley and released by Vanguard – a leading folk label, which signed Joan Baez few years earlier. In fact it had many more folk revolutionaries under its wings, but like the other music houses in USA it became increasingly aware of the new sound around 1967 taking a risk of promoting and selling it. The times really were changing... and the fresh wind was a blast! Group's first album sold very well, in fact it was flying off music shops' shelves so quickly, that till 1970 it was repressed twice (initially issued in mono on silver and in stereo on golden label, it was reissued on globe and then on yellow label).

Even from today's perspective it seems one of the greatest LPs, that US psychedelic scene has ever produced, featuring amazing, spaced-out ballads like "Death Sound Blues", "Bass Strings" or wonderful "Grace" (filled with otherwordly sensitivity), few rock'n'roll compositions like opening "Flying High" and absolutely mind-blowing instrumental "Section 43" on the top. The sound of the album was based on a heavily sustained organ, down tempo, blurry (blues based) guitar riffs and jazzmatic bass lines, exploding into swirling, pink noise when compositions reached their climax. Both Joe McDonald and Barry Melton supported band's music with their clean cut, tenor voices, strongly anchored in folk & blues storytelling traditions.

Outstanding, poetical lyrics written by McDonald were one of the most appealing element, blending acid fuzziness with radical convictions and emotional insight. That way Country Joe & The Fish were promptly identified with emerging youth counterculture, for which they became a symbol and a spiritual messenger – Joe McDonald appeared later in Woodstock. "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" is after all a psychedelic concept album (one of the greatest ones), coined as a music showcase of LSD-induced state of mind. In fact, the members of the group were listening to the mix on acid to check if it works for setting the trip... and they figured it did. The pearl of psychedelia or even acid rock, which didn't get old at all. So it turns out that Electric Music is a very important document of the times, and an essential purchase for any fan of Sixties music.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've been waiting to hear this...

You rock Marios,



ge said...

Mono mix is diff from stereo?
-sure is-- that's neato!

Hear ye hear ye~
This may be the only place you get this angle on an allegedly related album: Ultimate Spinach 1: Try listening to this CJ/Fish & that back to back--my elder brother dated a girl in the 60s who heard i liked 'that psychodeliac music' and mentioned she knew the leader of Ult. Spinach who informed her their debut album was largely a SPOOF of Country Joe's! I sure could detect what she meant, though I never went to the trouble of pinpointing every alleged spoofed element, I swear they are there... it was kind of a west coast vs. east coast bosstown thing---the Ultimates felt CJ/Fish were phony-corny on some level and wanted to call them on it sonically!

kobilica said...

This is a killer gem.Thank you for this new remaster...

Anonymous said...

Great stuff as usual Marios!

Any chance of posting the 2-CD set of their second album, I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die??

That'd be super!

sparkler said...

very cool, thx Marios!

sparkler said...

very cool, thank you Marios!

Anonymous said...

Any chance you could re-post the link? I keep getting a message that the file is corrupted. Can't get this in the USA. Thank you for all of your efforts.

Roger hippie said...

To me, this is the best album of Country Joe and The Fish! Thanks to upload this masterpiece!

And congratulations for your blog!