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6 August 2011

Country Joe and the Fish - 'Electric Music for the Mind and Body' (Vanguard)

The title is apt because this is pretty electrifying 60's rock - the guitars are truly racing with electricity, tinny and sharp, and honestly some of Barry Melton's noodling is exhilirating in its exploratory way. 'Death Sound Blues' takes a blues-bar pattern and amps it up with a malevolence unequaled by anything short of Neil's 'Revolution Blues'. A blues basis is throughout most of the record, and Melton takes lead vocals on 'Love', which actually injects a nice hot blast of white soul into the proceedings. It's a little pedestrian but his guitar solo has just enough creaking and clanging to carry it through. 'Happiness is a Porpoise Mouth' twists a weird singsong sex fable into a carnivalesque nightmare, with organs and buzzing, treated guitars to really make it sing. I'm generally surprised by how much bite this has; I haven't played this in well over a decade and remembered it being sorta wishy-washy. Wishy-washy it's not, but bouncy-bouncy and jingle-jangle it can be when it's not being ethereal and dark. 'Sad and Lonely Times' is such a tune, despite the lyrics. Some days I'd prefer the hazy tracks of side 2 to side 1's sharper bite, but I guess it depends on the horizon of a given day. The album's nadir ('The Masked Marauder', a bit of goofy cartoon theme music) is immediately followed by it's zenith, the closing 'Grace'. This is a wispy, wet ballad with guitars played above the headstock to create an almost musique concrete feel. Shimmering cymbals, a haunting riff, and just the right echo and resonance make this a full-on masterpiece in the truest Terrastock style.

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