Country Joe & The Fish – Electric Music For The Mind And Body (1967)

Electric Music for the Mind and Body is Country Joe and the Fish’s debut album. Released in May 1967 on the Vanguard label, it was one of the first psychedelic albums to come out of San Francisco.

Tracks from the LP, especially “Section 43”, “Grace”, and “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” were played on progressive FM rock stations like KSAN and KMPX in San Francisco, often back-to-back. A version of the song “Love” was performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

“Grace” is a tribute to Jefferson Airplane’s lead singer, Grace Slick.

The album was recorded during the first week of February 1967 at Sierra Sound Laboratories, Berkeley, California, by Robert DeSousa, with production by Samuel Charters. It was released on May 11, 1967, on the Vanguard label. Due to deterioration of the original master tapes, the album was remixed in 1982 and this remix was used for the original CD release in 1990.

In 2013 a new two-disc deluxe version appeared which included both the original mono and stereo mixes. It is the first time producer Sam Charters’ original stereo mixdown has been issued on compact disc. The liner notes to the 2013 version state that an outtake from the sessions, “Thought Dream”, was later included on the band’s follow-up, I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die.

Track Listing:

“Flying High” – 2:38
“Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” – 4:21
“Death Sound Blues” – 4:23 – Labeled as “Death Sound” on the mono version of the album
“Happiness Is a Porpoise Mouth” – 2:48 – Labeled as “Porpoise Mouth” on the mono version of the album
“Section 43” – 7:23
“Superbird” – 2:04
“Sad and Lonely Times” – 2:23
“Love” (Joe McDonald, Barry Melton, David Cohen, Bruce Barthol, John Francis Gunning, Gary Hirsh) – 2:19
“Bass Strings” – 4:58
“The Masked Marauder” – 3:10
“Grace” – 7:03

AllMusic Review: Their full-length debut is their most joyous and cohesive statement and one of the most important and enduring documents of the psychedelic era, the band’s swirl of distorted guitar and organ at its most inventive. In contrast to Jefferson Airplane, who were at their best working within conventional song structures, and the Grateful Dead, who hadn’t quite yet figured out how to transpose their music to the recording studio, Country Joe & the Fish delivered a fully formed, uncompromising, and yet utterly accessible — in fact, often delightfully witty — body of psychedelic music the first time out. Ranging in mood from good-timey to downright apocalyptic, it embraced all of the facets of the band’s music, which were startling in their diversity: soaring guitar and keyboard excursions (“Flying High,” “Section 43,” “Bass Strings,” “The Masked Marauder”), the group’s folk roots (“Sad and Lonely Times”), McDonald’s personal ode to Grace Slick (“Grace”), and their in-your-face politics (“Superbird”). Hardly any band since the Beatles had ever come up with such a perfect and perfectly bold introduction to who and what they were, and the results — given the prodigious talents and wide-ranging orientation of this group — might’ve scared off most major record labels. Additionally, this is one of the best-performed records of its period, most of it so bracing and exciting that one gets some of the intensity of a live performance. The CD reissue also has the virtue of being one of the best analog-to-digital transfers ever issued on one of Vanguard Records’ classic albums, with startlingly vivid stereo separation and a close, intimate sound. — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 4.0/10

Schill Comment: They tried to capture the essence of The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but missed the mark on a lot of songs.

Listen to Album on Spotify