Up to now, I had not owned any Country Joe & The Fish, apart from the tracks included on the Woodstock soundtrack (both the original 1970 issue and the 6-CD box from 2009 that celebrated the 40th Anniversary by giving us a nice wide sampling of that crazy, beautiful, muddy hot mess, that disaster-area festival). When I saw this new remaster and the forthcoming (and by the time I write this, available) 2 CD remaster of I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die, I figured it was time to rectify that omission from my ever-widening CD collection.
And I certainly don't regret it - Electric Music for the Mind and Body is vital '67 psychedelia. It's all here: Joe McDonald's biting lyrics, David Cohen's cheezy-but-so-right Farfisa organ, Barry Melton's stinging guitar leads, and the able rhythm section that was Bruce Barthol and Gary "Chicken" Hirsh. It starts off with "Flying High," Country Joe's tale of hitchhiking and being given a ride by two hippies in a Cadillac; "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" is about a girl who isn't all she's cracked up to be; "Death Sound" is haunting, and "Bass Strings" provides some serious atmosphere (my only other experience with this track was as a cover recorded by the American Pagan psych-folk group Green Crown, retitled "Washed in Green (Bass Strings)"). Perhaps the least essential track of the lot is the poke at LBJ, "Superbird," which is just risible.
The two mixes are well worth having - the original mono mix, unavailable for over 40 years, and the original stereo mix (later reissues used a remix), and the booklet notes are most informative, detailing the formation and rise of the band and their seemingly unlikely signing to Vanguard Records, which was badly in need of some hip cache at the time. Joe McDonald and the other band members offer their remembrances of these days along with ED Denson (a prime mover in the operation of John Fahey's label, Takoma Records) and Sam Charters, and you feel as if you could have been there - or, at least, you wish you had been. And for the price of a tenner, you can't go wrong. This album was and is a pivotal signpost on the road to and through psychedelia and the heady days of '60s rock 'n' roll; it is essential listening.