Country Joe And The Fish, Electric Music For The Mind And Body

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Electric Music For The Mind And Body

Country Joe And The Fish
Exploiting the tension between protest music and head-trips

Country Joe and the Fish's unabashedly LSD-inspired 1967 debut holds up remarkably well, considering the source. The classic San Francisco sound's ecstatic alchemy was more often than not the result of roots music gone cosmic; hence the choogling Chicago blues that provides the background to primary songwriter Country Joe McDonald's Hunter S. Thompson-esque story of benign stoner stupidity in the album's opener, "Flying High." But the band raises its stakes considerably in what follows. "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" is a darkly comedic portrait of an enigmatic head fucker of a chick, with a bonus blues bridge added almost as an afterthought. In "Death Sound Blues," the Fish sound like the West Coast auxiliary of the Fugs. But New York's punkest hippies never had a guitarist like Barry Melton, whose plummy electric sound still distills the essence of SF acid-rock guitar after lo these many decades. "Happiness Is a Porpoise Mouth," the instrumental "Section 43," "Bass Strings" and "Grace" (as in Slick) all manifest different modalities of Marvel Comics-colored psychedelic experiences, often via David Cohen's deliriously individuated organ lines. The group would continue to exploit the tension between protest music and head-trips until the center no longer held; in other words, about one more album.