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Captain Beefheart - Mirror Man CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



3.57 | 91 ratings

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3 stars And then the trouble started.

Van Vliet's men set off into the studio, fresh from the Milk sessions, ready to step a little farther up toward the stars. But it didn't quite work out that way. The intention was to make a double album, It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper, but the sessions seemed to lose their focus and the project failed to flourish. (There are a number of different stories around this. Check out the literature. It's a good day for research anyway.) A number of shorter tracks arose on Strictly Personal, the album that would officially make it as Beefheart's second album. Though "Trust Us" stretched to eight minutes and "Beatle Bones 'N' Smokin' Stones" offered some hints forward into the new bizarre, some of the more adventurous and lengthy material was left off. The label, Buddha, reportedly less than chuffed about much of the material hopping and flopping around in the studio at the time, later (as in later than Trout Mask Replica), released Mirror Man, an album that features just four songs, but four of the wilder songs from those sessions. These songs, "Tarotplane," "25th Century Quaker," "Mirror Man" and "Kandy Korn," seem to provide a better picture than Strictly Personal of how Beefheart and his band were trying to march their music into futureland.

Still, it's all a bit of an odd game. While the music found here (or on the longer deluxe package, The Mirror Man Sessions) definitely provides a much clearer picture of how Beefheart got from Safe as Milk to Trout Mask Replica, it doesn't make for much of a thrilling listen. There is an attempt to break out of the three-minute blues song mode, but mostly by playing for much longer. These are fairly simple grooves driving and driving in near endless repetitions. In its best moments it foreshadows some of what Can or later trance artists would get up to, but at its worst, it can get to be a bit of a slog, awaiting a development that never comes.

A tough one to rate, then. Caught between 2 and 3 stars. As a moment in a history, Mirror Man has some fascination to it, but it may only fascinate those who are already fascinated. Which, if I'm remembering correctly, is what Lester Bangs said all those many years ago. So if you can imagine yourself in the studio hearing this as it was being made, it might be best to wait and see which way into the future this beast decides to slouch.

questionsneverknown | 3/5 |


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