Monday, 2 May 2011

Rondo, Rondo, Hey, Blubber Joe, coconut, Blubber Joe, Hey, Blubber Joe!

While still attired in my cyber loons, thought I'd share some more Country Joe; seems apt.

Rather like others of his generation, Joe McDonald went through various diverse stages, adopting different styles, personas even, during his lengthy and ongoing career.
This album comes from what can only be considered Joe's "spiritual stage".

The opening track has a mighty sound; majestic, both in its delivery and in its slightly faux gospel style.
Track 2, 'Holy Roller', then goes on to tell, in the first person, a story of found redemption and liberty through the awakening to religion.
I'm really not sure as to how to take this song.
Firstly, the title, 'Holy Roller', hints somewhat at the derogatory; and secondly, the fact the song ends with the caveat: "God Damn", makes me suspicious of its intentions.

Well, I like to think so.
But I guess that's what I want it to be, right?
Let's just say, there seems to be a little less sincerity attached to the lyrics than heard in some of the songs of someone like... er, Cliff Richard.

The remainder of the album reverts to a style more akin to the sound of the excellent Paris Sessions (73), and benefits enormously as a consequence.

Joe's more common themes: anti-materialism, anti-capitalism and civil rights, are risen in the better of the tracks; after all, politics always has been his thing really.

The excellent 'Save the Whale' moves away from the more obvious cliches - I guess Whale Nation was yet to be conceived - and merely reveals a tale of how things are.

In true Ancient Mariner tradition, it's a tale that has to be told, and one that allows the beholder to form their own opinion about the industrialization of something that was once sustainable.
So yeah, a world away from Jon Anderson's hideous pathos soaked whinings.

The other standout track is the one associated with the album's title: 'Oh, Jamaica'.
An upbeat summery song; light and breezy with some punchy horn sounds and a great hooky chorus.
On a casual listen that's exactly what it is; it could even be said to be a paean for Jamaica and all its associated idealism.
But on a closer listen, amongst all the longing for frivolity and hedonism comes the lines:

But I don't want to disturb your reggae fantasies
About all of the dope and coconut trees
But all the people living in cardboard shacks

You know that ain't exactly where the good life's at

So the song, although it expresses a longing for a lifestyle stereotypically associated with the Caribbean island, knows that it's an aspiration that could never be fulfilled.
To take bourgeois and idealist values to such a place is never going to work.
(Unless of course you're some stuck-up tosser who really don't give a shit - right, Rich?)

So what can one do?
Well, get out of the city; create your own idyll; preferably in a place where you're not going to be too effectively oppressive to indigenous types - a concept I not only wholeheartedly agree with, but one I have very much gone along with.
And you know what? Who needs Jamaica anyway?

Smoking home grown
Drinking home brew

Sounds like paradise with an ocean view

Country Joe McDonald - Paradise With an Ocean View (1976)

Tear Down the Walls
Holy Roller
Lost My Connection
Save the Whales
Oh, Jamaica
Lonely on the Road
The Limit
Breakfast For Two

CD rip to mp3s
Find Paradise here