Review Summary: Light up, get comfortable, and chill out with Country Joe.
Country Joe and The Fish, a psychedelic rock band from the late 60's, certainly had something of a political agenda. The band name itself is based upon a combination of Joseph Stalin's nickname and a quote from the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. They were most well known for their anti-war song "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" but there was a whole lot more to their music than that particularly whimsical psychedelic rock meets oompah band mashup.
While this debut release has a fair helping of formulaic 60's psychedelia there is an extra dimension to their sound compared to many of their contemporaries. This is exemplified on 'Section 43', a subtly mesmerising 7 minutes of snaky organ melodies, meandering bass lines and hypnotic eastern tinged guitar passages. 'Bass Lines' has a similar 'light up and chill' vibe to it with its psyched-out trippy vocals, tremeloed guitar licks and loose swaying rhythm. This isn't all laid back psychedelic jams though. The more light-hearted side of the band comes to the fore on several numbers including bluesy album opener 'Flying High', a trippy tale of a hitch-hiker's journey featuring typically throwaway lines such as 'I took out my harp and I played 'em a tune, I could see they were diggin' it,Then the one with the fez, well he turns and he sez, We'd like to help you make your trip'. The whimsical themes continue on the likeable 'Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine' who apparently 'hides in an attic concealed on a shelf, behind volumes of literature based on herself'. There is a confidence and surety about the band's performance on here, and indeed throughout the whole album, that belies the fact that this was their debut release. The music exhibits a wonderful looseness and meandering quality which results in it becoming quite captivating after a few listens.
This is a highly enjoyable trip from start to finish. The restrained backdrop of distorted guitars, bluesy licks and inventive organ melodies throughout the music induce a wonderful sense of detached mellowness in the listener. The band went on to release another strong album in the form of 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die' but this debut probably stands as their finest moment. If you fancy some good old fashioned 60's psych to chill out to Country Joe is your man.