The third album from Country Joe & the Fish, released in 1968 to quickly follow up the success of the first two, proved to be a bit of a departure for them in a number of ways. As well as the slightly incongruous pictures and text about Joe McDonald's wedding to his lady Robin, a quick glance at the writing credits showed that this album was much more of a group effort than the previous two which had featured almost entirely Joe's songs. Here there are credits for all five, individual ones, and ones for various combinations of the members, indicating perhaps how some of the earlier material had been garnered from existing songs from the group's pre-Vanguard privately pressed EPs. The group had been busy writing and recording, and indeed tracks 2 through 5 appear not to feature Joe McDonald at all, but their political and satirical edge is certainly still in place with songs that comment on racism, bigotry, intolerance and the US suburban outlook.
The album starts surprisingly with the nearly seven minute ‘Rock And Soul Music’, a tribute to the sweet soul music of James Brown and Stax artists. It is driven along by Bruce Barthol's bass playing the most typically danceable soul riff. This is followed by drummer Chicken Hirsh's love song to his lady, ‘Susan’, making us think that maybe we are settling into the established Fish album territory. This is indeed true in terms of the diversity, though the feel of many of the tracks here are quite different from the more chilled and laid back nature of the second album. ‘Mojo Navigator’, with an attacking lead vocal from David Cohen, and ‘Cetacean’ are rockier tracks, though the latter dissolves slowly into a series of odd sounds before returning as a snatch of song. ‘The Harlem Song’ with its spoof travelogue spoken intro is an acerbic and thought-provoking song about racism, while ‘Bright Suburban Mr. & Mrs. Clean Machine’, as you might expect, is the group's look at mainstream America and how it was presented on TV. ‘The Good Guys/Bad Guys’ cheer is followed by Barry Melton's ‘The Streets Of Your Town’ which becomes the hardest rocker here whilst commenting on New York's size and bigotry. In amongst all this there comes typical Fish leftfield moves with the flamenco-flavoured ‘Waltzing In The Moonlight’ and the very pretty and almost pastoral ‘Away Bounce My Bubbles’, which writer Chicken Hirsh describes as a 'pleasant daydream that whistles in my ear'. As with the previous two albums, the closing track, ‘An Untitled Protest’, is a quiet and thoughtful moment to end on, with finger cymbals punctuate Joe's anti-war drone organ-backed so-called 'Death Mantra'.
The album is reported to have been the group's best selling album, and certainly maintained and extended their reputation for variety and lyrics that went places that others did not go anywhere near, which pretty well explains why Country Joe & the Fish have maintained their place in sixties collectors’ halls of fame everywhere. This album, especially when taken with the previous two, remains as indispensable as they come.