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Captain Beefheart


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4 stars Safe as Milk was CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND's debut album. This album, though a bit commercial, showed the Band's versatility and creativity. Combining straight blues and rock with other factors such as strange lyrics, odd sound effects, and constantly shifting time signatures were some of the features of his albums. The first song is an upbeat blues song with Beefheart at his raspy best. The next song "Zig Zag Wanderer" is basically a blues rocker with a spin as is the next song "Call on Me". "Dropout Boogie" is where it gets slightly stranger with a strange singing style and random Marimba interruptions. "I'm Glad" has BEEFHEART singing slowly and is a very calm song. "Electricity" might be the strangest song. Itl's lyrics are hard to understand, it's backed by a theremin, and its got someone in extremely raspy vocals singging "EEEEEELLLLLEEEEEECCCCCCCCTTTTTTRRRRRIIIIICCCCCIIIIITTTTTYYYYYY" The next song is a very good song called "Yellow Brick Road" which can be somewhat described as a rock infused version of the "O! Brother! Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. "Abba Zaba" is a strange track with a solo from a young RY COODER. I really can't describe it. "Plastic Factory" is a song with tons of harmonica and BEEFHEART's amazing vocals as abrasive and beautiful as ever. "Where There's Woman" is a good but straightforward track. "Grown So Ugly" is another example of straightforwardness. "Autumn's Child" is a slow song with excellent music, vocals, and theremin in the background. This album is good but it doesn't prepare you for BEEFHEART's magnum opus, Trout Mask Replica. Highly Recommended!!!
Report this review (#33448)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Now, you have to understand how prog was in 1967. Innovation was almost nowhere to be found in rock music, bands like Procol Harum and the Moody Blues were making the artsy advances that proved to be very influential, and so did The Nice. However, here is Captain Beefheart introducing himself as a wiry Delta Blues sound gravelly-voiced bandleader. His voice influenced by the likes of Howlin' Wolf, but his mind influenced by the likes of nobody but himself, Beefheart created an album that was so groundbreaking that even John Lennon himself stated it as his favorite album. The pure weirdness of the lyrics that were sometimes Dadaist sometimes even radio-friendly showed that Beefheart was deeper than anyone you could find on the radio. Beefheart's Magic Band showed that they could weave in and around any of that hot and gritty blues sound. Ry Cooder, Jerry Handley and John French showed up any blues band that thought they could hold a groove, and they added texture and new tones unheard of. John French's delicate patterns combined with Ry Cooder's nasty tone and wiry licks and Jerry Handley's heavy bottom end weaving in and out of Beefheart's wild patterns and structures proved to be something influential. Beefheart indeed got weirder, and this album is the most accessible of all of them, but this even proves to show that Beefheart could truly do anything, but this is what he chose to do, and you'll find nothing like it anywhere.

Best tracks: Electricity, Abba Zaba, Plastic Factory

Report this review (#37967)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I bought this record as a teen, having no idea about the artist, simply because of the cool fisheye pictures on the cover! Man, what a lucky day that was! I doubt very many people have the opportunity to come to Beefheart's music without hearing about "the legend of the crazy genius" first, so I had no expectations going into it. At the time I was a big fan of the Beatles, Who, Floyd, 60's rock kind of stuff -- this was clearly in the same vein, but hardly "psychedelic" or even particularly "old" sounding. It worked it's way into my brain and quickly became a favorite and eventually led me further into MagicBandland. I can't imagine a more perfect album to introduce a person to Don Van Vliet than this one. ("Trout Mask" is "greater" sure, but most people have a hard time hearing that one unless they're already big fans of far out avant-jazz!!)

Most of the songs are punchy blues rock numbers, with sterling slide guitar work from legend-in-his-own-right Ry Cooder. These are better than 99% of similar material from this era, mainly because Don Van Vliet is just about the best white blues singer who ever lived (even if he does sound a lot like Howlin' Wolf!!) and his band is simply GREAT. The Rolling Stones couldn't touch a ferocious rocker like "Zig Zag Wanderer" in 1967, seriously!! But even this early, there is something distinct about the strangely jumbled riffs on songs like "Abba Zaba" that just don't sound like they come from 1967 or any other era we know of. Other highlights include great lyrics on "Plastic Factory" & "Dropout Boogie", a soulful ballad "I'm Glad", and of course the most rockin' theremin EVER on "Electricity"!

Report this review (#50519)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!! Debut record for one of the freakiest artiste to have graced vinyls slice of music since.. Well, since recorded music existed. This weird character was a school-buddy of the "Freak par excellence" Zappa (can you imagine those two in the same classroom let alone in the same county or state? ;-) As my buddy Joren points out, this record may not sound like that much today, but back then, this was mega-groundbreaking stuff.

Just like all Beefheart albums, this is not an immediate pleaser (unless you heard it back then), but repeated listening can only reap you many harvests of pleasures.

Report this review (#68942)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's a little weird at my advanced age to come across an album that was influential on the progressive and/or avant- garde, and it was created when I was two years old (1967). I've found that I have come along on an interesting artifact that had apparently totally passed me by. Browsing in the local chain store that happened to carry music in addition to a lot of other things, I ran across Captain Beefhearts & His Magic Band's first album, Safe As Milk.

Not already being a big Beefheart fan, but having had collected a couple, one I liked (Doc At The Radar Station), and one that still hasn't clicked with me (Trout Mask Replica), I said "what the hey". After all, the blurbs on the cover say GOT BEEFHEART? - "One of the most important rock albums of all time" - Trycicle and "One of the most extraordinary debut albums in history" - Rough Guide To Rock. I dunno, they seem a little suspicious. But as browsing in any of the local chain stores for decent new music, or at least new to me music, is an extreme exercise in futility, I picked it up and left the store.

I've been enjoying the music, it's more accessible than T. M. Replica, still has a heavy experimental feel, but still reeks (maybe too harsh a term) of the late 60's. Yellow Brick Road and Abba Zabba are my favorites from the original LP song collection are. That damn Abba Zabba piece has been sticking in my head as of late and I might have to get it musically removed. The bonus tracks, according to the CD booklet, are leftovers from their recording session from just a month later in '67, than the tracks originally recorded in September. The intention was to make double album, but perhaps after Zappa's Freak Out (van Vilet was a friend of Zappa since '59), the powers that be had put their collective foot down.

The bonus tracks are a little bit more adventurous than the regular album stuff, but in the context of '67, it's no surprise the songs were left in the vaults for a while. Now you can have the whole wacky package. And, I wouldn't want the album without the extra, more progressive tracks

Report this review (#127138)
Posted Friday, June 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Safe as Milk presents a logical introduction for those not so much interested in the later avant garde sounds on Don van Vliet and want the Proto-Prog sound. Its more easy listening but provides many instances of the future directions for Captain Beefheart. The standout tracks are "Zig Zag Wanderer", "Electricity" and "Abba Zaba" partly for their pop-appeal of the day (though not sure if they'd make Sounds of the Sixities on Saturday morning Radio 2), but mainly because they have power and direction. You have a selection of Beefheart albums infront of you and you want to introduce you friends to what is an awesome collection of albums, then you are going to choose this one. You can have a couple more drinks (Marguerita's is a good way to go) before moving onto "Lick my Decals" and "Trout Mask Replica". This was in part my own introduction to Beefheart and in hindsight why I rate it is as one of the best and the one I listen to most. I've moved on (mainly into the early 70's) but yes it possibly one of the best 60's prog related albums.
Report this review (#133007)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I yust got this album and i love it right away what an amazing debut album for the Captain, he probobly tryed to make a simple blues album but being the eccentric arch freak that he was simply culdent its not as wierd as the toxic polution dump of a masterfull cake that is Trout Mask Replica but you can allready hear where things are going from the start. Some of the songs are straight blues rockers but still with Beefhearts Howlin wolf sounding voice prevent it from ever geting straight in anyway. "Im glad" is a very nice soulfull ballad with some very sweet vocals and good melody, the other songs are psychedelic qircky blues numbers. The opener "Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do" starts the album with a bang and from start to finish every song is a winner. Aperently this was very ground breaking back in the day it was reales very shortly after Sgt pepper and compering the 2 pepper sounds pretty lame. The new remeastered editon have superior sound, actualy coming from 1967 one have to say its realy incredibly good, sounding almost like it was made yesterday. This is a Amercian classic RIO/avantgarde rock album that toghter with Trout mask replica shuld be in every collection even if you not one of the Captians biggest fans. I give it 4 stars since its not on the same level as trout but an amazing debute album and a good starting album for beefheart newbies.
Report this review (#140802)
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Safe As Milk is Captain Beefheart's first album and one of his most accessible, not nearly as "out" as he would get on subsequent releases. Rather Safe As Milk is for the most part strange and creative takes on rock and psychedelia yet remains rooted in the blues. Here Beefheart sows the seeds of weird that would come to full bloom on his masterpiece Trout Mask Replica but doesn't stray too far from more traditional musical forms. It's also an interesting and enjoyable record emblematic of the times in which it was made. Ah, the sixties, what a creative and turbulent time. A time where such musical eccentrics like Zappa, Beafheart and Arthur Brown had a chance of getting signed to major labels! Not like the preprogrammed, market researched mush of today. The bonus tracks are indeed a bonus, most being instrumentals featuring that peculiar funiture falling down the stairs rhythmic sensibility later explored more successfully on Trout Mask, Lick My Decals Off Baby on up to the Captains bid for mainstream success Unconditionally Guarenteed, which isn't really terrible but not as interesting. Safe As Milk is kind of a sign post pointing the way Beefheart would later take. It's not really prog or as avant-garde as Beefheart would get, but it's enjoyable in it's own right. Its a damn good debut record by one of American musics true visionaries.
Report this review (#144895)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars This album is very much in the same vein as Frank Zappa's first record, in that it is relatively accessible, but just crazy enough to confuse the average radio listener. Here, Beeheart mixes a combination of Delta Blues, R&B, Rock and Experimental Zaniness to create an album unlike any other. The lyrics are bizarre, the melodies twisted, yet catchy.

I, for one, much prefer this album to the Captain's later work due to the more traditional song structures and tunes that are so infectious that you can't help but tap your foot and hum along. The musicianship is great, and the inclusion of a theramin is a nice touch. Much has been said about Beefheart's vocals, and I doubt I have much to add. I'll simply say thta his voice is unique and delightful.

All the songs are great, but highlights include the bluesy Sure 'Nuff and Yes I Do, the searing Electricity and the exotic Abba Zaba. In this reviewer's opinion, this album is essential for anyone who enjoys sixties rock, especially if you like it with a twist of insanity. Five stars.

Report this review (#163647)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is quite a brilliant album and I enjoy it every listen. It's a very raw recording, featuring an eight and on some tracks a four spore record tape sometimes. At some moments some instruments are distorted like hell, but all this rawness gives the recording a good atmosphere.

All songs are really worth a listen, but the best songs are in my opinion: Zig Zag Wanderer, I'm Glad, Electricity, Yellow Brick Road, Grown So Ugly and Autumn's child. The bonus tracks on the CD version-, which I own-, are less representitive. This is not 'your weirdest avant-garde record', but the record still sounds very anarchistic. If you are looking for a progrock raw record featuring a theremin, this might be the best place to start. I couldn't resist ending this review with the word: Eeelllleeecctrziccccittttttttaaaayyyyyyyyyy!!!

Report this review (#211635)
Posted Saturday, April 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the best early freaky albums. For new listeners it could be more associated with early Zappa works, which isn't strange. Zappa and Cpt.Beafheart were friends still from school time, and collaborated making music quite often at thet time.

Looking from today's point of view, album is strange mix of blues, early r'n'b, early avant garde (a la Zappa) and crazy lyrics. From all Cpt. Beafheart albums this one is most acceptable and really has many blues atributes, incl. two great blues/americana musicians Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. If you know, what is typical Cooder's music of his later solo career, you will find plenty of it in this album: kind of bluesy country, cajun, americana.

Don Van Vliet's vocal is unusual and crazy as well, so all components build freaky atmosphere of late sixties avantguarde.

This music isn't for everyone, it's for sure, but this album is best entrance to Captain Beafheart catalogue. If you like early Frank Zappa's works, this album is for you.

Report this review (#243735)
Posted Friday, October 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Don Van Vliet or pseudonym "Captain Beefheart" has created the most original music I think I've ever heard.His signature sound includes a combination of Rhythm & blues,psychedelia,avant garde,free jazz & spoken word.Certainly not genres for easy listening.You'll either instantly become a fan of his or have a nervous breakdown.Fortunately I become a fan of his.

As a youth he was a good friend of Frank Zappa's who shared a common interested in Rhythm & blues.He also became a promising painter & sculpturer and was offered an art scholarship in Europe which he never perused ....eventually resulting in the creation of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.And Like most western bands in the mid sixties rock bands were influenced heavily by blues music & rockn'roll.Bands such as Deep Purple,The rolling Stones,Jimi Hendrix,Led Zeppelin,Cream even Jethro Tull had their débuts soaked in blues,soon to be moulded into something much more their own. Vliet was much the same,he shared the same passion for blues but veered into a different direction

The album still maintains the blues influence dominantly throughout the record.Vliet's graspy vocals and blues harmonica is very reminiscent of Howlin Wolf of whom was a large influence to Vliet.Also helping to maintain the blues,blues specialist Ry Cooder really puts his signature slide style over the album and even feature's a guest appearance of Taj Mahal on tambourine on "Yellow Brick Road".The opening track "Sure 'nuff Yes I do" shares the same "blue"prints (pun intended)of popular delta standard "Rollin and Tumblin" but gains it's own characteristics with interesting rhythms & Cooder's psychedelic slide. Songs such as "Zig Zag Wanderer" & "Drop Out Boogie"also resemble much of the same arrangements and grooves of classic Rnb bands of the time.But on these occasions Beefheart's obscure lyrics & interesting instrumental breaks,you'll soon notice they distance themselves from that scene all together.The experimental tendencies stand out far more on such songs as "Electricity"which features dissonant vocals and theremin and "Grown So Ugly" with irregular drum patterns & irregular blues licks,both only to be met by their catchy chorus's.

This album tends to be my most played Beefheart album and is certainly one of my favourites amongst a few others.but I wouldn't necessarily associate this sound with him as for future releases,he would soon venture to the more abstract.If there's such a thing as commercial Captain Beefheart this certainly would be it.Definitely an important album for prog & classic rock fans but don't be suprised if knowone believes you that's it's Captain Beefheart.

Report this review (#247204)
Posted Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Bursting on the southern California scene with a triumphant rendition of Bo Diddley's "Diddy Wah Diddy," Don Van Vliet and his band show off even more of their muscular psych blues on their first album, Safe as Milk. The album is like a tour of all the potential directions the late 1960s music scenes could be heading toward. "Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do" drops the listener into a little funky desert blues as Van Vliet offers up his best Howlin' Wolf impressions. And from there it's a yard sale of grand 60s garage nuggets that drip blues, psychedelia and odd pop in equal measure. And as pop hopping as a number of these tracks are, it's sometimes surprising to hear some fairly straight slow ballads, like "I'm Glad." When I hear ballads like these today, they remind me strangely enough of the first disc of the Mothers' Freak Out. If you'd already heard later Zappa (or Beefheart), or you had heard about how far out they're all supposed to be, it can be a surprise to find how non-radical some of these songs sound, how oddly conventional they sound now. But then history jolts you back and you realize how truly radical albums like Freak Out and Safe as Milk really were, and really are. A song like "I'm Glad" reminds us of where the radio was swimming at the time, and the mind tornado the 60s was really ready to churn was hovering at the horizon and these guys were cheering it on. So, to hear "I'm Glad" move into "Electricity" is to realize how devastatingly original this material is.

Still, hearing it all with ears primed for prog, it is the theremin boogie of "Electricty" and the acid tribal damage of "Abba Zaba" that fly in the air and sing. Of the two, it's the latter that really startles and points the way forward. "Electricity" is a stunner of a song, but (and this is not really a negative) it still feels of the lysergic moment, whereas "Abba Zaba" really sounds like nothing else, except the future. The cod Africana rhythm section and the diagonal lead lines are the real signal here of where the man is planning on taking us.

This is fun, heavy stuff and, as odd as this material can sometimes be, it is the safest milk from the Vliet dairy. I know blues fans who adore this album but really hate all the Beefheart that comes after. And there is great 60s blues here, especially on "Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do," "Dropout Boogie" and "Plastic Factory." But for those of us who are ready for the greater adventure, it is "Electricity" and, mostly, mightily, "Abba Zaba" that are the stars of this, the first Really Big Show from the desert.

Report this review (#253970)
Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Beefheart's debut is still far removed from the dense avant-garde of his later works like Trout Mask and Lick My Decals Off Baby. This is harsh and rough stuff of course, but it still remains a very accessible collection of delicious Southern blues and 60's beat music. There's also an infectious psychedelic rock edge to it.

Some songs reveal the crazy avant-rock edge that Beefheart would explore later on. Dropout Boogie is a good example with an almost heavy rock groove. Catchy stuff. Electricity, Abba Zaba and Autumn's Child are other examples of more adventurous pieces. Other reviewers refer to Zappa's early albums for comparisons. It looks like I missed something there so an urgent visit to the library is called for. High time to single out a few more titles listed under 'Z'.

Essentially this is a great collection of poignant psychedelic blues rock, far more digestible then anything else the man put out but sure not any less in quality. Nothing that requires deep musical analysis, just a great and intense slab of pure dirty rock!

Report this review (#277027)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut album from the one and only Captain Beefheart (annd his Magic Band...of course) not only was an enjoyable little ditty of an album but it was suprisingly easy to get into considering what he will eventually begin to write (the next review will explain all).

At first what sounds like a strightfoward R'n'B album becomes somewhat possesed by an urge for expirimentation and very Zappa like frollics, highlights like the first two tracks SURE 'NUFF 'N YES I DO and ZIG ZAG WANDERER sound a lot like the Beatles until we get to the very Zappa sounding DROPOUT BOOGIE with its almost spoken word sounding vocals (something the Captain himself will get known for doing on future albums), IM GLAD just sounds like a parody of a 50's or 60's era slow R'n'B tune in the vain of 'Youve Really Got A Hold On Me' by Smokey Robinson. ELECTRICITY sounds like Primus, Frank Zappa and The Beatles in a three way with the theme to George of the Jungle in the background, but my personal highlight is the final track AURUMN'S CHILD with its sporadic twists from being beautiful and calm to being somewhat loud and shouty, all in a day's work for the Captian;

Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do - 9/10 Zig Zag Wanderer - 9/10 Call On Me - 8/10 Dropout Boogie - 8/10 I'm Glad - 9/10 Electricity - 10/10 Yellow Brick Road - 9/10 Abba Zaba - 9/10 Plastic Factory - 7/10 Where There's Woman - 7/10 Grown So Ugly - 7/10 Autumn's Child - 10/10

My Conclusion? This is a great little album of what will go on to form the basis of early expirimental rock music as we know it, support the captain and buy this album.

Report this review (#282511)
Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
3 stars This is a difficult task

Reading the liner notes from the remastered edition of "Safe As Milk", it is no wonder that the music on this record sounds odd (to say the least). Being completely unfamiliar with this "special" style of music, it is my opinion that a listener could hardly deliver comprehensive thoughts on this album.

While the album maintains a clear 60's sound and approach, it is apparent that there is something uncommon or different about this band. I could almost describe the music as eclectic blues (if there is such a description). Vliet's vocals are interesting and quite diverse. Similarly diverse is the mood from track to track - it can vary from (surprisingly) soft and catchy tunes like I'm Glad (fantastic vocal performance) to bizarre, avant-garde boogies like Dropout Boogie. The first half of the album is focused to more standard blues patterns with the opening track being a memorable country/blues tune.

While Yellow Brick Road sticks to a similar pleasant country/blues pattern, side b of the album is slightly more adventurous. ABBA Zaba is a bizarre tribal-rhythm based track with some great rhythm section performance that shows the band's diversity. Oddly, the highlights of the album lay within the mellower and most sophisticated compositions like Where there's Woman and Autumn's Child. Both these compositions show progressive elements and changes in tempo and mood.

The bonus tracks take the experimentation a step further and mainly consist of instrumental compositions with high doses of improvisation. The overall package should appeal to fans of bizarre/avant-garde blues-based music with a strong 60s feeling. I would be reluctant to recommend this to a "new-starter" in this genre (like myself), but there are moments of sheer quality and musicianship that could appeal to any prog fan. Similarly there are eclectic moments that could make this an indifferent debut, so I would proceed with caution.

Report this review (#290046)
Posted Monday, July 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#295912)
Posted Monday, August 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars During my one month vacation from reviewing I had a chance to revisit some of the albums in my collection that I still haven't established an opinion of. One of those albums was Elton John's Blue Moves, an album that I played like crazy (water) for the last few weeks and now consider among his top three finest releases. I also gave Captain Beefheart's debut album a few spins but this new rediscovery was a bittersweet one since the news of Don Van Vliet's passing began to slowly spread around the Internet and came as a complete shock to me. Granted that Van Vliet hasn't been working in the music industry since the early 80's, it still felt like the end of an era was finally upon us! Who was going to lead the U.S. Avant-garde now that both Zappa and Van Vliet vacated their seats?

Captain Beefheart is undoubtedly an influential figure in the development of creative rock music that began in the middle of the '60s. As if 1967 wasn't already the most significant year in rock music history, it also happened to be the year Van Vliet's band (and I don't take this term lightly) released their debut album Safe As Milk. But was it really as safe as its title would lead us to believe? The general answer would be a definite yes! Let's just say that a Trout Mask Replica it is not, but what might seem simplistic and accessible at first can turn out to be anything but once it's taken apart into its basic elements.

Most of the tracks rely heavily on the blues and rock & roll sound that has dominated the U.S. music scene for decades. Still the major difference here is that Captain Beefheart actually does something new and exciting with this otherwise very stale genre. Even the fact that bandmembers like the relatively well-established Ry Cooder would never again manage to think outside the box like they did on this release speaks volumes of Safe As Milk!

Even if this release is not a complete masterpiece of any sort, it's definitely an important piece of music history that deserves its place among such classics like Zappa's Freak Out! and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! Not to mention the obvious similarities to the style that would later inspire a few mysterious lads called the Residents. Just listen to Autumn's Child and you'll hopefully see what I mean!

***** star songs: Zig Zag Wanderer (2:39) I'm Glad (3:30) Electricity (3:06) Yellow Brick Road (2:27) Abba Zaba (2:44)

**** star songs: Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do (2:15) Call On Me (2:36) Dropout Boogie (2:31) Plastic Factory (3:07) Where There's Woman (2:09) Grown So Ugly (2:27) Autumn's Child (4:02)

Report this review (#379643)
Posted Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Safe As Milk' - Captain Beefheart (6/10)

For someone who is considered among the weirdest artists in rock music, Van Vliet's first album 'Safe As Milk' feels rather tame. Indeed it is an album that would have been considered very 'out there' half a century, but as a modern listener, I am forced to approach this from a more contemporary perspective. Knowing Captain Beefheart through his association with Frank Zappa, hearing an album that is more about blues and rock n' roll than anything else was a bit of a surprise. Although not what I was expecting at all from this artist, it is an interesting piece of '60s blues rock, with enough experimentation to set it somewhat apart from other music of the time.

Although rooted very much in blues, Beefheart does make his forward thinking edge clear. 'Dropout Boogie' for example is a fairly conventional 12 bar blues, but Vliet's strange vocal inflections make the whole thing weird sounding. Others like 'I'm Glad' or 'Call On Me' feel like tracks taken out of the classic rock n' roll era of the '50s. Then of course, Beefheart hits the listener with another double dose of weirdness with 'Abba Zaba', an ode to baby baboons the whole world over.

Throughout listening to this, I am greatly reminded of the music of the Residents, and the way they deconstructed popular music with their own weirdness. As an album, 'Safe As Milk' has a few interesting things going on for it, but many of these tracks get rather irritating after a few listens; a possible testament to their playful weirdness. A collection of strange ideas from this musical madman, Captain Beefheart's 'Safe As Milk' was certainly a strange and creative album for its time, but in terms of actual listenability, it provides only some fleeting enjoyment.

Report this review (#423761)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars As Beefheart's plaintive moan emerges over a wavering guitar line at the start of Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do you can instantly tell you're in for something different; when the full band kicks in, it's confirmed. The Captain's debut album is a collection of wild, fuzzy, psych-driven blues and blues-drenched psychedelia.

So much could be written about this album, but I'll refrain from doing a track by track review to just cover a few standout tracks. The driving Zig Zag Wanderer is ridiculously energetic (and actually kind of danceable). Dropout Boogie combines some of the fuzziest, heaviest rock music to date with some bizarrely out of place (in terms of how tranquil they are) musical breaks. The standard is similarly high for most of the other songs; the only blot on the trackklist, for me, is I'm Glad - a sappy ballad that doesn't quite suit Beefheart's vocal delivery or the context of the album, but at least it's followed by the unparalleled classic Electricity, which sums up all the foreboding, ominous, and incredibly strange qualities of the album and delivers it in one menacing but catchy package.

At this point in their career Beefheart and the Magic Van still had perceptible links to contemporary trends in music, rather than existing in the Captain's own weird dimension as on Trout Mask Replica, so this is one of the best ways to dabble in Beefheart's work before taking the plunge into less approachable work. And even for Beefheart veterans who've heard everything else, it's more than worth a listen. Autumn's Child, the album closer, never fails to make my hair stand on end when I hear it; like the rest of the songs (I'm Glad excepted), it's as fresh today as it ever was. This milk doesn't go sour.

Report this review (#446726)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Captain's first album is a very exciting mix of blues, rock, and experimental touches. I am a big fan of blues music, and this album is one that I have always loved because of its Prog tendencies and great bluesy guitar playing, coupled with Beefheart's one of a kind vocals and lyrics.

Of all the songs here, the closing song, Autumn's Child, sounds to me like a true Prog song. Another stand out song is the opening song, Sure Nuff N Yes I Do, which has a amazing opening with the slide guitar. Another standout song for me is the song Electricity, which has a very creepy sounding vocal delivery by Beefheart here. It also has some very cool theremin playing courtesy of Sam Hoffman.

This album also features two blues legends on this album. Ry Cooder plays guitar and bass here, and Taj Mahal is here as well doing some percussion. Captain Beefheart actually asked Ry Cooder if he wanted to join The Magic Band full time but he declined the invitation.

Overall this album is a prime example of early Avant Garde Prog, that is up there with such early Avant Prog albums like Zappa's Absolutely Free album. One that must not be missed by anyone interested in Prog.

Report this review (#506904)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I think with all first albums, you can have a lot of freedom. Especially in the 60's, where music was at times trying to be controlled and some bands just had to kind of give in to pressure and the current trends at the time. One prime example of this is The Moody Blues. Originally a Beatles rip off, after a flirtation with an orchestra, they really adopted their style and kind of sprouted the seeds for the prog genre. This album is an example of a very infantile album.

I think when comparing this to other classic albums from the 60's, e.g. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Sgt. Peppers, Days Of Future Passed, it just doesn't match up. Even though the album is pretty ground breaking for its time, in comparison to some experiments in the 60's, it's just not as impressive.

One of the major negatives for me is the blues influence throughout. Now I can't stand blues most of the time. It's boring, repetitive, and portrays an emotion which is just too bland for my liking (now Tchaikovsky's Pathetique?that's real emotion). Now I will admit, this isn't too bluesy, but at times the bluesy bits ruin it. Granted there are some more experimental and psychedelic tracks, but even then, they're a bit too much of a novelty (if they were a parody, like the songs on Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money, then maybe this album would have been a bit more successful).

This is a good album nonetheless. The real positives at times is the musicians and Beefheart himself. His vocals are always top notch, and the arrangements and lyrics are always interesting to hear. The guitar work of young Ry Cooder is also pretty cool too. There are some weak moments on the album, but overall, it is a great album

1. Sure 'Nuff Yes I Do - Now I really don't like blues. But this I'm not too bad with. Still not my style, but hey, it's Captain Beefheart. I love the jauntyness towards the end of the song. 6/10

2. Zig Zag Wanderer - Ok, now this is what I love about the 60's. Jangly guitars, and an overall sense of fun. Quite reminiscent of early Pink Floyd at times. 9/10

3. Call On Me - A bit too much of a standard 60's jangly pop song. And maybe a bit too bluesy for my liking. 5/10

4. Dropout Boogie - I love when Beefheart sings in this evil raspy voice. The instrumental section is pretty cool too, and very odd to hear during the 60's. The lyrics are pretty cool, and maybe a bit odd. 8/10

5. I'm Glad - Best song on the album, and maybe one of my favourite Captain Beefheart tracks. The falsetto vocals are a bit cheesy, but to be honest it really is nice and pretty. Maybe this was Beefheart's way of trying to achieve a top 10 hit or something (a bit like Frank Zappa's doo wopp album), but this song is 10 times more interesting and successful than that whole album. Beefheart's vocals also are full of emotion and are really raw, which really reflects the emotion of the song (although at times there is very Procol Harum moments, especially in the vocals). 10/10

6. Electricity - The kind of blues I can stand. Basically blues with a backbone really to try out new things. There is some even jazzy moments in the song. The use of guitar really is something to be marvelled at (especially how Ry Cooder makes those noises). Love the raspiness of Beefhearts vocals as well. 8/10

7. Yellow Brick Road - A bit like a country parody. Now I hate country, but I actually really like this song. I love the melody of the verse. It's so easy, yet so memorable. 9/10

8. Abba Zaba - It is a bit silly, but it does work. The silly lyrics are memorable and they do stick in your head, in fact you'll probably sing along to this song soon after listening to it. The use of almost gibberish does add a rhythmic edge to the song. 8/10

9. Plastic Factory - I really hate the use of harmonica in blues. In fact it's the worst part of this song. The best part is obviously Beefhearts vocals. I just really don't like blues. The instrumental section does make the song more interesting, I have to admit. 4/10

10. Where There's A Woman - Pretty interesting instrumental work and a nice arrangement. Their's something very gospel about this song too. Pretty cool chorus too. 8/10

11. Grown So Ugly - Even though the lyrics are pretty funny, the song is a bit too bluesy for my liking. Still not too bad though. 5/10

12. Autumn's Child - I like the dramatic nature of the song. Maybe a bit too "silly psychedalia," but meh it's a pretty fun song. 7/10

CONCLUSION: Don't get me wrong, this is still a highly enjoyable album, it's just at moments, it's just not my thing. The 60's music for me at times can be touch and go. In fact theirs only a few albums from this era that I would admit I love. A great album, but we all knew better things were to come.


Report this review (#536867)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#602285)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
3 stars Safe As Milk posits Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band as the late 60s answer to the early 60s Animals or Rolling Stones. It's an extremely energetic, well played R&B album with a good mix of slow, fast, loud, and quiet numbers, and a healthy helping of the psychedelic vibe that was in vogue at the time. It's very accessible - with a bit more promotional push it probably could have been a hit record - yet it's still unpredictable and very rough around the edges (though purposely so).

Guitarists Alex Snouffer (aka Alex St Clair) and Doug Moon come close to upstaging Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) himself - much like Brian Jones' work on the early Stones records, they have an uncannily firm grasp of the blues, and play their battery of licks and riffs with effortless grace. Beefheart rises to the challenge, belting out his vocals with the authority of a 30 year blues veteran - the ghost of Howlin' Wolf coming through a young white guy out of the California desert. Drummer John French (aka Drumbo) gives us the first taste of his syncopated whomp-whom-bash drumming style, adopting a melodic approach to drumming instead of purely keeping time or playing ordinary 4/4 beat patterns.

There are three types of songs here: variations on classic blues tunes, soulful R&B styled pop songs, and "the weird stuff".

Classic Blues Tunes: "Sure Nuff and Yes I Do", "Plastic Factory", "Grown So Ugly"

Soulful R&B Tunes: "Zig Zag Wanderer", "Call on Me", "I'm Glad", "Yellow Brick Road", "Where There's Woman"

"The Weird Stuff": "Dropout Boogie", "Electricity", "Abba Zaba", "Autumn's Child"

As Beefheart fans know, it was to be "The Weird Stuff" that would guide the majority of Beefheart's subsequent work, but attentive listeners will discover that none of these three avenues ever fully went away.

Unlike a lot of fans, I've never been in love with this album as a whole; it's about as solid a debut album as any underground garage band could ask for, but in the end that's not enough to garner favorable comparison to the artistic heights Beefheart would soon reach. And as I hinted at earlier, this version of the band was as much Alex Snouffer's band as it was Don Van Vliet's band - it's only when Van Vliet would finally assert his dictatorial dominance, with Snouffer out of the way and a pair of younger guitarists in his place, that things would truly get far out.

P.S. It's often commented upon that the legendary Ry Cooder played on this album. This is true, but his actual involvement with the band was minimal at best; Snouffer and Moon deserve the lions' share of the credit as far as I'm concerned.

Report this review (#825069)
Posted Thursday, September 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

The Start Of Something Different.

Before the days where Captain Beefheart was a synonym for extreme innovation and compositional anarchy, there was 'Safe As Milk', easily the most accessible and listenable of the Captain's albums. This debut album of his however is an excellent premonition of the artist's madness to come: this is not your average Psychedelic Rock from 1967, and it certainly wasn't conventional for a Bluesman's ears either. With a typical Psych Rock production, the album's most stand-out oddity is the songwriting and Beefheart's singing, rough, raspy and full of character. There's a funny charm to these songs that still make 'Safe As Milk' sound as fun as it was back then, songs like 'Abba Zaba', 'Zig Zag Wanderer', 'Dropout Boogie' or ' Sure Nuff N' Yes I Do', as they all manage to be extremely catchy and upbeat. But all of the songs on 'Safe as Milk' are marvelous inventions on behalf of the Captain, as he lets his Blues Rock cross over with Soul, Rock N Roll, Doo-Wop, and Jazz, mixing these elements effortlessly.

Report this review (#959367)
Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars 1967 was INDEED an interesting year for progressive music. In fact, we may talk about a landmark. Interesting enough, we tend to forget, among other albums, to list the debut of Captain Beefheart, Safe as Milk.

From strong bluesy roots, he can de-construct a lot and add serious and good experimentalism, but, very different from "Trout Mask Repilca", this album go to be fully enjoyable. With some angry of the vocals, is the kind of joy you have while smash something. Can better feeling than this on a debut, especially now knowing all the path Van Villet has made? Such an effort is great for when you have to create something new, or listen to even further adventurous music.

This album is the begining of a lot of things.

Report this review (#1042580)
Posted Monday, September 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars Continuing my 1967 trip according to my Progshine post ( year-by-year-1967.html), we have Safe As Milk (1967) from Captain Beefheart And His Magical Band.

The high teor of Blues Rock and Psychedelia was here, of course, that's how pretty much Rock band was sounding in 1967. But it's quite fine, wild and kinda upbeat all around.

Besides not being released early in the year (but in September) the album is kinda impressive for being the first of the band. As most of the albums from the Psychedelic generation Safe As Milk (1967) has all kinds of songs fom ballads to free jams.

One of the nicest I've heard so far from this research of mine.

Report this review (#1054106)
Posted Saturday, October 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Beefheart's guns are loaded when he springs this recording to the world in 1967. The backstory is great - Doug Moon getting into fights with Don all the time, threatening each other with real weapons. 20 year old Ry Cooder is recruited to clean things up and add stinging slide licks. The finished product has an indelible effect on Rock, Blues, Free Jazz still felt today .

A great listen for fans of the fringes. Weirdness started with Beef - not Frank. "Autumn's Child" is a classic among classics. The Expanded addition adds great instrumental and vocal tracks, not to be missed.

Report this review (#1365539)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permalink

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