Archive for Country Joe & the Fish

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: ‘Zachariah’ soundtrack

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on February 5, 2010 by 30daysout

I came across this record – the soundtrack for the 1971 movie Zachariah, which was billed at the time as the “first electric western.”  Do you remember that one?

This movie, I believe, was one of the strange films that came out of Hollywood after Easy Rider virtually destroyed the old-school big-studio movie model in 1969.  In the wake of that groundbreaking movie, filmmakers saw that there was a huge untapped market in the era’s youth – so you had a lot of low-budget movies with avant-garde leanings … and a lot of rock music.  It didn’t hurt that Easy Rider was kind of a western too.

So dig this: take the central idea behind Easy Rider (two buddies on the road, searching for something) and put it back in the Old West: check.  Rock music? Check.  Hey, how about putting rockers in the movie as actors?  Oh yeah, check.  While we’re at it, let’s just give them their electric guitars and let ’em play on screen!  What????

Yeah, that’s Zachariah. The movie opens on this arid desert scene, there’s a lonely rider getting off his horse and scuffling through the dust, then – three dudes playing electric instruments!  That’s the James Gang, and that sets into motion the story of young Zachariah (played by John Rubenstein), who gets a mail-order gun and winds up shooting down some dude in the local saloon.  He and his friend Matthew (Don Johnson!) join the Crackers, a rock band who are also pitifully inept stagecoach bandits.   Zachariah and Matthew eventually set out to become big-time gunslingers, but a break in their friendship grows into a rivalry that can only have deadly consequences.

At first it’s kind of disorienting to see dudes riding around on horses then go into a saloon where Joe Walsh is tearing off a riff on his guitar.  Immediately you get the idea this is some kind of spoof, maybe some kind of thing where the people who made it were stoned (it was written by two members of the Firesign Theatre), maybe the movie was intended to be seen by audiences who were also stoned.  I remember seeing it when it came out, and even as a 16-year-0ld I thought it was pretty stupid.  But I also thought the rock music in the film was killer bee.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: An Early 1970s Two-Fer

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2009 by 30daysout

My sister is spending a lot of time away from home lately.  My mom says it’s that new job of hers, my dad isn’t so sure.  I don’t care – today I was able to snap up two of her records, both by California music dudes who might have been pretty well-known back in the 1970s but are virtually forgotten today.

The first record is Bright Sun Is Shining, by Barry “The Fish” Melton.  This one is from 1970, and it was the first solo album by the guitarist from Country Joe and the Fish.  Melton was only 21 when he cut this album, which consists entirely of covers of blues and soul classics of the era.  He cut the blues covers in Chicago with sidemen including a young Donny Hathaway; Phil Upchurch, who was then the Chess House Band guitarist and was recording with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters; and Chess regular Gerald Sims, who worked with people like Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Mary Wells.  The other half of Bright Sun Is Shining includes soul music covers recorded in New York with members of the Wilson Pickett Band and Joe Newman, the great trumpeter from Count Basie’s band.

You can hear the production (by Sam Charters, who also did the Country Joe & the Fish records) is pretty straightforward, with little of the studio tricks of the era.  That gives Bright Sun a timeless feel, and Melton’s voice is not bad – he is a credible blues/soul grunter as well as a fine guitarist.  The Fish was Barry’s time in the spotlight, apparently; although he kicked around the music business for a while Melton found another career.  He has been a criminal defense lawyer since the 1980s, although he retired last year to devote more time to music.  Melton often plays with Peter Albin and David Getz (both of Big Brother & the Holding Company), remains a key figure in the San Francisco music scene and on his official website, he promises a new album for 2010.

MP3: “Third Degree” by Barry Melton

MP3: “Something You Got” by Barry Melton

MP3: “Wine, Women, Whiskey” by Barry Melton

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