Incredible! Live! Country Joe McDonald


World excluding USA & Canada
Catalogue Id:
VMD 79316

This 1972 album release is taken from two shows at New York's Bitter End club on November 11th and 12th the previous year, a little over two years after the appearance at the Woodstock festival that elevated Joe McDonald's profile to new heights. He had become somewhat of a musical figurehead for the anti-Vietnam War counter culture, and at the Bitter End he would have, to a large extent, been preaching to the converted. Judging by the fast unison audience clapping on the opening track, ‘Entertainment In My Business’, the club was full of people who knew his work well.

Joe McDonald had developed his career away from the Fish in two main ways, with one strand being the rootsy country music work exemplified on his “Thinking Of Woody Guthrie” album (Vanguard VMD 6546, also available here on the Ace Records website). The other key strand was of course his politically motivated and satirical songs that had been so prevalent on the Country Joe & The Fish records, and it is this side of his work that takes the lead here. ‘Kiss My Ass’, co-written with his old Fish sidekick Barry Melton, looks at the lot of the US soldiers being sent en masse to South East Asia at that time, outrageously suggesting that the powers that be did not let them think for themselves. Heaven forfend! Another dig at the establishment comes with ‘Deep Down In Our Hearts’, a hootenanny-styled subversive singalong where many names are inserted that are guaranteed to wind up the right wingers. The folk revival throwback of ‘Free Some Day’ also becomes fuel for the anti-war groups, and ‘Tricky Dicky’ reminds us that President Richard M Nixon never took all the US public with him especially in the light of happenings like the Kent State University shootings, while ‘Living In The Future In a Plastic Dome’ rather pre-dates later eco-warrior concerns around the world.  These songs are broken up to some extent with the insertion of the instrumental ‘Walk In Santiago’ and the quiet beauty of his ‘Fly So High’ (titled ‘Oh, My, My’ on the original album issue) which is as much about personal responsibility as it is a love song. The set ends with the tougher crowd-pleasing ‘I'm On The Road Again’ recalling the Leadbelly tradition, but with Joe's lyrics taking an anti-bourgeoisie position, seeing that class divisions were to a large extent under-pinning the use of US forces in wars. It was a time that the whole of the US were well past the initial gung-ho reaction to the Vietnam War, and were becoming increasingly disillusioned with their leadership, and Joe's position as a vocal exponent of the many worries meant that he was increasingly listened to. Overall though, it was the quality of his music and its delivery that ensured him an audience. making this fine live album not only a testament to the times but also a memorable listening experience.


Track listing

Side 1

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