It’s been almost 50 years since Country Joe McDonald asked a generation of young people at Woodstock what they were fighting for in Vietnam, and his essential message and approach remain the same today. On his latest release, 50, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Joe holds forth on subjects including politics, sexism, war, veterans, the environment, loneliness and love.
It would be easy to dismiss 50 as a nostalgic throwaway, but a few spins through the 13-track release reveal an intriguing collection of songs, sounds and still-vibrant musical skill. From the spare acoustic opener, “Round and Round,” to the environmentally-themed “Black Fish,” the ambient, explorational and soul-soothing “Seashore Smphony #2,” and the wistfully reflective “Where Did the Time Go,” McDonald and his group of talented compadres capture the elusive spirit of the anti-war generation and the passions that drove them.
At times McDonald’s voice evokes the plaintive tenor of Neil Young and, like life itself, some of the material does not shy away from sadness. Soft acoustic numbers give way to gritty rock and roll. This is music from a peaceful warrior whose soul and vision have not diminished over the years. His passion and craft are very much alive and feel as relevant today as they did half a decade ago.