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Captain Beefheart - Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart



4.20 | 107 ratings

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4 stars Following the excellent Clear Spot, Beefheart parted company with the original Magic Band and made an ill fated stab at going commercial with the Di Martino brothers on 'Unconditionally Guaranteed' and 'Bluejeans and Moonbeams'. Following these underwhelming albums his career disappeared in a cloud of litigation until this album appeared in 1978 (it had been recorded considerably earlier but legal problems delayed the release - some tracks were also re-recorded, which is why the band credits seem to include 2 players for each instrument). It was well worth the wait - the Captain was back with his strongest album in almost a decade and a reconvened Magic Band worthy of the name.

It's a set which showcases the more successful aspects of the albums which had gone before. The Floppy Boot Stomp could have come from Lick My Decals Off Baby, while Tropical Hot Dog Night is an off kilter mambo that calls some of Clear Spot's more soul tinged moments to mind. Harry Irene demonstrates that Beefheart could play it straight convincingly - a gentle ballad with some lilting accordion that actually works. The title track and You Know You're A Man are closer to the almost abstract blues rock of Trout Mask Replica, while Suction Prints is almost straightforward blues rock. Throughout, Beefheart is in fine voice - imagine the voice of Howlin' Wolf transplanted in the body of a mildly disgruntled Kodiak bear. The band adapt themselves to the different moods beautifully - Bruce Fowler (sometime Zappa sideman) adds some virtuoso trombone to the familiar Magic Band formula and Beefheart veteran Art Tripp contributes some deftly executed marimba. The duelling guitars, unexpected drum rolls and bass lines that apparently wandered in from another song by another band are all present and correct, while the man himself adds his blistering harmonica and untutored sax here and there but always leaves you wanting more.

This is one of the strongest albums by one of music's most original talents of the last 50 years. 4.5 stars at least - one of those albums you must hear before you die.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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