on 1 January 2007
Nearly 40 years on this is perhaps one of the most distinctive original sounding West coast album of the late 60's. Worth buying just for the wonderful liquid guitar sound that permeates throughout all the tracks.Terrific example of this is the scintilating lead guitar exchanges on Death Sound Blues climaxing in a dual guitar finale that is simply awesome. Definitely one of the best guitar albums ever made. Subsequent albums were not of the same calibre. Buy this - you will not be disappointed.
on 13 April 2013
This reissue of what is often thought of as one of the first, if not THE first, Bay Area psychedelic long players is a superlative effort. It is really worth purchasing just for the booklet which is a truly fantastic effort with great (and evocative!) pictures including a hilarious portion of a Marvel comic strip ['The Assassination of Nick Fury' apparently] involving the Fish playing as an anonymous assassin closes in on Nick... wow, different times! The booklet includes plenty of the era's famous psychedelic concert posters, a couple of which are, ahem, somewhat less than PC in their depictions of scantily clothed women. The liners are excellent especially the interview segments with the surviving band members commenting on individual tracks; interesting that they all seem to hate 'Sad & Lonely Times' which apparently was a lot better live in a Byrds-style arrangement, shame this was never caught on tape.
The music itself is superb early psychedelia with washes of Farfisa organ (which again the band didn't much like apparently.... they were wrong, it sounds great) and Barry Melton's stinging vibrato'ed acid-guitar - which a decade later influenced the great guitarist Tom Verlaine of NY 'punks' Television. This truly is one of the best psych-albums, dated yes but still potent and more than simply a time-capsule (though it works on these terms too). This reissue is a double disc with one dedicated to the 1st CD release of the original mono-mix which sounds great except for some high frequency distortion on 'Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine' during some of the denser organ/guitar passages (a shame since it is one of the best tracks) but probably is a result of inevitable tape degradation after almost 50-years. The second disc is the stereo version, presumably the '80's re-mix since apparently tape degradation got to the original stereo mix as well, in any case it sounds just fine and on 'pure' sound quality probably sounds better than the mono though personally I prefer the former even with the minor issues I've pointed out.
In conclusion; an essential addition for any psych-rock or 60's music collection - being one the top three psychedelic albums of the '67-'69 era. It is even worth the upgrade even if you own earlier CD releases of this classic; simply for the booklet even if the mono-mix doesn't interest you. Let's hope that Ace/Vanguard can do a similar job on the Fish's 2nd album "I Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die" which is almost as good and after which it was downhill all the way ('cept for a few flashes on the last album 'CJ Fish'....)
on 23 April 2013
The 2013 reissue is a treasure ! Not only Sam Charters' original Stereo mix was restored but the remastering is absolutely breathtaking. Where I found the ol' vinyl often sounded tinny, this RI has a real bottom end through which the interplay between bassist Bruce Barthol and drummer "Chicken" Hirsch finally makes sense. The production as a whole sounds much more well rounded and more akin to the way the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die album sounds. Where I've always been more fond of the latter ( it was one of my very first underground albums ) I feel my allegiance will probably shift to Electric Music due to this release.
I'll regard the MONO disc as a bonus as its mix is rather crude and makes you feel you've landed in the middle of a band practicing. The ending of Death Sound Blues has been cut off rather carelessly, like someone cut off some seconds by mistake.
The stereo mix alone is worth the price of admission for this 2CD though, it's stellar !
on 6 June 2003
True to its cleverly pretentious title, "Electric Music for the Mind and Body" ranks up there as one of the most influential debut albums ever released. Remarkable at the time (early 1967) for its innovative use of swirling instrumentation, odd chord sequences, abrupt switches in tempo & strange, image-laden lyrics, and remarkable to this day in that several of its best tracks (in particular the deeply atmospheric "Bass Strings", the wonderfully eerie "Section 43", the bizarrely structured "Masked Marauder" and the even weirder "Grace") remain quite unlike anything heard before or since. And... with only a couple of exceptions, even those that follow a more standard mid 60's format (such as the tightly metered political satire of "Superbird", the rolling jug band blues of "Flying High", the lyrically evocative country-rock of "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" and the awesome, almost frightening, straight blues of "Death Sound") still stand out as highly distinctive examples of their time.
Others, most notably Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd, were working on the same plot but Country Joe & the Fish were right in there - at the beginning and already out on the edge - incorporating country, folk, blues, psychedelia, eastern raga and elements of free form jazz into their ingenious musical mix and pushing the previously accepted barriers of popular music onto a very different, much richer plane. Brave and effective it remains an essential record: not only because of its impact on the music scene but, more importantly, because of the enduring power of most of its songs.
Alex Palao, who is largely responsible for this excellent reissue package, describes it thus:
"This deluxe edition is the first time producer Sam Charters' original stereo mixdown of "Electric Music for the Mind and Body" has been reissued on compact disc. In the decade after the album was first released, the 2-track master suffered irreparable tape damage and oxide loss. In the early 1980s, a decision was made by Vanguard to remix the record, and that is how it has appeared in subsequent repackages. The mono mix, which has notable disparities to the stereo, has also not been available since the late 1960s."
What Alex doesn't tell us is what the tape source of the stereo mix used here is, but as Ace's Roger Armstrong was involved in the archive research I guess we can trust its authenticity! The two versions included in this release, mono and stereo, have been mastered by Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd and are up to Ace's usual high audio standard - but listen out for the curious end to "Death Sound" on the mono mix, not Nick's fault I'm sure! Also included is a forty page booklet which contains lots of information about the music itself, interviews with band members, track details, lyrics and many illustrations and facsimiles.
Electric Music for the Mind and Body was one of my favourite albums of 1967 with the music drifting into the night as played by John Peel on Radio London during that magical summer. One of the most important albums of that year this new package from Ace has finally done it full justice on CD. Even if you have the earlier CD release this new version is well worth adding to your collection. Amazon currently has reviews for both versions of the CD grouped together - any review dated before April 2013 will refer to the earlier CD release! I have both and both are good, however the deluxe version is now the one to get for fans and purists.
on 5 April 2001
The strongest of the Fish's albums this is San Francisco at it's hippie heights. The band is often loose and ragged and the vocals delivered in a dreamlike fashion. But what would you expect from a band in 1967/68 working out of a city whose Haight Ashbury extravagance was inextricably linked to the Hippie movement. A trip, in more senses than one, into late 60s culture.
on 8 April 2013
I bought the mono copy of this album when it first came out and still go back to it whenever l feel I need a little west coast fix, the record has seen better days so it's nice to see this double CD with both versions on it I still think the mono is the best a much tighter sound, the stereo is still ok you just take your pick. a bit of a shame there's no extra tracks as I heard a bootleg cd a long time ago of outtakes from the original sessions, one of them was a lovely instrumental version of "Grace" but as we all know tapes have a habit of getting lost one way or another and showing up on bootlegs at a later date, but that's life,sure it's a bit dated but for its time it's wonderful
on 4 April 2012
A great album in a time of great albums. It has dated a bit - but the music still has that magic something that renders it timeless, great guitar work, fabulous melodies and a touch of the darkness that the Doors exemplified and the VU took to the bank. Very higly recommended.
Sometimes you stumble on a reissue that blows you away - and this is one of them. I'm not quite sure how this nugget escaped me - but I'm glad I caught up with it. Most collectors will know the name Ace Records of the UK and their long-held reputation for quality CD reissues - but even they've outdone themselves on this sucker. All hippy jokes aside - it's time you expanded your mind and depleted that wallet. Here are the groovy people details (with angel bands and the I Ching)...
Released April 2013 - "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" by COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH is a 2CD Set on Ace/Vanguard Masters VMD2 79244 (Barcode 029667047425) and breaks downs as follows:
Disc 2 (44:28 minutes):
1. Flying High
2. Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
3. Death Sound (Blues)
4. Happiness Is A Porpoise Mouth
5. Section 43
6. Superbird [Side 2]
7. Sad And Lonely Times
9. Bass Strings
10. The Masked Marauder
Tracks 1 to 11 are the original MONO mix - released May 1967 in the USA on Vanguard Records VRS 9244 and October 1967 in the UK on Fontana TFL 6081
Disc 2 (44:33 minutes)
Track list as above - 1 to 11 are the original STEREO mix - released May 1967 on Vanguard VSD 79244 in the USA and October 1967 in the UK on Fontana STFL 6081
JOE McDONALD - Lead and Harmony Vocals, Guitars, Bells and Tambourine
BARRY MELTON - Vocals and Lead Guitar
DAVID COHEN - Rhythm and Lead Guitar and Organ
BRUCE BARTHOL - Bass and Harmonica
GARY "CHICKEN" HIRSH - Drums and Backing Vocals
Presented in a three-way foldout card digipak (rather like one of Universal's Deluxe Editions) - the inner left flap pictures a Tape Box from 3 April 1967 for the MONO MASTER - while beneath the centre and right see-through CD trays are repros of the Mono and Stereo Vanguard Records labels (nice attention to detail). But they're nothing to the 40-page-booklet which is properly brilliant. It's rammed to the gunnels with period posters for live shows at the Fillmore, Fairfax Park, Golden Sheaf Bakery, Jabberwock...and so on. There's Berkeley Gazette reviews, Billboard Posters, Comic Strips, Vanguard Records Publicity Photos, Nude Lady Fliers, Buttons, UK Fontana 7" singles, Danish Picture Sleeves - there's even an unused colour photo on Page 1 as alternate sleeve art. There's a huge essay on the band and the making of the album by ALEC PALAO right up until Page 19 - with the second half of the booklet supplying song-by-song analysis and lyrics - all of it peppered with fantastic period California Posters with Psychedelic artwork.
And as ever with Ace Records of the UK - the sound quality makes mincemeat of all that went before it - remastered by NICK ROBBINS at Sound mastering from first generation tapes. This really is a gorgeous transfer - I played "Flying High" first in Mono and then after in Stereo - both sound amazing. The vocal is to the fore but the guitars battling each other are clear without being intrusive. The same applies to the screaming keyboard intro to "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" - but when the band kicks in - the punch is incredible - what a great song too (not surprising it was picked as a single - Vanguard 35052). The guitar battles continue big time in "Death Sound" - the left speaker letting rip while the rhythm fleshes out the right and back again. All of the brilliant SAMUEL CHARTERS Production values are now `out there' to be heard - clear and full like The Doors CDs are.
"Porpoise Mouth" again has harsh separation of instruments - but you can `hear' them now with a clarity that's spine tingling. The different stoner keys/guitars of the near eight-minute "Section 43" instrumental again conjure up images of The Doors sitting around at some Beach House in California where there's a light show, bean bags, cool chicks and way too many pills that aren't aspirins - what a great trip (and the transfer is fabulous). "Gonna send you back to Texas...make you work on your ranch..." McDonald croons on the anti-square song "Superbird" - a witty rant against 50's repression and conformity. They get all Byrds jangly with "Sad And Lonely Times" while Barry Melton growls his best Beefheart on his lead vocal in "Love" which has superb organ work from Cohen (it was the B-side of "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" in the UK on Fontana TF 882 in 1967). The bluesy trip of "Bass Strings" is probably one of the best songs on the album - five minutes of languid keyboard Psych with McDonald sounding more sincere that before on the vocal. "The Masked Marauder" (B-side to "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" in the USA on Vanguard 35052) is the album's sort-of second instrumental - being peppered with a "La La La" vocal refrain while the keys and harmonica battle it out. It finishes on the seven-minute "Grace" - dripping with overdubbed bells, tingles and dripping water - suitably trippy and so West Coast.
It's been years since I heard "Electric Music For The Mind And Body" sound so damn good - and a very tasty reminder of why it's name-checked so much as the starting point of Psych and all that followed.
A fabulous reissue and surely a remastering award-winner...
on 30 September 2013
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.