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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brian's got some Captain Beefheart

(Scott)-I was tempted to break out my great sounding vinyl rip of "Trout Mask Replica", but I don't want to deflect from the focus Brian is trying to give to some of the Captain's lesser-known works from another era, so we'll hold off on that for a while......I listened to parts of these yesterday to refamiliarize myself with them (gotta admit A LONG time since I've heard these), and I will say I agree with Brian's evaluation of them by about 95% or so.......
After all the big conceptual things lately (and the stuff that's about to come down the pike), I want a small post here to point out two awesome albums by The Captain for you guys. 

If you hear people talk about Beefheart, usually they mention either the early years (Trout Mask, Lick My Decals, Safe As Milk) or the later stuff (Doc At the Radar Station). If his 70's stuff is mentioned, it's never in the same awed breath as the earlier Magic Band material. And that's too bad.

Unconditionally Guaranteed is widely regarded as Beefheart's 70's low point, and I can't say that I disagree. But this album that came right before, Bluejeans and Moonbeams, gets lumped in with the awful stuff, and I don't think it's deserved. For example, if you were to read the Allmusic review of this album it's an outright dismissal of it, saying how the band is a bunch of "out of their league" studio musicians.

All you have to do is hear the funky blues stomp of "Party Of Special Things To Do" to know they're wrong. It's one of the best Beefheart songs ever! It's followed by an emotionally wracked version of J.J. Cale's "Same Old Blues Again". "Pompadour Swamp" is another great groove. "Captain's Holiday" is a great harmonica showcase for Beefheart, and "Rock N Roll's Evil Doll" is funky as hell! This album also contains one thing you can't find anywhere else is CB's discography: emotional directness. Just listen to the prettiness of the ballads "Observatory Crest" or "Further Than We've Gone"...they're amazing, and even accessible. And while I admit the title track gets a little prog-y, it's a simple and beautiful song. This album definitely deserves a harder look.

Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is regarded as CB's return to more strange music. I've never really cared about the "lost" or "original" versions of this album. For me, the Shiny Beast version is the one I first heard and have always loved. I've owned the "unreleased" version of this material (Dust Sucker), and it sounds like shit.

But this album jams in that strange way only Beefheart can. "Floppy Boot Stomp", "Ice Rose", "Harry Irene"... it is a return to form. And then there's the CB-meets-Miami-Disco oddness of "Tropical Hot Dog Night", surely a Beefheart classic. "When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy" has a great skittering groove, too. The whole album is a bizarre masterpiece from the Captain. I mean, what is "Apes Ma"?

Enjoy both of these. I find Beefheart's 70's stuff fascinating in how he adapted his stuff to the changing music. Both albums are in one file. The bonus link for this post is.... well, I'll just say "Buckweat"...




  2. Cool stuff. I've had all this since I was in college and rock writers don't know what the #$% they're talking about (and I'm saying this as a former rock writer).

    "Bluejeans" simply shows a more mellow, soulful side of Beefheart. No one expected the Beatles or Stones to keep banging out the big beat like they did in their early days, so why shouldn't Beefheart get his chance to mellow out a bit? Had he done "Son of Trout Mask" endlessly, that would have been artistic stagnation.

    On top of that, some of the stuff on both "Bluejeans" and "Unconditionally" isn't all that removed from some of the more commercial "Safe As Milk" material, so you can't say Don hadn't shown this side before.

    I don't think there's a bad Beefheart album. I just wish there were a few more.

  3. Don Van Vliet-Riding Some Kind of Unusual Skull Sleigh-