C J Fish Country Joe & The Fish


Psych / Garage
Catalogue Id:
VMD 6555

The “CJ Fish” album was the sixth to be issued by Vanguard Records in 1970, and was the last to feature new material from the group as the only subsequent album was the historical retrospective “Life And Times of Country Joe & The Fish”, issued the following year, by which time the band had broken up and Joe McDonald had embarked on a solo career. The new album can be seen as an attempt by Vanguard to see if they could steer the group towards a more mainstream pop rock position, with production duties being handled by Tom Wilson whose credits by then already included Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. The group's earlier material had been extremely varied, ranging from blues, jug band music, folk, ballads and eastern-influenced rock, but they had gradually been cutting slightly more commercial material, some of which sat in the then-emerging country rock vein almost akin to Poco and others. This however was not a country rock album, but rather a pop rock one with a more uniform set of songs that producer Wilson was able to meld into a cohesive sounding whole.


The Fish line-up that cut the album was different from what is seen as the classic one. Gone were David Cohen, 'Chicken' Hirsh and Bruce Barthol, and now alongside Joe McDonald and Barry Melton were keyboard player Mark Kapner, bass player Doug Metzner (ex-Group Image) and drummer Greg Dewey (ex-Mad River). The album opens with Melton's very pop-orientated ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, perhaps strangely not picked for single release at the time, and he also contributes the rockier ‘Silver And Gold’. Otherwise all the songs are from McDonald's pen, and are uniformly professional, varying from the gentle piano-led jazzy ‘Mara’ and ‘She's A Bird’ with its dreamy guitar soundscape midway through to ‘Rockin' Round The World’ which is much more upbeat and funky, as you would expect. ‘Hang On’ is an easy jog-along country-tinged song, while ‘The Baby Song’ is solidly romantic and miles from some earlier Fish material, though here is a later nod to the group's past with ‘The Return of Sweet Lorraine’. Hints of Joe's political leanings surface briefly on ‘Hey Bobby’, built on the well-trodden ‘Hang On Sloopy’ chord progressions, and the album closes with another easy mid-tempo poppy song ‘Hand Of Man’.  Before this however had come the longest track, ‘The Love Machine’, which allows much more instrumental interest. The new players, on other tracks professional but somewhat anonymous, put their heads above the parapet here with some of the invention of earlier Fish line-ups. They provide sudden keyboard interjections and solos, interesting bass runs and even a strong drum break, lifting this track as one of the most interesting and evocative of the band's history. Although quite different to much of what had gone before, this album can be seen as a solid addition to the group's canon, even though it was to be their swansong, and as such no collection should be without it.


Track listing


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