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Captain Beefheart - Safe As Milk CD (album) cover

SAFE AS MILK

Captain Beefheart

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.85 | 128 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Well I was born in the desert came on up from New Orleans, Came up on a tornado sunlight in the sky, I went around all day with the moon sticking in my eye". Captain Beefheart rams it straight down the throat of the listener with the weird vocal style on this early avant garde album "Safe as Milk" which is anything but. It is rather a dangerous sound they generate unlike anything at the time and compelling listening at that. Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do is kind of like a sleepy Western film complete with wonderful slide guitar and bluesy strains. Then it moves into a rock jazz thing with loud blaring guitars and poor production sounding like an old transistor radio sound.

The Zig Zag Wanderer is a full blown noisy rocker with repetitive motif and weird lyrics; "You can huff, you can puff, You'll never blow my house down, You can zig, you can zag, Whoa I'm gonna stay, gonna stay around."

Drop Out Boogie has some nasty vocals and a rather crungy guitar sound with a classic simple riff, sounding like Soft Machine's We Did It Again.

I'm Glad has a slow 50s feel and some pain wracked vocals singing about "the good times that we've had, walk in the park, kiss in the dark, leaving just like a spark." The melancholy feel is not akin to Beefheart's signature sound but it breaks up the avant garde stuff nicely.

Electricity is one of the all time great Beefheart tracks, featuring Don Van Vliet's snarling "Wolfman Jack" vocals and time sig changes with some creepy musicianship. It is a real blast with dynamic rhythmic figures, wonderful pulsing bassline, and psychedelic art rock flourishes. The lyrics are full of high strangeness; "going to bright find a light, lighthouse beacon straight ahead across black seas seeking electricity, high voltage man kisses night breathe the last of those who leave behind." This is definitive Beefheart and well worth seeking out as an example of the genius at work.

Yellow Brick Road begins with a reference tone so the narrator states. Then a country rock rhythm locks in and some strong vocals leading to a rather off beat chorus. This one grows on you and is another highlight of this screwball album.

Abba Zabba is golden slabs of rhythmic nonsense with Ry Cooder's funkadelic bass and psyched guitar accompanying the madcap lyrics.

The ultra cool blues of Plastic factory is stunning, quivering blues harmonica phrases and cynical vocals driving it. The instrumental break is a hypnotic signature broken by short choppy diversions.

Where There's Woman is an outstanding track with a terrific chorus and very satirical lyrics such as "Where there's evil a hound's tooth bear white, where there's good is where I'll be tonight, where there's love there burns eternal light, where there's woman I take her without spite." The melody is strong and it ends quickly before it gets too much.

Grown So Ugly is a rocking bluesy song with very pronounced riff echoing every vocal phrase. Vliet sounds aggressive and the full on guitar sound is very welcome.

Autumn's Child ends the album on a solid note, with eccentric nuances, vocals that screech, and a weird spacey sound on keyboards. "Go back years ago sunbeams fill the air" is the most remembered phrase, but overall this is dominated by a strange structure and progressive time sig changes and mood swings.

The debut for Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band is very adventurous and showcases the experimental humourous style that permeated their catalogue of albums. It is not as ferociously bizarre as the insane manic "Trout Mask Replica" but this is still an important album leading to quirky arrangements and themes explored in prog rock to come in the 70s golden era.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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