14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2009
Country Joe and the Fish's first two albums are both, simply, spectacular. Discussions of the merits of one over the other can perhaps lose sight of this by arguing a point ultimately neither worth proving nor in fact provable; similarly, claiming that either of these is the best `psychedelic' album of the 60s may be an indication of their strengths but may not be as constructive as enjoying either of them on their own merits
They are different (if clearly related) albums, with both delivering unique takes on the massive evolution in sounds and attitudes in the Bay Area of 66/67. That Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die followed so hot on the heels of their first, Electric Music for the Mind and Body, is further testament to just how spectacularly creative this band were during their brief, incredible peak.
Strangely, the weakest track on this album is probably the most familiar, its first and title track. Sitting somewhat outside the sound and feel of the rest of the music, it's dated less well. This may be partly because the famous solo Woodstock version has become the one fixed in most people's minds. The Fixin-to-Die Rag was also a song that their label somewhat idiotically urged them to keep off their first album, where it was perhaps more in keeping with Superbird and some of the shorter, more accessible songs that punctuate the longer instrumentals there. That said, it's still a shining example of darkly humorous and beautifully well-chosen satirical lyrics, and easily the classier relative of a number of more fabled protest songs (yes, I'm talking about you, Mr Zimmerman).
The rest of this album is astonishing. Sounding unlike anything else of the time (except an even eerier and more experienced version of their first album) there is a sparse, otherworldly, electric, fragile and melancholic feel. Some of the sharpness and exuberance may not be as immediately evident, but in its place is something just as breathtaking.
The first side (as was) is a collection of songs at one turn reflective (Who Am I), and at another electric (the shimmering white-boy acid blues of Rock Coast Blues), taking in on its way the mind-altered sweep of Magoo and the touching, spaced waltz of Janis.
The second side, even with its vaudeville jug-band bookends (mock preaching and a spoof acid commercial) flows into one long beautiful suite, ending with gently skewed shimmering chords ringing out in a kind of wordless lullaby. The last serious lyrics you'll hear, a simple repetition of the words `I found you' suggests a kind of closeness borne out of happy circumstance that is a perfect postcard memory to take from the music here: music that suggests intimacy and honesty about both confusion and hope.
Overall, the sound is full of space, with the crystal sharp guitars flowing from sweet and fluid to distorted and sharp. The organ hovers and swirls, reminiscent in feel to the longer instrumental pieces from the first album but calmer, somehow. The longer series of songs flow and shift into raga and back, with an unmistakable impetus that carries you with them. It's something otherwordly, different, that seems totally removed from so much of the more recognisable bands and sounds; it may be gentle in places but is no less confident for that. While the lyrics are, of course, products of their time, equally they are no less enjoyable for it, and Joe's soft, stoned-sounding and slightly amused voice sits square in the middle, singing of love, mind-expansion, loss, and of what can be found.
Finally, this album is something that grows with repeated listening. In fact, the older I get the more fresh, timeless and astonishing both Country Joe albums sound, but particularly this one. When listening, I'm always amazed it's the end of the cd so soon, often simply pressing play all over again (admittedly skipping straight to track 2).
It simply stands apart, beautiful and complete, which is something most music can't even aspire to. And as a result I have to recommend this in the highest terms I have: regardless of whether it's the best of Country Joe or even of the Bay, it is easily one of my all time favourite albums.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2004
Lost beneath the interest that surrounded, and continues to surround, their first album ("Electric Music for the Mind & Body"), Country Joe & the Fish's second album merits serious consideration as the best "psychedelic" record ever made.
If psychedelic means highly innovative, ethereal music in which technical skill is secondary to the creation of pure "mood & feel" then virtually all of the tracks on this album qualify as winners. Skip the brilliantly metered, wonderfully sarcastic but (in psychedelic terms) incongruous jug-band opener, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die", and go straight to "Magoo" (one of the most bizarrely structured, yet effective pieces of music produced by this or any other group) and "Colors for Susan" (a series of highly unusual "West Coast" guitar chords played at a snail's pace that succeeds in creating feelings of tension & relaxation at the same time) and drop into a world of weird, reflective and totally unique music that drifts, often precariously, between simplicity and brilliant ingenuity. "Pat's Song" & "Janis" could have been naively wistful hippie "love songs" if it weren't for their marvellously odd arrangements; "Thursday" combines delicately haunting vocals with a stunningly beautiful organ & guitar break before flowing into "Eastern Jam's" first, wonderfully ecstatic guitar solo, and "Who Am I" & "Rock Coast Blues" should be standard folk & blues respectively, but they're not. What they all are, and add up to, is a near perfect example of music from a different time and place in which groups dared to push themselves to the limits of their creativity.
Flawed only by two irritating between-track jingles that forewarn of the mess that their third album "Together" was to become, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die" remains as playable and interesting today as it was over 30 years ago... a definitive, totally forgotten gem.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2013
I'd never had the mono version before, but it is clear that the 'stereo' version is created / enhanced from the mono recording, the latter sounding MUCH better, so well worth the purchase.
...oh, and the music is just great now that more of it can be heard more clearly !!
Note to self: must check the Electric Music... dual version to see if it is the same
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The second album from this left field West Coast band re-mastered to perfection in my opinion, I simply cannot believe how good this old recording sounds. Whilst for me, their best album will always be their first Electric Music for the Mind and Body, this one was a cracking follow up.
The Anti-Vietnam War anthem that kicks off this album is probably the best anti-war song ever written in my view as it cleverly combines pathos with humour. Whilst it's fun to have the mono version as well as the stereo, I can't see the second version being played very often, although it does have a couple of bonus tracks. I didn't purchase the original CD version of this album, so I am unable to comment on any sonic improvement with this one, but believe me it sounds good!
Packaging is a double digipak as the stereo and mono versions are on separate CDs; there's a 40 page booklet (yes 40 pages!), with much information, photos, posters, memorabilia etc; a fold out "Fish Game" (6 X booklet size) which is a bit of fun/gimmick depending on your viewpoint.
If you enjoyed the original album, I cannot see that you would not enjoy this version, if you're new to them, then get yourself a slice of west coast psychedelia at its best.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2014
This is a stunning collection of songs. Been around Country Joe since the late 1970's mainly due to the Woodstock soundtrack. Firstly `I feel like I`m fixin` to die ` is one of the best protest songs ever written and performed. The real depth of the album are the songs that follow it.
I got a number of Country Joe recordings from Joe McDonald's website. He signed every cd to me. They are now much loved and played. There is a live album with some other great West Coast `heads` on it. Please check out the website there is a wonderful cd of Joe playing his songs from his long career.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2000
This album, it seems to me, has been totally underrated, whilst other woodstock performers such as Hendrix and Santana have received great praise and coverage, country joe and the fish have had much less than they deserve. It's definately a very groovy album but it's also very destinct from other psychedellic material I've heard. The album's strength comes from this originality and it will always be for me, one of the most enlightening albums, particularly the songs "Thursday and Colours for Susan".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2014
A great opportunity to replace my old LP version with this not only remastered version but double disc in with both mono and stereo versions plus unreleased tracks. The sound quality is simply stunning.
I still think "Thursday" is sublime.
The booklet is an unexpected surprise too....more a book than liner notes!
Pure 60's psychedlia at it's very best and recommended without hesitation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2014
looked for something I had not heard of, knew the years of music that I listen too and this mixture of cynical, sad and high rock psychodylic music is very enjoyable be it about sad times...
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2005
"Country Joe & the Fish's second album merits serious consideration as THE best "psychedelic" record ever made" said the previous reviewer. I agree. It is certainly worthy of almost any prize you may wish to bestow upon it. Hear that? - it's a very big BUT - I don't agree to labelling this as a purely psychedelic album, though there are certainly VERY trippy moments as on 'Magoo' (we are treated to the middle of a thunder-storm, echoing voices, sinister plucking on guitar, a constant refrain of 'stay as you are'), and the warped guitar effects found on 'Eastern Jam', and elsewhere (everywhere?) but on the whole it is more of a mixture - so it should perhaps - no DEFINITELY - have more than just the one merit, right? In parts, it is an exemplary chilled out affair, earthy, almost hippyesque, as might be inferred from the opening jug-band bluesy chant of 'I feel like I'm fixing to die' all about war, or not - depending on your ontological perspective - you may otherwise think it the music of political activists (at a time when the FBI was involved in chasing draft dodgers), yet none the less beautiful for that. 'Who Am I?' is folk at its best, 'Pat's Song' is a fusion of styles, evoking feelings of blissed out love, as well as weird acid-blues. 'Rock Coast Blues' is a low point in the album - but what a heady height for a low point! Perhaps another medal is on its way - the best blues song! 'Janis' is essentially a beautifully composed and arranged love song, with subtle lyrical overlay, mouth-organ, and harpsichord etc. Oh, but with an innovative difference - at moments reminiscent of a fairground - a beautiful song that simply MUST be heard. 'Thought Dream' utilises the sweet sound of an organ (Hammond?) to almost gospel, evangelical, spiritual heights, and begins and ends with a refrain upon dropping 'H' -Bombs. Sheer beauty, such emotion, and with such moral force. The beginning is quite a trippy affair, in my mind at least, with the song proper 'happening' initially as someone in the background trying to get started - and soon does: the rest of the song is colossal. It brings a smile to my face, and throws a tear from my eye - it is a gentle affair, like a slow lament. 'Thursday' begins with an up-tempo fun piece, an initial ditto on LSD, then flows into yet another unbelievably soft, comfortable space full of beautiful music, with the continual refrain 'I found you'. Another reviewer spoke of mood and feeling - words surely at home here. We end with 'Colours for Susan' , a mixed tempo, though incredibly gentle track- top fare.
A high point of the album? There isn't one - it is ALL SUPERB! My suggestion (to fans of psychedelia, flower power, folk, blues, soft rock, and blissed-out hippydom, is to buy it, play it, then LOVE it!
on 26 November 2013
Sheer hippy and sublimely melodic I am buying my 26 year old son a copy.
It exudes melody and atmosphere of its own.
The first tack is the upbeat anti Vietnam rant. Superb in its own right and a masterpiece. However the rest of the album is a far cry from this. I cannot describe music-who can? Melodic, enchanting, imaginative and unique. Many an emotional evening both in the past and recently, have I had enjoying this...
However I am musical, artistic and this is a unique piece of music and I would....bla bla.....