AOTM has been especially difficult for me this month. As you know I listen to at least one new album a day. This practice has grown to include one classical album also. Originally, this coveted title was set to go to The Eagles’ masterwork One of These Nights. Then it was set to go to Clearlight’s debut, Clearlight. The latter was on account of Doug Lubahn, the group’s bassist having sadly passed away this month. Lubahn was the bassist on three of the Doors’ studio albums, hence is quite close to my heart.
But following Clearlight down the Doors rabbit hole, my father recommended Country Joe & The Fish. Naturally I exhibited taut revulsion at being told to do anything. One is prone to believe their music taste is superior to others’, are they not? I relented and listened to Love Machine, which set a very agreeable tone. Then I went and listened to the whole thing. Now I am not swift to admit that I am wrong, but boy was I wrong.
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. ACE Records
The first track which took me was Mara. This is a masterful combination of Doorsian rhythm with a fresh and original melody and lyric. I have yet to happen upon anyone who masters the lyrical form better the The Doors’ Jim Morrison. In fact I have several books of his poetry in my library. But these were not bad.
The overall timbre is interesting, being both joyful and sobering at the same time. Some bright spots in the material are “Hey Bobby,” “She’s a Bird,” and “Hang On,” which are delightfully Country Joe. AllMusic
The Baby Song was another standout. Of course in the current climate crisis, the lyrics “Come with me, we shall make a baby” is not the greatest advise. But this impending doom is the subject for a later blog post. Notice how the solo near the end of this track resembles a baby’s tantrum.
[The songs] 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. ACE Records
Hey Bobby’s hook is so familiar Matthew and I were not able to discern the song which sampled this riff but I am sure one of you shall be able to.
Silver and Gold is my third highlight. Psychedelic rock at it’s finest. absolutely mind blowing.
The Love Machine is the runaway hit of this album of course. This is also the closest to the Doors sound of the whole album. This smooth pop psychedelia masterpiece is impossible not to groove to. It builds and builds, adding layers as it goes culminating in a measure of blissfully bewildering music. I am so deeply impressed.
The album lands on a melancholic note with Return of Sweet Lorraine and Hand of Man. The former is a magnificent example of how to vent one’s ire correctly. The latter is a corny country track which exudes bizarre pseudo populist positivity.
Overall, this album can be condensed into a Nick Drake & The Doors hybrid. The composition of each song is balanced and beautiful, with enough room for us to be able to wrap our minds around it. This bluesy, psychedelic pop meld is a testament to the masterful production of Tom Wilson, who had by this time produced Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. This album epitomises 1967 Los Angeles. This is where the Doors originated, of course. Some harsher critics say this is not their best work but I think C.J. Fish is pristine. I dare you to prove me wrong.