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Captain Beefheart - Safe As Milk CD (album) cover

SAFE AS MILK

Captain Beefheart

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.86 | 127 ratings

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Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of the defining proto-avant rock albums along with the debut of the Mothers of Invention, SAFE AS MILK is an album that takes the safe, hunky-dory popular rock music ideas and flat out perverts them. The same way Zappa injected goofball humour into the Motown-esque songs of FREAK OUT!, Beefheart and co. throw these tiny twists into the ''conventions'' of songwriting then to sound completely off.

Take ''Zig Zag Wanderer'' for example. It sounds very akin to a Rolling Stones song, yet the Captain's vocals are rougher, grittier, and more enjoyable. On a tech note, each verse seems to cut a couple of lines each time.

The guitars have that rough, bluesy edge that seems to be standard to Beefheart, but the bass does it for me simply for being very noticeable, including a solo in ''Abba Zabba''. Ry Cooder's appearance helps out the guitar work like the slide on ''Yellow Brick Road'' for a country spicing. Beefheart's voice is largely tolerable, but the constipated old man vocals that show up in TROUT MASK REPLICA are here in specs, notably the highlight ''Dropout Boogie''. That track also has this disjoint 13/8 rhythm in the breakdown, a rarity for the time.

The Eastern influences in ''Abba Zabba'', the proto-prog epicness in ''Autumn's Child'' and the upbeat ''Electricity'' are also strong highlights. I feel let down by the typical ballad in ''I'm Glad'' and the straight blues number ''Sure 'Nuff Yes I Do'', but the jagged structures of ''Grown So Ugly'' and ''When There's Woman'' make up for lost ground. There are even plenty of instrumental bonus goodies that sound like warm-ups to TROUT MASK REPLICA.

SAFE AS MILK is much safer to soak up than TMR, and probably why I rank SAFE AS MILK slightly higher. TMR gave us a truly unique approach to music, but the Captain's debut gave us the stepping stones needed in a more concise presentation.

Sinusoid | 4/5 |

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