Here we go again indeed, as this 1969 album came pretty quickly after the previous ones on Vanguard, indicating how strong an act they were at the end of the sixties, culminating perhaps with Joe McDonald's historic appearance at the Woodstock festival. According to the album's cover Joe and the Fish had lost a regular member, bassist Bruce Barthol, whose position had been taken by Mark Ryan on three tracks, Big Brother's Peter Albin on two and Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady on the remaining five. Casady would remain close to the group during 1969, appearing on the group's fabulous “Live! Fillmore West 1969” album (Available here on the Ace site as Vanguard VCD 139). Albin and Casady's work does indicate how close the San Francisco musicians were during this period. This album showed more aspects of their progress, and possibly an increasing company budget, as it added horns and strings in places.
After its predecessor, “Together”, which was very much a whole group album with songs from all members, this one reverts to being a very much Joe McDonald-inked work, aside from three songs from his long-time sidekick, guitarist Barry Melton. It is an album of contrasts, as indeed were all of the group's early Vanguard works, and it opens with a song that is probably the nearest the group ever got to a stab at the pop charts. ‘Here I Go Again’, is a very accessible country-based song that was to go on to attract covers, including Twiggy of all people, who managed a hit with it in 1976.. The group's version is easy going and attractive, as is their jugband-tinged ‘I'll Survive’ later in the album, which will remind many listeners of the light touch of the Lovin' Spoonful. As a complete contrast ‘Maria’ is another Joe McDonald anti-war song, quite simple in structure and swathed in strings that underline the inherent sadness of the song. Also very much in tune with the sixties' rapidly changing times, is Barry Melton's multi-sectioned album closer, ‘Doctor Of Electricity’,which seems to be something of a reaction to those changes, though the song can be read in other ways. It is however a heavier and fascinatingly constructed work that demands attention. More attractive tracks that feature the searing guitars that trademarked the Fish include the almost jazzy ‘Donovan's Reef’ and the over six-minute ‘Crystal Blues’ where keyboard player David Cohen joins Barry Melton as second lead guitarist. The addition of horns lifts both ‘It's So Nice To Have Love’ and ‘Baby You're Driving Me Crazy’, before they once again change tack with the quiet For ‘No Reason’. As ever, the group seemed to be motivated to challenge their listeners pre-conceptions and expectations, making them never know quite where they might go next. This is of course one of the reasons, along with the consistent quality of their playing and songwriting, why their music has lasted so well over the decades while many of their contemporaries proved to be one trick ponies.