COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die (Vanguard)
Rock history seems to bend towards the opinion that "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" is the Country Joe album to own. Id take this platter in preference, just because it opens with the chilling yet sardonic anti-war tirade "The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" that lit up the "Woodstock" documentary film: imagine The Bonzo Dog Band getting drafted and you'll be in the neighbourhood - "And it's one, two, three/What are we fighting for?/Don't ask me, I don't give a damn/My next stop is Vietnam", and the chokier realism of "Be the first one on your block/To have your boy come home in a box". Also quaintly of its time are the unlisted linking tracks that bind the songs on the second side together, "The Bomb Song" (a gospel number that goes out to "all you listeners out there in record land", which implores "Please don't drop that H bomb on me") and "The Acid Commercial", which, from an era in which people unpicked Beatles lyrics in search of drug references, seems shockingly frank.
And there are some relatively conventional songs here as well: "Who Am I" is a wistful, gentle swell of self-doubt, "Rock Coast Blues" is just that, saturated in trademark San Francisco acid guitar, whilst the teeter-tottering "Janis" is, appropriately enough, about Ms Joplin. It's all marvellous, experimental (both socially and musically) stuff, absurdly dated, of course, but only more charming because of it.
This reissue appears as part of Vanguard's 50th anniversary celebrations, and features (it says here) 'virgin vinyl pressing 180 gm.' and 'heavy quality sleeves'. The sound quality is slightly compromised by a constant background hum, but in all other areas it improves considerably on the copy of the 1967 mono Fontana original pressing I've been forced to listen to this music from. And the packaging is a joy as well: utterly original, save the inclusion of Vanguard's website address, it even 'contains giant full-color Fish game complete with instructions'. This, it transpires, is an addled variant on the snakes and ladders theme, in which "You must play at the Avalon and the Fillmore, handing in one joint before playing". Beautiful, in its own way.