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"...Flying High All The Way..." - Electric Music For The Mind And Body by COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH (2013 2CD Remasters)
on 4 December 2014
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...