But I love Country Joe.
Fish or no Fish.
I discovered Joe Macdonald’s music (the country prefix mimicked one of Stalin’s ‘pet names’) back in the late seventies; so his music was always in retrospect; but little did I know, as he was still doing it.
And he still is!
And he’s not stuck in the past; his lyrics are still deeply relevant, and so are his causes.
In fact, Joe has one of the more interesting voices of dissent heard in recent years.
Check this out:
As for this album, well, it’s a fantastic introduction to his music, and includes some brilliant live recordings unique to this release.
Part One is made up of the best of the Fish’s early material, and captures in sound the whole San Francisco, Haight-Ashbury, Monterey kind of vibe; full of love and peace, agit-prop, finger cymbals, pot, love songs to Janis Joplin, warnings about the taking of crystal meth and some quite beautiful music.
Part Two includes some wonderfully recorded live performances, captured at the end of the Fish’s career (they split in 1970, reforming in 77 for the
And despite the slightly reserved nature of Part One, the Fish really kicked arse during these live recordings.
Barry Melton’s guitar playing is quite superb; to say nothing of his vocal delivery; his voice on ‘Love’ is tonsil breaking and nerve shattering. Yeah, man, he really means it.
Marijuana was one of the big flavours of the day, and the Fish weren’t afraid to celebrate it at any opportunity.
My favourite moment on this album occurs during the transition between the tracks ‘Rock and Soul Music’ and ‘Love’.
‘Rock and Soul Music’ ends with a repeated chord played seven times, staccato-like. On the eighth beat, the whole band shout in unison: ‘marijuana’, which is the cue into ‘Love’.
Okay, sounds a bit complicated.
I guess you’ve got to hear it; but honestly, cracks me up every time.
The anthemic herb even gets its own song; and the whole band takes part in an absurdist paean to their favourite plant; resulting, of course, in Pythonesque disorder, breakdown and chaos.
The album opens and closes with the band’s most famous of tunes, ‘Fixing to Die Rag’, the first version from the beginning of their career, and the second from
The track still raises a smile, and is still able, in all its cynicism, to make the listener feel a little contrite, and listening to it now, makes one feel a little disillusioned.
It reminds me that we blew it.
An opportunity lost.
And we are now paying the consequences.
Country Joe and the Fish - The Life and Times of Country Joe & the Fish: From Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock (1971)
Fixing to Die Rag
Who Am I
Waltzing in the Moonlight
Death Sound Blues
Sing Sing Sing
Not So Sweet Martha Loraine
Rock and Soul Music
Fixing to Die Rag