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Captain Beefheart
Albums

  • Safe As Milk
  • Mirror Man
  • Strictly Personal
  • Trout Mask Replica
  • Lick My Decals Off Baby
  • The Spotlight Kid
  • Clear Spot
  • Unconditionally Guaranteed
  • Bluejeans And Moonbeams
  • Shiny Beast
  • Doc At The Radar Station
  • Ice Cream For Crow








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Captain Beefheart

    Safe As Milk ( 1967 )
    Sure Nuff N Yes I Do / Zig Zag Wanderer / Call On Me / Dropout Boogie / I'm Glad / Electricity / Yellow Brick Road / Abba Zaba / Plastic Factory / Where There's Woman / Grown So Ugly / Autumn's Child

    As a child appearing on local television showing off clay figurines - Don Van Vliet ( later christened Captain Beefheart ) clearly had some kind of artistic or creative gift. He actually won a scholarship to study art in Europe, but his father declined on his behalf. Upon hooking up with Frank Zappa in school/college, Don and Frank collaborated on a number of musical projects, none of which got anywhere whatsoever. They parted ways, Frank going off to LA to form The Mothers Of Invention and Don staying where he was in Lancaster assembling the first Magic Band. Eventually, Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band won a contract with A+M Records. That lasted just two singles, blasts of rhythm and blues showcasing Don Van Viiet's astonishing Howlin Wolf sounding vocals. Upon signing to Buddah records and even without a stable line-up behind him, Don and company began work on their debut album, 'Safe As Milk'. Using guest musicians in places because the band "couldn't cut it" and an engineer who transferred the original backing tracks from 8-track to 4-track because he was 'confused' dealing with so many tracks - resulting in a loss during transfer, the birth of 'Safe As Milk' was far from easy. Even today, many LP/CD issues and various re-mastering jobs later, 'Safe As Milk' still suffers from a layer of hiss, audible hiss - which is indeed unfortunate, because this is an amazing collection of songs, material and performances. 'Safe As Milk', ignoring the mixing and production, works as a relatively easy entry into the often bizarre world of Captain Beefheart. We've got 'proper' songs with graspable structures and melodies, albeit melodies on the outer edge of what was acceptable ( in 1967 ) on all but the 'far out' radio stations.

    The Theremin and astonishing held and screamed vocal amid ghostly guitar that introduces 'Electricity' is the furthest out that 'Safe As Milk' ever gets, and that's just the songs introduction. Elsewhere, we've unusual rhythms and odd melodies and sounds, but as I said, graspable songs. Not least the gorgeous doo-wop of 'I'm Glad' that precedes the storming 'Electricity' on the album. One good thing about this album, actually. It flows and runs very well. The troubles they had recording the thing doesn't show in the quality of the material or the way the album holds together. This album holds together supremely well. It's hard to imagine any song other than 'Sure Nuff N Yes I Do' introducing the long-player album 'career' of Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band. The guitar is the thing, played by gifted guitarist Ry Cooder it seems, a guy who departed Don and friends soon after these recordings to pursue his own ventures. Ah, this guitar! It's true of most of the songs on this album, the guitar is kind of free and 'floating' separately from the tracks actual rhythm. This is something that would be developed in astonishing ways and really pushed in certain later Beefheart albums, where it sounds as if none of the musicians are even playing the same song at all! This effect isn't so pronounced on 'Safe As Milk' actually, but it is still noticeable. Take 'Call On Me', the guitars sounds fantastic, firstly. When the song goes off into this driving instrumental section before the good captain re-enters hollering and wailing, it really is fairly astonishing the sounds these guys are creating. There's an energy and odd rhythm and flow to 'Call On Me', the like of which virtually nobody else was using at the time, if anybody.

    Having said all of this, 'Safe As Milk' is still immensely listenable - and the vocals of Don Van Vliet, along with his fairly surreal ( as opposed to psychedelic ) lyrics combined with his bands distinctive musical approach gives 'Safe As Milk' a certain something. Speaking of a certain something, the closing 'Autumn's Child' is a highlight on an album with no actual weak-points. Don really lets go with his voice, an astonishing voice at the best of times, but this? Well, it more than does it for me.

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    Readers Comments

    James Wood woodjame@scs.vuw.ac.nz
    When I dug this album out of my father's sixties record collection I assumed it would be mediocre - given the cliched "fishbowl" cover; and a name that I assumed was a rip off of "Sgt Pepper." I now think this one is my favourite of all time - yes Trout Mask Replica may be the Captain's most important album; but he never made a more pleasurable one. Wonderfully bent pop/blues filled with a childlike sensibility. I can't say I have noticed anything wrong with the production - the remastered CD I have sounds great!! Take out "I'm Glad" and it is a clear ten.

    Turbottski markturbott@blueyonder.co.uk
    Aah……'Safe as Milk'. Although there are many great songs on this album (virtually all of them) this album is ever so special to me due to one track. I own a vast record collection and have in it tens of thousands of songs. Nothing I've ever heard can quite compete with 'Electricity' ('Tomorrow Never Knows', 'She's a Rainbow' and 'Looks Like Rain' by Bob Weir included). This song is truly of another dimension as far as music is concerned. Where did it come from? What inspired it? Thankfully, due to it's bizarre and unconventional sound it will never be heard by anybody that isn't 100% into seriously good music. It (hopefully) won't appear on an TV advert or a block-busting movie soundtrack. Musical infidels would dismiss it as crap anyway. I cringe when I see 'Forever Changes', 'Pet Sounds' and 'Marquee Moon' in the HMV sale for next to nothing. Musical idiots may buy them! This album is never in the sale, in fact it rarely appears in the shop at all. Good. Nobody I know owns! this record or has ever heard of Captain Beefheart. It would be a waste of time trying to ‘get them into’ fine tracks like 'Zig Zag Wanderer', 'Autumn's Child' and 'Yellow Brick Road' all of which appear on this seminal album. More compact and listenable than the equally fantastic 'Trout Mask Replica'. ‘Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do’ deserves a mention too. How many debut albums can boast such a dynamic opener. On the whole 10/10 for the album.


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    Mirror Man ( sessions ) ( 1968 )
    Tarotplane / 25th Century Quaker / Mirror Man / Kandy Korn / Trust Us / Safe As Milk / Beatle Bone N Smokin Stones / Moody Liz / Gimme Dat Harp Boy

    Firstly, Captain Beefheart's original intention was to release a double album as a follow-up to 'Safe As Milk'. Due to record company interference, this never happened. The record company got cold feet. What eventually happened was two albums appeared, this, and 'Strictly Personal'. 'Mirror Man' actually was released much later, once Captain Beefheart had departed Buddah, originally with just four, lengthy tracks. Today, we have expanded CD issues, titled 'The Mirror Man Sessions', so it's this I have before me. Firstly, for possibly the first and last time in the musical career of Captain Beefheart, the music here isn't scripted, it isn't tight, either compositionally or in terms of performance. We've got a jam-based nature to what's going on here. Don could play Piano, he could play harp. There was a documentary on television a few years ago, Don, long since retired from music was invited to play a little music representing what was going on in his head. He sat down at the piano, and played this stuff.... and it was prime, pure Beefheart music! Thing is, giving such music to a guitar player to transcribe, transporting his ideas to a bass player and drummer..... after having created it purely in his mind, was often a difficult thing. Involving many, many rehersal sessions, in contrast to the popularly received wisdom that they wrote AND recorded 'Trout Mask Replica' is a single eight or ten hour session, for example. Well, they did record it in such a fashion, but many, many months of rehersal were put in first. Anyway! I'm not meant to be talking 'Trout Mask Replica', i'm meant to be talking about this thing here, this 'Mirror Man' album. Well, i've been listening to the opening, nearly twenty minute long 'Tarotplane' as i've been writing what i've so far written. To be honest, I can't think of much to say about it. The jam-based, blues nature of this 'Mirror Man' album is clear. A groove is created by the rhythm section, and there wasn't a 'groove' about 'Safe As Milk', just inventive and good melodies and songs. The lyrics are clearly made up on the spot, and barely qualify as lyrics, the Captain often resorting to blues wailing to make his 'point' apparent.

    Tunes such as 'Mirror Man' itself and 'Kandy Korn' strike me as firstly being overly long, and secondly as sounding like mere demos. It's impossible to re-create Don's original double album intention, as nobody knows what it was! But it's safe to assume that not everything collected on this album would have made it to the 'It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper' double album that was originally intended. Also, doesn't it strike you that the likes of 'Kandy Korn', as played out here, are rather slow? They need tightening and speeding up. It's like everything has been slowed down by a third. I just don't really know what to make of this album at all, apart from the fact that certain sections of each and every one of the tracks here are clearly wonderful. But these sections are surrounded by much else that isn't so wonderful, a rather ponderous thing. Almost as if the band surrounding Beefheart, suddenly given their freedom, didn't want to take advantage of that freedom too much for fear of attracting their leaders disapproval.

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    Readers Comments

    Big eyed bean eric.hello@wanadoo.fr
    Actually, mirror man isn't the best beefheart stuff ... But a song like "gimme dat harp boy", which is in the pure trash-primal-arty-bluesy style we like, is something like a masterpiece. Don't forget : "stars are matter, we are matter but it doesn't matter"

    Big eyed bean eric.hello@wanadoo.fr
    cleaver boy ! This is a "far-from-being-stupid" opinion : "Almost as if the band surrounding Beefheart, suddenly given their freedom, didn't want to take advantage of that freedom too much for fear of attracting their leaders disapproval."

    adam runpaint@aol.com
    Listen to Kandy Korn again; I think you're missing out. Once you get tuned in to this kind of Beefheart song, you'll wish it lasted twice as long.

    Dan G., charlemagne160@yahoo.com
    I think 'Kandy Korn' is a tight and sustained composition. Funny/meaningful psychedelic lyrics, memorable guitar lines, and great explosive drumming. (Is the Trout Mask group playing on this?) Anyway, I never had much use for the 'Mirror Man' album, but this track makes onto my personal 'Best of Beefheart' collection.

    5-Track Los Angeles
    I LOVE Mirror Man... It was the first Beefheart I purchased, mostly for the track lengths, and it sounds to me like the novel "Killer Crabs" in which giant land crabs arrive in Australia and eat everyone... The guitar tones and approach are brilliant, the basslines are epic, the drumming is unlike ANY other - tribal, mystical, pulsating but never exactly simple-repetitive or too stream-of-consciousness to hold you in that trance... Brilliant disc, but loses some focus in the extended "Sessions" format (as does Safe As Milk - like each one better played as if it were two discs)


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    Strictly Personal ( 1968 )
    Ah Feel Like Ahcid / Safe As Milk / Trust Us / Son Of Mirror Man-Mere Man / On Tomorrow / Beatle Bones N Smokin Stones / Gimme Dat Harp Boy / Kandy Korn

    Captain Beefheart still isn't fully allowed to be himself. 'Strictly Personal' was interfered with by the producer who added layers of psychedelic production effects after the event. Plus, the opening number, 'Ah Feel Like Ahcid' is a piece of absolute nothing. Still, even with the production effects, 'Strictly Personal' is a cool thing to have around. The band seem slightly restrained compared to the astonishing musical parts contained on 'Safe As Milk', but Don himself tries to make up for it with ever more surreal lyrical sequences. And besides, the song 'Safe As Milk', not connected to the album 'Safe As Milk' whatsoever, is absolutely storming, a fine rhythm and energy. Ah, one thing I love about the song 'Beatle Bones N Smokin Stones' is the fact that John Lennon himself was apparently a Beefheart fan after hearing the 'Safe As Milk' album. John was apparently very impressed, but upon hearing 'Beatle Bones N Smokin Stones' he sort of went off Beefheart and his music! I like that, like the fact that even though the song in question is hardly together - that it does have very funny, bizarre lyrical sections and one hell of a groove about it. The song sounds too long, even though it's just over three minutes long. That's a strange thing, and something to do with the confusion that was surrounding the musical direction of Captain Beefheart circa this, and the 'Mirror Man' album.

    'Trust Us' is swamped in production effects, but the music is very cool, with a ghostly guitar sound, ghostly backing vocals, then? "You've gotta TRUST US!". Well, judging by the freaky appearance of Captain Beefheart And His Magic band, absolutely nobody at all was very likely to trust them, hence their departure from Buddha Records ( well, lots of reasons were apparent to depart Buddha Records ) and the decision to hook up with Frank Zappa again and join his label, the misappropriately titled 'Straight Records'. Still! 'Gimmie Dat Harp Boy' I could listen to all day, the harp sound is glorious, the funky blues based ( albeit wildly removed from even the original electric blues ) music, the vocals and lyrics and sheer hypnotic atmosphere.... this is good! And 'Kandy Korn' as it appears here, as opposed to it's 'Mirror Man' incarnation, is just absolutely glorious, delirious genius. "Can, can, can, can, can, can KANDY!" sings the man Captain Beefheart, as the guitar manages to out-do all the finest moments from 'Safe As Milk' when elsewhere here and on 'Mirror Man' the guitar has sounded rather dull. The guitar here is twisting and purposeful, and goes off into this wonderful section, actually helped by the producers psychedelic interference in this case - the effects make everything dreamy here on 'Kandy Korn'. It's pretty much the only case where the production on 'Strictly Personal' works absolutely, 100% - but this was still the beginnings of the man Beefheart. Much more was to come.

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    Readers Comments

    WootCarlos
    Ha. I didn't know Lennon liked Beefheart. But I can guess why he stopped listening after Beatle Bones 'N' Smokin' Stones. I always though Lennon had a sense of humor, but that song seems to me like a harsh parody the Beatles or rather Merseybeat in general.


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    Trout Mask Replica 10 ( 1969, UK pos 21 ) more best albums...
    Frownland / The Dust Blows Forward N The Dust Blows Back / Dachau Blues / Ella Guru / Hair Pie : Bake 1 / Moonlight On Vermont / Pachuco Cadaver / Bill's Corpse / Sweet Sweet Bulbs / Neon Meat Dream Of A Octafish / China Pig / My Human Gets Me Blues / Dali's Car / Hair Pie : Bake 2 / Pena / Well / When Big Joan Sets Up / Fallin' Ditch / Sugar N Spikes / Ant Man Bee / Orange Claw Hammer / Wild Life / She's Too Much For My Mirror / Hobo Change Ba / The Blimp / Steal Softly Thru Snow / Old Fart At Play / Veteran's Day Poppy

    You know sometimes, when two old friends get together? Two old best friends, and they have this little 'thing' between them and are able to bring out certain aspects of each others character? Well, Captain Beefheart hooked up with his old chum Frank Zappa again, and although would later complain of being marketed as 'a freak', the process of writing, recording and releasing 'Trout Mask Replica' was, if nothing else, hugely artistically successful. Speaking of producer Frank Zappa's influence, well. Captain Beefheart has reportedly said something along the lines of.... "he just sat in the chair and fell asleep whilst we recorded the album"... which may actually be true. There are reports the album was recorded in two four hour sessions, flat out. That may very well be true. There are other rumours the album was written AND recorded in something like twelve hours, which isn't true at all. The release of the 'Grow Fins' box set revealed 'Trout Mask Replica' rehearsal material, the material here was heavily rehearsed, it had to be for music so strange, challenging and complex. The entire Magic Band, along with Mr Captain Beefheart, all hooked up in a house for a year or so - with little food, and only one band member was allowed to go out and get supplies at a time. It was a case of mind control, well, a case of 'control' on the part of Beefheart. Not only that, during 'Fallin Ditch', when Rockette Morton tells us "I run on beans" - he's actually partly telling the truth. A quote from Drummer/Guitarist John French, aka 'Drumbo' tells us the following... "I remember once going for a month and all we had to eat every day was one four once cup of soya beans". So, there you go! The way Beefheart wrote was normally on piano, but seeing as he wasn't really a piano player, he'd only be able to play short phrases. These short phrases were then translated to the rest of the band onto guitar, drums, etc. Which explains partly the fractured, seemingly cut-up then stitched back together again nature of the music, on 'Trout Mask Replica' in particular.

    Let's take the opening song 'Frownland'. You've got the sound of a drummer seemingly falling over his drum kit whilst he attempts to play it. You've got two guitars - neither of which sound like they are played by a musician, rather some chubby fingered oaf who only just that minute had picked up the instrument for the first time in his entire life. On top of all of this, we have Beefheart himself, seemingly ignoring completely the music behind him - but still managing to fit on top of it, all the same. Back to the Zappa influence. The field recordings of speech and spoken word, 'semi' music, stuff like 'The Dust Blows Forwards' were likely influenced by Zappa. Zappa was always taping everybody, no matter what they were doing or where they were. The crude lo-fi, cut-up nature of 'The Dust Blows Forwards' is clearly deliberate, and the words Captain Beefheart sings/speaks out, totally surreal - but the intention of the piece becomes clear with lines such as "the wind blowing up, me" - it's humour, total surreal humour. Arriving after such a quiet, field recording, 'Dachau Blues' is just scary as all anything. Loud, fractured - then moving off into nearly sensible flowing phrases of graspable melody. Then, a farting trumpet sound arrives. Oh, but of course. And, the good Captain just seemingly ignores everything and does what the hell he damn well pleases over the backing track. 'Dachau Blues' is a total highlight - the sound is very dark and confusing, the way the music moves off in ten directions at once. 'Ella Guru' showcases the 'Trout Mask Replica' duel guitar sound very well, layers and layers and layers of short melodic phrases played amidst challenging and different time signatures. Does it really sound like each musician is playing a different song? Well, sometimes it does, sometimes it sounds as if everybody is playing in a different studio oblivious to the other musicians and parts. But, everything eventually falls together, and during certain phrases or sections, the band are playing together and sounding just so fucking glorious that it beggars belief.

    'Moonlight On Vermont' is my favourite ever Beefheart recording. The guitars are biting and aggressive and full of great melodic phrases, the vocals here are just astonishing - and the way the song progresses with so many different sections and short phrases and parts, yet still sounds totally together after repeated listening, just amazing. 'Moonlight On Vermont' is aggressive and scary and meaningful too, the lyrics contain layers and layers and layers of meaning to seemingly be unravelled. And, oh my good god, that "Gimmie that old time religion" section is just so glorious I nearly fall out of my chair every time I hear it. It fades, the sound of Beefheart plugging back into the blues, into Howlin Wolf mode, but Howlin Wolf never EVER sounded as astonishingly brilliant as this.

    I've mentioned but a few of the songs on this album, but believe me when I say that all twenty eight songs on this 70 minute plus album are of the same calibre. It's tough going at times, the relentless assault can dull your ears, but keep listening and something like the very catchy and almost pop melody of 'Sugar N Spikes' will pop up. Well, a pop melody broken into a dozen pieces then thrown seemingly randomly back together again, but it sounds like the only way anybody should ever make music once you get used to it. 'Trout Mask Replica' is so intense, so full of the character of Don Van Vliet - that it proved a hard act for him to follow. It generally sounds like somebody throwing around nails and falling over drums and breaking guitar strings and scratching blackboards - against the sound of random nonsense ranting vocals on a first listen. Even on a fourth of fifth listen. Usually I'd hesitate to give such an album a perfect score, but perseverance reaps especially immense dividends with 'Trout Mask Replica', more so than any other album I can think of. <

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    Mike Harrison fughedaboudit455@yahoo.com
    Whenever I tell someone that there were MONTHS of rehearsal for this album, no one believes it. This is an easy 10 although I'm told LICK MY DECALS OFF, which I haven't heard, is more concise. "When Big Joan Sets Up" sounds like a 1920s jazz show gone awry.

    Ian Allcock Dudefile@aol.com
    Excellent review of TMR. Your commentary on this album is really insightful, and added a whole new layer to my appreciation of it. Yet... I have to admit that I don't entirely agree with the 10 rating. My problems with this album are the same as with most double albums: too much sprawl, filler, and repetition of musical ideas. If Beefheart had cut this down to a single record it really would have spotlighted both the best of his humorous and surreal ideas minus the ultra-long running time and sometimes questionable material. For instance, I love "Dust Blows Forward", but did we really need "Orange Claw Hammer" (essentially a retread of "Dust" melodically but much longer)? Some of the instrumentals like "Dali's Car" (sounds like one of the group members practicing a few riffs rather than a real song) and "Hair Pie: Bake 2" (basically a rehash of the riffs from Bake 1) feel similarly unnecessary. Then there's the REALLY dissonant stuff that is so painful to listen to, even after playing multiple times, that it completely cancels out the surreal content and just makes me want to stop the record. No matter how many times I hear "Bill's Corpse", that sluggy riff still bothers my ears, "Neon Meat Dream Of A Octofish" still feels like a sloppy stream of consciousness, and "Falling Ditch" strikes me as deadly boring. In other words, it's a real mixed bag. Still, the uniquely esoteric nature of TMR is a pretty serious hook, and there's quite a bit of material that's rock solid. I think rate it a strong 8 1/2.

    dieter_verhofstadt@hotmail.com
    I seem to belong to the minority of Beefheart fans who dislike Trout Mask Replica. Although I can recognize the artistic qualities required to make such an album, I've never really appreciated it. I've given it all my effort but I can't get past the dissonance, the abscence of classic album and song structure. IMO, Beefheart produced his finest albums when someone put constraints on his genius so that he would give us access to his music. These albums are Safe as milk, Clear Spot and Shiny Beast. Strictly Personal would be there too, if it had been released without Bob Krasnow's psychedelic touch. Actually, such a record exists under the title "I may be hungry but I sure ain't weird", and that unofficial album may well be my favourite. "Lick my decalls off, baby" makes a better effort at being an album with songs, but suffers from the same degree of dissonance. I'm not pleading here for the rather commercial seventies-rock of "Unconditionally guaranteed", probably ! his worst record ever. No, TMR has never been able to convince me. The artist has removed all self-critique here. Too much ideas, too little work. Too much present, not enough past. Beefheart truly is the emperor of music, but here he was wearing new clothes.

    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    This is probably Dons 'most out there' record, and as such has gained this "Oh my god! It sounds like people who cant play their instruments!" reputation. Which is unfortunate, because it distracts people from the real musical skill that formed this music. Having said that, once you 'normalise' to the magic band's sound here (rhythms, textures, lyrical styling), the lack of space in the album (as well a very homogenous tempo through all 28 songs!) makes for a very murky album, where most songs (though individually great!) melt togeather and the highlights you look forward to, are simply the ones which sound least like the rest of the album, and give you some space to breathe in. Still, a _very_ interesting album, reccomended for everyone to at least listen to if not buy. 9/10.

    adam runpaint@aol.com
    Ian Allcock, among others, doesn't seem to have actually listened to the album. He says that Hair Pie: Bake II is a rehash of Bake I? It's the SAME EXACT SONG. Every note is played exactly the same. The only differences are that Bake I is slower, has the saxes, and wasn't recorded in stereo. Listen to Bake II with the balance knob turned all the way left. That way, you can hear just one of the guitars and recognize the melody. Do the same thing with Old Fart at Play, Frownland, and myhumangetsmeblues, and you can begin to appreciate the actual music they're playing.

    Steven R srosenblat@aol.com
    i bought this album because i heard it was one of the greatest of all time. while i do love the zany, off-beat sensibility, i just don't get--at all--the music. i'm glad you love it, but this one headed straight from my collection to the salvation army $1 box.

    Steve R Steven@sriley6.wanadoo.co.uk
    A lot of people don't get this album,it takes a lot of listening to fully assimilate.I strongly recommend headphones, no company and a dark room. Once you get a feel for the core rhythms of the tracks you can only marvel at the way the seemingly disparate parts actually hang together to make perfect sense.Once it clicks this album is a complicated beautiful friend for life and you will be cursed with the constant disappointment that most people just dont get it.Buy it,listen carefully,the most rewarding album I own.

    jon martin jon.martn@gmail.com
    i got into this album by being into the mothers (i should probably say frank zappa). i would never have grown to love it if i played it in other peoples company. since i was 15 i have been playing zappa, waits, beefheart and havent made many friends because of it. still, if you are willing to (totally) sacrafice your social life, you will have an almost perfect companion with this album, or any of them excapt moon beams & unconditionally... how can you argue with that.

    kier smith amusedtodeath@hotmail.co.uk
    im always looking around for new stuff to get into, so i am constantly trawling back through music's vast back catalogue's and search for popular artists or cult hero's of their time, its where all my favourite music comes from, beatles, floyd, dylan, smiths etc....etc.... so i was reading the reviews for this, a guy in a record shop told me to buy 'safe as milk' which was ok, bluesy stuff - i can get along with that, i saw this had a ten so i thought - ill go for that, i dont know what to make of it? it sounds like a ramshackle? so i listened to it to see if i could make sense of it but didnt really! 2nd listen was better than the 1st........hopefully it'll get better. It's different, very different - which i always admire.....

    Maurice Roca fraim25@aol.com
    Noone I ever played this album for likes it. That includes many people that are serious music lovers. This album exists only for people to name-drop it so they can look cool. I can't imagine anyone listening to it from start to finish. Safe as milk is a much better album and the true 10. Nothing on this record can match Electricity, Drop out boogie, Abba Zabba...etc

    Armadillo rrledford@gmail.com
    1970- 12AM cold winter nite in upstate NY near R.P.I -- I am thoroughly stoned out crashed sound asleep with headphones still playing loud when the local alternative rock FM station DJ cues up PACHUCO CADAVER; with the neurons of both hemispheres still firing quite well from eariler activation, I bolt wide awake with the sound coming into my ears; I sense that aliens have taken over the station and are doing their best interpretaion of rock music - kind of how great rock must sound on their planet; the song ends and I hold my breath knowing I'm going to have to drive to the station and attack the DJ if he does't announce the artist/album/song! yes! he does, Captain Beefheart Pachuco cadaver --- what's a pachuco? Well nearly forty years later, I have yet to hear any song that so transcends its time and palace; with no clear style yet seeds of so many styles that would follow. Were I to become lost on a desert island & only one song to have - this is it!

    Michael Fearnehough Licolnshire
    Noone I ever played this album for likes it. That includes many people that are serious music lovers. This album exists only for people to name-drop it so they can look cool. I can't imagine anyone listening to it from start to finish" Thanks Malice for the perceptive remarks.If only you could have told me all of this in 1969 when I bought the album to impress all my serious music loving friends and then listened all the way through from start to finish. I could have saved a lot of time and money.


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    Lick My Decals Off, Baby 9 ( 1970, UK pos 20 )
    Lick My Decals Off, Baby / Doctor Dark / I Love You, You Big Dummy / Peon / Bellerin' Plain / Woe-is-uh-Me-Bop / Japan in a Dishpan / I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go / Petrified Forest / One Red Rose That I Mean / The Buggy Boogie Woogie / The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig) / Space-age Couple / The Clouds Are Full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye) / Flash Gordon's Ape

    What are 'decals' anyway, and how exactly does one lick them off?!? Well, it hardly matters. Yes, Mr Beefheart continued from the sound of 'Trout Mask Replica', only with one less guitar player and one more Jazz trumpet player. Don produced this album himself, so there's no Zappa, no field recordings - just fifteen songs right up there with the most astonishing work Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band have ever been responsible for. There's a problem, in that this album has been unavailable for years and years and years, and still isn't around to buy on CD - and i'm not quite sure why. Contractual wrangles, most likely. If it had been around - chances are, it would be held in nearly as high regard as the more acclaimed 'Trout Mask Replica'. 'Lick My Decals Off, Baby' is clearly a continuation of 'Trout Mask Replica', although yes, with differences. There are songs leaning far more towards Jazz here, although the fractured and cut up nature of the music remains the same. Besides, the opening title song is just one of those things, it makes you smile and grin - it's perfect. The lyrics are at once perfect, clever, pervy and bizarre. "I wanna lick you everywhere you think / and everywhere you're pink", etc, etc. Fabulous riffing guitars to close, oh yes! 'Doctor Dark' arrives with clattering 'falling over drum kit' drums, 'I Love You, Big Dummy' has wailing and drums and vocal excursions, etc, etc. Mr Beefheart laughs, and the listener laughs. The lyrics are so funny, you know? The man had a way with words, it's fair to say.

    'Peon' arrives, a Beefheart piano piece translated to solo guitar. The guitar goes here and there all through most songs, the drums and overall feel is very similar to 'Trout Mask Replica', only this album is slightly less intense. The songs aren't quite so astonishing, although the quality of the songs not too far behind, all told. 'Petrified Forest' is strange, lovely, difficult and very abstract. Very much like listening to broken china. And yet, there's the voice and words of Beefheart - and those aspects dominate. Well, dominate until everything falls nicely together, and the musicians suddenly fall into line - just for a short time, with great melodic phrases. 'Space Age Couple' includes the immortal refrain "Space age couple / Why don't you flex your magic muscle" and the entire lyric includes similar daft rhymes and grin inducing plays on words. My favourite song here, however - apart from the title track, is the utterly melodious 'The Clouds Are Full Of Wine'. You wanna tell me these short fragments of guitar and drums aren't melodic? Okay, so they appear to all be working AGAINST each other, but then, there's so many of them!! Listening to either 'Lick My Decals' or 'Trout Mask Replica' probably requires a person with five ears instead of the usual two, so just pay attention! It's well worth doing so, these albums are an entirely different world. Pure Beefheart, and deeply rewarding.

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    Dino retro_rabbit@hotmail.com
    Decals are as all little boys with airfix toys (models) will know are decoration sticker like things what you stick on your model to give it the markings a real aircraft (for example) would have !!

    Wendy wendy@castlefields46.fsnet.co.uk
    Decals (or transfers) as any child of the sixties will tell you, were what are now known as 'temporary tattoos'. They often came free with Bazooka bubble gum (remember that?). The paper decal needed to be dampened before applying to the skin. When it was peeled away, the print was transferred onto the body ... How you lick 'em off is down to your own imagination!

    Luther Blissett doubledee@hotmail.com
    Question to reviewer : Where is this "Jazz trumpet player" on the album ? i've listened and failed to hear one. The line up is vocals, guitar, bass guitar , marimba, and drums although there are two drummmers on some tracks eg Doctor Dark

    Lenny slapshoe@netzero.net
    Peon is a guitar / bass duet. One Red Rose that I Mean is the solo guitar piece.Decals has an overall different sound than Trout Mask owing to Jeff Cotton's slide work being replaced by Art Tripp's marimba. This time out Harkelroad was the musical director rather than French who was not in the band while they were being worked out, rejoining just prior to recording when Art Tripp was having trouble with some of the drum parts. The compositions are if anything more rhythmically complex than on Trout Mask.BTW Decals was reissued on CD by Rhino, though it's long out of print. I think it is available in Japan.


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    The Spotlight Kid 8 ( 1972 )
    I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby / White Jam / Blabber And Smoke / When It Blows It Stacks / Alice In Blunderland / The Spotlight Kid / Click Clack / Grow Fins / There Ain't No Santa Claus On The Evenin Stage / Glider

    'The Spotlight Kid' is a deceptively low-key release with sprawling, often loose musical tracks. The songs are rarely as tightly composed or conceived as other Beefheart material, the opening 'I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby' demonstrating this very well. It lazily shambles into view, Don growls and the lyrics appear to be improvised here, made up on the spot, as they do elsewhere on this album. The closest companion to 'The Spotlight Kid' in Beefhearts discography is perhaps the blues based 'Mirror Man Sessions', although 'The Spotlight Kid' never gets as pointlessly rambling and drawn out as that particular record did. It's a low key affair?? There are relatively few stand-out or grab you by the throat Beefheart cuts here, yet listen deeply, and you'll find some interesting things going on. 'I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby' has fascinating instrumentation that appears over the basic groove Beefheart spouts nonsense over the top, yet his deep growled voice really suits this. 'White Jam' opens with attractive guitar then proceeds to move along rather lazily, yet not unattractively so, not at all. 'Blabber And Smoke' is the third mid-tempo tune running, and this mid-tempo nature of 'The Spotlight Kid' is something all of the songs share, with the exception of 'Click Clack', which stands out on its own. The songs can be linked back to the blues, but nothing here is straight blues, yet 'The Spotlight Kid' does retreat somewhat from past Beefheart. The sound of a 'Trout Mask Replica' seems a decade away, rather than just a couple of years, as it was at the time.

    This record sees a relaxed Beefheart, albeit one still able to come up with a 'Click Clack' or produce wide grins in the listener. A cartoon-esque melody appears at one point through the menacing 'When It Blows It Stacks'. I should get round to 'Click Clack' though, shouldn't I?? Well, yes, I should. If 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus' was the highlight of 'Clear Spot', 'Click Clack' is the highlight here. I love songs where the lyrics are interpreted rather literally, to create the mood and feel of the musical track. Thus, the guitar and harmonica evoke the sound of the train in question. The smoke and speed and feel are all evoked as the train speeds through a desert. There's heat here, a gospel feeling, speed, and a sun beating down forcefully over moving mechanics. The harp is glorious. Ah, 'Click Clack' is a keeper, a fine Captain Beefheart moment! 'Glider' is a lazy yet alluring sounding blues, 'Grow Fins' sees more mouth action, more harmonica and a relaxed feel, no guitar from venus - yet as with other songs from this 'Spotlight Kid' album, this relaxed feel is strangely addictive. Nothing grabs you by the throat, but listening to these ten songs is extremely pleasurable and easy to do.

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    Clear Spot 9 ( 1972 )
    Low Yo Yo Stuff / Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man / Too Much Time / Circumstances / My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains / Sun Zoom Spark / Clear Spot / Crazy Little Thing / Long Neck Bottles / Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles / Big Eyed Beans From Venus / Golden Birdies

    Producer Ted Templeman was drafted into the Beefheart camp, a guy with a firmly mainstream feel, arriving to Beefheart fresh from producing the rock boogie of The Doobie Brothers debut, the clear sounding 'Tupelo Honey' by Van Morrison and assisting Warners producer Lenny Waronker with a whole host of album releases. 'Clear Spot' benefits from his touch, because other than providing Beefheart with an assured, clean and confident sounding record - he didn't interfere too much. There's no mis-placed psychedelic scrawl, aka 'Strictly Personal' here, for example. As far as the man Beefheart is concerned, 'Clear Spot' sees a change of tack lyrically, noticeably so. 'Too Much Time' and the wonderfully inventive, yet relatively straight wordplay of 'My Head Is My Only House Unless Is Rains', the romantic and similarly clever lyrically 'Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles' - all see Beefheart placed into either reflective or romantic modes. Something not heard since the gorgeous doo-wop of 'I'm Glad' from 'Safe As Milk', actually. Elsewhere, Beefheart gets a little, er, suggestive with 'Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man' and 'Crazy Little Thing', yet his women are empowered. 'Crazy Little Thing' is about a women in control of her power over men. It's a song celebrating a woman in control of herself - the music is funky boogie rock with added Zoot Horn Rollo's floating and decidedly 'magic' guitar sounds. The guitar puts the music firmly into Beefheart mode, otherwise we've got something approaching the slippery, slightly off beat, groovy country funk of a Little Feat. 'Long Neck Bottles' has groovy harmonica, sax, the same funky musical groove and Beefheart getting all horny and turned on - both vocally and lyrically.

    'Clear Spot' is perhaps the only album in the good captains, for want of a better word, career - that mixes music from outer space weirdness of 'classic' beefheart with smoothly commercial, proper song-writing material, without taking away from his unique character and worldview, at all. 'Too Much Time', a proper song, beautiful melodies. 'Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles' is such a special thing, the lyrics and guitar and the vocals blend to create something evocative - akin to walking under a clear blue sky, eyes raised upwards and alternately gazing across the sands, arm in arm with the one you love. It's been done so well, the mood and feeling created here obviously a very different mood and feeling to a 'Trout Mask Replica', but in its own sweet way, no less powerful or impressive. The centrepiece of the 'Clear Spot' album, although it arrives right towards the end, is plainly the storming outer-space Beefheart music of 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus'. You could almost call it self-parody, but for the fact it's so very well played. "Mr Zoot Horn Rollo, hit that long lunar note, and let it float....", and he does! What follows is one of the most astonishing passages of music that Beefheart, or anybody else for that matter, has ever created. Beefheart prowls and storms and purposefully MOVES his voices across and through the exhilarating backing track. You've the structure of 'Electricity' from 'Safe As Milk', the excitement of a 'Kandy Korn' from 'Strictly Personal', yet these things married to a clear powerfully produced recording.

    Beeftheart rarely sounded quite as impressive as he does all through 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus', and this songs presence here pushes up an already excellent album to that of essential Beefheart status. After such a tour-de-force, the closing spoken and surreal 'Golden Birdies' reminds of similar things done on 'Trout Mask Replica' and also, perhaps naturally, reminds one of Frank Zappa, the closest musical companion the very much out on his own Beefheart ever had.

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    Steve Birkett jafromonkey@hotmail.com
    im only sixteen but well into the captain 'Clear Spot' has to be my all time favorite beefheart album with its funky riffs its fantastic musicianship an excellent lyrics not to mention such beautiful songs as 'To Much Time'Don Van Vliet Has changed my hole musical style with me and my band living in my garage for several days making music!

    gazza, garyhess44@hotmail.com
    A classic album . How come the instruments are so well recorded ? This is how a bass should sound ! The whole thing just sounds so warm and funky . The capn had reined in his excesses and tried to make a fun record that would get played on the FM radio in the states. The playing of the musicians is out of this world too and really catches fire in places , her eyes ,big eyed beans,too much time and the bizarrely beautiful my head is my only house when it rains are all amongst beefhearts finest achievements and i reckon this is a good place to start for the curious especially as you get the spotlight kid (not as good but worth a listen) thrown in free too ..


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    Unconditionally Guaranteed ( 1974 )
    Upon The My-O-My / Sugar Bowl / New Electric Ride / Magic Be / Happy Love Song / Full Moon, Hot Sun / I Got Love On My Mind / This Is The Day / Lazy Music / Peaches

    The last album Beefheart recorded to feature Magic Band members who'd helped him produce the mighty 'Trout Mask Replica'. A change in direction, though. 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' was the first album the good captain recorded for a new deal with Virgin Records in the UK. It's clearly an attempted pitch at wider acceptance, the music is mellower, the lyrics less far out. So, whilst going for a new audience, Mr Beefheart lost a good portion of his existing audience and ended up selling less copies of his new work than he'd sold making 'Trout Mask Replica' or 'Lick My Decals Off, Baby' - both of which actually CHARTED in the UK album charts! This didn't, suffice to say. 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' got a bad rap, and continues to get a bad rap - for what it isn't, rather than what it actually is. Yes, this is no longer underground or groundbreaking or even particularly distinctive. But the entire point of this and the following 'Bluejeans And Moonbeams' was to break Captain Beefheart out of any avant-garde, semi-popular, alternative music ghetto he'd seemingly been confined to. Nobody can, or should, blame him just for that. 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' is actually a pretty solid set of songs. There's a certain lack of energy, from all involved. The music is mellow, but the tracks are well performed and the songs well constructed. 'Upon The My-O-My' could conceivably have come straight off the 'Clear Spot' record - that album had mellower tunes as well. 'Safe As Milk' had the gorgeous doo-wop, wide-eyed soul ballad 'I'm Glad'. So, in actual fact, this was hardly the radical departure from past Beefheart its sometimes made out to be.

    There aren't really any stand-out Beefheart classics here, which is actually the main problem. Having said that, the likes of 'Sugar Bowl' or the storming 'Peaches' more than win through. 'New Electric Ride' has the Beefheart guitar mixed into a song that does indeed ride, even if it doesn't sound particularly 'electric' in the exciting sense of the word. A mention for the lyrics contained on this album right about now. Much simpler lyrics, but usually still poetry and usually still good. One song where the simpler nature of the lyrics perhaps goes a little too far is 'Magic Be' - it's a little too sweet and nauseous. The first half of the album, a pretty easy to listen to first half, ends with the soul ballad 'Happy Love Song', and it's beautiful. Other highlights arrive with 'I Got Love On My Mind', just a great song. Good song construction, Captain Beefheart could indeed write 'proper' songs if he so wished to do so. The evidence is around for everybody to hear. Ah, 'This Is The Day' is my favourite from the whole album. The guitar is absolutely beautiful, reminds me of the likes of 'My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains' from 'Clear Spot'. True, there is nothing like 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus' on 'Unconditionally Guaranteed'. There's no music from outer space, or from the depths of Beefheart's mind, either. It's by no means a classic album, or even a particularly great album. Music from the heart and soul? It's still pretty good, all told.

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    Bluejeans And Moonbeams ( 1974 )
    Party Of Special Things To Do / Same Old Blues / Observatory Crest / Pompadour Swamp / Captain's Holiday ' Rock N Roll's Evil Doll / Further Than We've Gone / Twist Ah Luck / Blue Jeans And Moonbeams

    The best things here are the things where Captain Beefheart doesn't try to even remotely resemble his classic sound. Well, the opening 'Party Of Special Things To Do' is good and could have sat easily on 'Spotlight Kid' or 'Clear Spot'. Elsewhere, though... elsewhere. The good captain lost his magic band so went out and got a bunch of other fellows. There's a sense they didn't quite have the feel for his character or music. Elements of the beefheart sound were still there in 'Unconditionally Guaranteed'. Here, the likes of 'Captains Holiday' or the dire 'Rock N Roll's Evil Doll' just sound clumsy and anonymous. 'Twist Ah Luck' is hardly better - they sound like a competent bar band with some growling blues wannabe. Yeah, and that's not beefheart. So, what else do we have? Well, we've got 'Same Old Blues' following the actually pretty good opening song. 'Same Old Blues' features a great vocal, but never quite catches fire. Easily the highlight of the first half of the album is the lovely 'Observatory Crest'. Without even trying, Captain Beefheart' makes you raise your eyebrows with his lyrical content, which quite frankly, is bizarre in its attempt to be straightforward. He can't quite do it!! It's a sweet song that mentions "flying saucers and all of the rest" and the musical backing is nice, oh yeah. It's mellow, so mellow - that the mellow feel is something you can be blissful to. Blissful isn't a word normally associated with Beefheart, but there you are.

    'Pompadour Swamp' is funky in the sense that songs from 'Spotlight Kid' were funky, Beefhearts growls and sounds engaged here. I love when his vocals echo out, it's a good touch. The closing title song is very surreal and silly, in its own trying to be mainstream way. The lyric is a piece of Beefheart genius actually, showcasing very well his natural gift with words, rhymes and poetry. The string section isn't at all 'beefheart', but it works here. The entire song was never going to ever get played on the radio, the lyrics are too quirky, quite frankly - but this is gorgeous stuff. So, the grade for the album lies on the success of the albums highlights. This album is barely even average, apart from the three or four clear highlights. Highlights? Well, 'Observatory Crest', the opening and closing songs, and....? 'Further Than We've Gone' adds an entire point to the albums grade. It's the kind of song you can imagine Otis Redding breaking hearts with. A true soul ballad, an utterly gorgeous sad song with amazing piano parts that really cut through. 'Further Than We've Gone' is so good, that it doesn't matter who is doing it, don't matter that it's not what anybody wanted from Beefheart - this is a gem of song-writing, a proper song that anybody would have been proud to have written. As for the rest of the album? Well, hey? It's not all that good, but the highlights here give this release respectability.

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    Gary Sims Garysims90a@msn.com
    Hey ! Great to see some positive thoughts on the above. With reference to your comments on this & 'unconditionally guaranteed' - I quite agree. The Captain came in for too much stick in the press. He was in a bind in terms of trying to open up to a wider audience - but hey ! it's only rock 'n' roll after all. From what I understand, he made more money from painting than he ever did from music but what a legacy. This man, mark my words, will be the subject of a film, countless books & retrospectives etc. when he is dead. In my humble, we Earthlings only leap in with the praises once the Gods have passed on. Underappreciated & less than honoured, the old Vincent Van syndrome thrives unabounded. Thanks for this most interesting & fellow feeling site.

    Oscar miscreanty@yahoo.com
    The good captain cops far too much flack for both 'Bluejeans' and 'Unconditionally Guaranteed'. That he sounds 'more commercial' is one thing, but this isnt because hes looking to make money. Most obviously he is looking for different sides of his artistic spirit to explore, and although maybe his 'out there' voice doesnt fit these more conventional styles so well, you cant help but commend the guy for trying to vary his oeuvre, and writing some damn good songs in the process. I wish he'd continued down the same path some more, and maybe shaken off that 'forever trying to recapture trout mask' aura that he never managed to. As it stands however, these two albums only stand as an inroad to a new beefheart style that 'could have been' - by no means great, but interesting nonetheless. 7 1/2 out of 10 for both :)

    Adam as240@york.ac.uk
    It's a nice album, I can play it for my flatmates. It's good, I even quite like Captain's Holiday (So called because he does so little on it?). It's pleasant, and that's not Beefheart.

    Steve Birkett jafromonkey@hotmail.com
    I love the album one of his best pieces of work party of special things is well structured and random an i really dont understand why people didn't like it or why he himself didn't like it i feel it really shows his true musical talent


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    Shiny Beast ( 1978 )
    The Floppy Boot Stomp / Tropical Hot Dog Night / Ice Rose / Harry Irene / You Know You're A Man / Bat Chain Puller / When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy / Owed T'alex / Candle Mambo / Love Lies / Suctions Prints / Apes-Ma

    Beefheart hadn't exactly been inactive in the four year spell between 'Bluejeans' and this most shiny of beasts, he'd worked and toured with Zappa, contributing to his 'Bongo Fury' record. He'd also recorded an entire album of his own to be titled 'Bat Chain Puller' that for whatever reason, failed to gain a release. 'Shiny Beast' pulls six songs from the 'Bat Chain Puller' sessions and adds six more songs giving us the twelve we know and love today. For the long-term Beefheart fan, this was manna from heaven. Coming after a four year wait, arriving after the likes of 'Bluejeans And Moonbeams' hadn't quite set the Beefheart community on fire. So, 'Shiny Beast' was most definitely a comeback of sorts, a time to return and flex those magic muscles and get back down to creating that flowing music from venus. Ahem. Anyway, 'Shiny Beast' actually sits quite nicely inbetween the 'Clear Spot' record and 'Lick My Decals Off', soundwise. It's not as intense as 'Trout Mask' and yes, it does contain 'normal' songs, aka the softer moments from 'Clear Spot'. Anyway, I just feel like starting this review, by deleting everything i've written so far and replacing it with MP3 downloads of 'The Floppy Boot Stomp' and 'Bat Chain Puller', both songs slated for the original version of this album. Hearing and listening ( two different things ) to these songs will explain more to you than I can. Both are stupendous, prime beefheart moments, great lyrics, energy - everything you could ask for. The former nearly matches 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus', the latter switches right back to 'Trout Mask Replica' mode and does it very very well.

    Elsewhere, we have very catchy songs, one of the most catchy being 'Tropical Hot Dog Night', it just flows so very well, Don puts in a great performance, the music grooves and moves. What more could you ask for?? 'Harry Irene' is a Beefheart pop song, Beefheart trying to be The Kinks or something, storytelling. It's cute. 'You Know You're A Man' never quite catches fire - yeah, there are lesser moments here, but most moments are fine. 'When I See Mommy...' is very funky, 'Owed T'Alex' a 'Trout Mask Replica' kind of thing, the closing 'Apes-Ma' a spoken word, 40 second long, Beefheart moment of glory. That's your 'Shiny Beast' album. Not always perfect, not exactly the best music Beefheart had ever done, but far far away from being the worst. A great comeback, no question.

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    guy@guypetersreviews.com
    Good review. "Shiny Beast" is probably my favorite Beefheart album. It may not be his best (not sure yet how i'd rate TMR), but it's the one i play the most, besides "Doc" (i just love the sound on that album)and the "Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot"-twofer. The growling 'Bat Chain Puller', the mutant mambo (?) of "Tropical Hot Dog Night" and the Randy Newman-esque 'Harry Irene" are probably my favorites on this thoroughly impressive album. A 9.


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    Doc At The Radar Station 9 ( 1980 )
    Hot Head / Ashtray Heart / A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit / Run Paint Run Run / Sue Egypt / Brickbats / Dirty Blue Gene / Best Batch Yet / Telephone / Flaor Bud Living / Sheriff Of Hong Kong / Making Love To A Vampire

    Starts off damn well with the groove and move and putting your head through the wall and the insanity of the groove that is 'Hot Head' and I want to now try and write the longest sentence in history, and be all cut up and fractured later on. Nothing new. Beefheart fans adoration. Everything new to the unsuspecting. Groove, beat - scratch of nails. Ten things going on. Voice getting worse, yet energy is there. 'Hot Head' suits its title. I've just started. A circle on a spin, a heat in your groin, a wave. Pinned to a blackboard via your ear. Shouting, insanity and drunkeness. Madness. All within the first three and a half minutes, hotcha! 'Ashtray Heart', good god, the images this man creates! I feel like an ashtray. I don't feel like guitars out of tune running through me, unless I play Beefheart. Cutting, biting, sparse, dense - running through your spine which is now three inches taller. Older, younger, sleeping, waking, running and running - it gets your heart beating faster. 'Ashtray Heart' is great. An instrumental named after a carrot being close to a rabbit - gorgeous, gorgeous. Nothing wrong here, nothing to see except what your imagination brings, ah well. That's good enough. You want something programmed into you? You want somebody else, something more obvious? Go ahead, leave this delirious wave behind, leave them all behind, slack, laze around, don't feel or think. I prefer to paint. Another top tune, ah, i'll give up soon.

    'Sue Egypt'? Well, it's a simple twisting of language. A person, or a lawsuit? Not that the lyrics will give you much clue, but that hardly deters from the wonderful thrashing and bones and clattering and splendrous growling of the man Beefheart. Don to his friends. Hiya Don! God, 'Best Batch Yet' sounds stupendous turned up loud, and you know what?? 'Doc At The Radar Station' is more consistent that 'Shiny Beast', it really is. It's the mans most challenging work since 'Trout Mask Replica', but doesn't earn the kudos. Nobody pinned a medal to Don's chest thanks to him releasing this, because it doesn't really obviously progress his sound or career. But, think on. This was years and years, a decade, since 'Trout Mask', which itself was several decades ahead of its time. So, think on. You could claim Beefheart a genius just for this set of songs alone, really you could. Ah, I hold back. Nothing as good as prime 'Trout Mask' or the title song from 'Shiny Beast' either, for that matter. But, still damn good. Still going strong.

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    Ice Cream For Crow ( 1982 )
    Ice Cream For Crow / The Host, The Ghost, The Most Holy-O / Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian / Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat / Evening Bell / Cardboard Cutout Sundown / The Past Sure Is Tense / Ink Mathematics / The Witch Doctor / 81 Poop Hatch / The Thousandth And Tenth Day Of The Human Totem Pole / Skeleton Makes Good

    We expected this from him, didn't we? Well, hoped for a continuation of the vaguely reminiscent of 'Trout Mask Replica' kind of thing, from him. Didn't we? 'Ice Cream For Crow' was the last recorded LP transmission from Don, but not planned as such. There was talk of them getting together for an album, circa the mid-eighties. The demand apparently wasn't there. Perhaps Don realised that it was best to bow out rather than go into decline. Not artistically, but it's hard to sound great when your once mighty vocal cords are giving way. The evidence is plain to see through good portions of this 'Ice Cream For Crow' set. He tries to shout and roar through the title song, give his once customary growl a workout during 'The Past Sure Is Tense'. Elsewhere, we have a series of instrumentals mixed in with semi-vocal tunes. New wave? Times had changed, the very people Beefheart had been responsible for influencing ( his musical children? )  were, thanks to punk etc, etc - now the prominent people in the underground movement. Look at the picture of his youthful looking Magic Band circa 'Ice Cream For Crow'. Don seems disconnected from them. His band seem self-conciously weird, rather than genuine weird, genuine freaks.

    Although, given the fact that Don wasn't at the peak of his performing powers and that 'Ice Cream For Crow' offers nothing new - it's still a fine album. Perversely, had Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band continued, 'Ice Cream For Crow' hints at future directions. Basically, spoken word Beefheart, alternating with instrumentals. For now we still DO have song structures and things that can be considered SONGS, albeit Captain Beefheart songs. His own unique way of performing and writing. You know what i'm getting at? So, yes. The title song is stellar, prime Beefheart. Very exciting, kind of back to 'Clear Spot'. The second and third songs don't benefit from prime Beefheart vocals, he sounds a little strained - his voice does, that is. 'Evening Bell' is a nice instrumental, the kind of thing i'd have expected more of had he continued. No embellishment here, just a guitar. That's it. But yeah, it's beautiful. 'Cardboard Cutout Sundown' carries on with the things 'Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian' etc, does. Avant-garde, remembering 'Trout Mask Replica'. Beefheart tries to do his thing over the top but the music is the key. There is no meeting of souls here, no getting together. You can assume Don was either tired or disinterested - and that the band just wanted to play with the guy. A talented band, though. This particular Magic Band could definitely 'cut it'. They just don't surprise. You could argue 'Doc At The Radar Station' didn't exactly surprise either. What it did do was excite and sound alive. Ah, it doesn't matter, we'll carry on.

    'The Past Sure Is Tense' is a highlight. Beefheart sounds engaged and gives his all, the guitar does fine Beefheart things and the lolloping rhythm is most attractive. 'Ink Mathematics' sounds pretty demented, so I like it. '81 Poop Hatch' is purely spoken word and strangely captivating. My suspicion is that had Beefheart carried on, 'Ice Cream For Crow' would have been dismissed slightly as being purely a transitional work. The fact that he never made music again means this album is now set into stone somewhat. His final work, his final statement. The title track and one or two others here could have you believing the man could have carried on forever. Even superhumans like Don Van Vilet are usually revealed to be merely human in the end. Ageing is a terrible thing. A result of his retirement from music is that he's actually grown old gracefully. His move into the artistic world of painting has made him more money than his records ever did. Still, we remember him and always shall.

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    Timmo timmo82@another.com
    I rate this a solid 9!!! when I first got it i was dissapointed - poor recording quality, too many 'wEIrD!!'songs, weaker voice. But then.. it clicked! (like most beefheart hah) the title track is classic, i dont hear his voice failing there. I love the 'ghost' song, just unlike any i ever heard before. 3rd song..well..it's a masterpiece, so evocative, doesnt NEED any vox!!! 4th track grows after a while and becomes acceptable. I won't bother going on through each track, except to say the last track is momumentaly (sp?) amazing! the first 5 seconds blows me away each time I hear it, especially after the 'aimless noodling' of the '1010th..' to me the band and beefheart are 100% together, and it's in my Beefheart top 3 easily. a great high to Van Vliet musical career! great site mate! Tim (21,Somerset,UK)

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    this page last updated 22/4/11



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