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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was the album that Beefheart disowned, the second to be released but the third to be recorded. On this album he was moving from his blues roots towards the extraordinary Dada free jazz/rock/blues/otherworld hybrid of Trout Mask Replica. His gripe was with the production - Bob Krasnow, the producer, remixed the original tapes without Beefheart's knowledge, adding lots of phasing and psychedelic effects in an effort to appeal to the more -ahem - 'turned on' young listener.

Despite the good Captain's reservations this is still a very good album, not his best but nothing to be ashamed of. The album kicks off with an eccentric blues number, Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally Ah Feel Like Ah Said), loosely based on a Son House song and featuring some of his finest harmonica work. The remainder of side 1 was taken up with churning electric blues rock, with a disappointingly muddy sound. There are some wonderful slide guitar breaks, and Beefheart's lyrics are as crazed and lucid as ever when they're audible. The second half of the album is a lot stronger - On Tomorrow is the closest thing to psychedelia on the album, while Beatle Bones and Smokin' Stones is a witty sideswipe at the British invasion with a reference to 'Winged eels' that became the stage name of a future member of the magic band. Gimme dat Harp Boy is a lumbering, stomping piece of swamp blues featuring Beefheart talking, wailing and shouting through his harmonica (in addition to playing it like a man possessed). Apparently it was inspired by a blues rock harpist who Beefheart was highly unimpressed by. The album closes with Kandy Korn, another piece of Ur-blues with the amps all turned up to 11 and smoke pouring out of the mixing desk.

This is definitely worth picking up if you're a fan, and the original mixes were released on a CD called 'I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain't Weird' a few years ago if you want to make the comparison.

Report this review (#33471)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.5

The mere fact that this is a progression from the amazing Safe As Milk debut is enough for it to be a masterpiece. Indeed it is an amazing album. Don Van Vliet said that it was sabotaged, thanks to Bob Krasnow adding his beloved effects to (usually) the instrumental parts of the album. I could see how Don would see this is limited freedom as an artist, but you have to look past this here. The songs are more personal (hence the name) and sound much more like Beefheart finding his very own sound. His sound was definitely laid out here, as this marks the bluesy to the experimental phase of his career, which ends up being the best of both worlds. It's an easier listen than Trout Mask, and it's more adventurous than Safe As Milk. Don is in top form in this album with his harmonica playing, his writing, and of course his exceptional vocals. The rest of the band gets a lot of more freedom to play their hearts out in this album, the lengths of each song averages to about 6 minutes, which means there's a lot of that signature Magic Band playing (especially the incredible John French). The songs are put together extremely well, and are very powerful instrumentally and emotionally. This album can rival just about anything from this time period in any way, it's incredibly solid. It's amazing how much this album is overlooked, it's a real winner.

Report this review (#38122)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am only familiar with the original vinyl mix, which I've always thought was a tragically bungled affair. The allegedly "psychedelic effects" often simply make the band sound like they're playing in an airplane hanger or echoey gymnasium. They simply aren't well executed "effects" even by the standards of the day, and they make the performances sound horribly dated.

However there are some quite good songs here, clearly a transitional stage between his twin 60's masterpieces "Milk" and "Trout." "Gimme Dat Harp Boy" has always been my favorite, though there are plenty more here which could have been classics if not ruined in the mix.

Obviously, I should track down the "clean non-psychedelic mix" CD then eh?? Consider my rating as only applying to the original LP . . .

Report this review (#50498)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Third album chronologically recorded but second released, this album is the side companion to that delayed Mirror Man (it even shares a track with it), but two things differentiate it: this one is much more concise and to the point and Beefheart refused to acknowledge the "re-mixed" version that was released. If one has to choose one of his two full-blown bluesy albums (one could say progressive blues rock - if that etiquette ever existed), I would advise this one as it represents Beefheart's madness better.

I have rarely read a so accurate description of Beefheart tracks than the one of my friend Chris Gleeson (except for the muddy sound), so please feel free to read it once again. This is maybe my favourite CB&HMB record, and I do not feel bothered by the mix since I never heard the "un-de-mixed" version.

Report this review (#68941)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.4 I would say... I love Captain Beefheart and this album has a strong blues-y/jazzy feel to it..the first song starts off with a scream/growl by don van vliet.. and that, alone, made me happy :D.. I love the first song. This album is VERY GOOD.. but not good enough to be "Essential" or a "masterpiece" of prog music.. Although I would strongly recommend it to every captain beefheart fan...really a need have for the beefheart fans..
Report this review (#112974)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think Captain Beefheart's Strictly personal is nice predecessor to amazing and unique Trout mask replica. It has a strong bluesy feel and some hints of what was coming next. Even though music here is pretty strong I think Bob Krasnow's production is quite horrible and the idea of putting Ah feel like ahcid reprises and sound effects after some songs doesn't always work. I think first side is clearly weaker than the second side. I first thought that the Captain's performance is a bit weak in some places but then I realised that it was horrible production values that weakened his vocal performance. Sound really isn't that crisp and clear Even though this is not as soulfully or energetically sunged as Trout mask replica Captain's vocals are actually quite spot on in some places and music is without doubt quite inventive.

Ah feel ahcid is a nice opener which starts with only vocals and builds up to the crunchy bluesy tune. I didn't like it at first but it has grown on me a lot. Safe as milk has a lot of energy, cool vocals but psychedelic effects and Ah feel like ahcid reprise reduce its power. Third song is one of the highlights on this album amazing Trust us. It has a lot of tempo changes, inventiveness and creativity. It's amazingly dynamic song. This time even sound effects are cool and Ah feel like ahcid snippet fits in quite well too. Son of mirror man- Mere man is the only song that I don't like on the album. It's quite clumsy musically. Not that it isn't well played it's just not very dynamic and memorable.

Second side opens with On tomorrow that is probably the closest thing to Trout mask replica on this record. It is also the closest thing to psychedelia on this record. While this record has many psychedelic effects I don't think this record has that dreamy atmosphere of many psychedelic records. Really nice little song and interestingly arranged. Beatle bones and smoking stones is quite dynamic song with a controversial reference to Beatles. Lyrics are quite good and song's start, stop and then start again musical nature appeals to me. Not as good as On tomorrow though. And then finally the last two songs of the album which are indeed highlights. Gimme dat harp boy has very strong bluesy feel and coolest riff on the album. Band is just jamming nicely. Kandy korn starts like a weird pop song but then it changes to the powerfull jamming tune that just becomes faster and faster. Drums are just insane on this song but Ah feel like ahcid reprise ruins the end. Not everything works on this album but it is indeed much better than just listenable. Not quite as mad or out of this world as Trout mask replica but still belongs to every Captain Beefheart collection.

Report this review (#171956)
Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I love Cpt. Beefheart's debut, but this, second, album is a bit different. Still rooted on the same blues, music there is simpler and more weird at the same time. Even if you will easily recognize Van Vliet's vocals and general music atmosphere, I am missing there some musicality was presented in debut.

This album is REAL avant-garde. Freaky mix of screaming lyrics, sharp bluesy dirty sounds, minimalistic arrangements (very punkish in moments), distorted instruments sound. Well- known fact is album producer Bob Krasnow added plenty of "fashionable" psyche-space effects and strange sounds, which often are out of place ( but really make freaky atmosphere even more crazy).

Placed between two great albums (in time), this release is not of the same level. Very interesting for Cpt.Beefheart fans, I can't recommend it for newcomers. Better start from excellent debut, and then ( if you still will have interest) go to "...Replica...". But for those with deeper interest to Van Vliet music, this album is really one from "must have" list.

Report this review (#276758)
Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars OK, my second take on ol' Captain Beefheart's work. But what about these awful vocals ? Who the hell is singing. Him ? Well, OK then, he's not into Symphonic Prog, where things have to be smooth and mellow. This is one of the most purest genres in terms of self-expression.

Raw, unpleasant, but when you're in a mood on music like this, it's very rewarding. Of course, musically, it is terrible. Virtuosity is not to be expected. Blues element is still present (especially Gimme Dat Harp Boy) and some tracks are very difficult to listen, even if you know what's going on and that this will be no easy listening. Using loud-speakers has proven as a great move. Listening this to headphones only caused my head feel dizzy with headache. Without them, it's OK.

3(+), mark of something bigger. My reunion with Captain Beefheart. Successful one.

Report this review (#290454)
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dodgy production values harm this album quite a lot but not through the universally condemned phasing as most reviewers have commented.

Whereas the follow up 'Trout Mask' was far more jaggedy, 'Strictly Personal' sticks to the blues roots that Don Van Vliet grew up with. 'Strictly Personal' was apparently disowned by Van Vliet himself due to the generic late 60's psychedelic production by Bob Krasnow who added lots of this phasing business. Pleasingly for me I'm a big fan of such technological tweakery.

Disappointingly this same technology damages some of John French's otherwise excellent drumming. Everything sounds a bit gritty and muffled but not enough to distract.

This isn't bad at all, although nothing jumps out at you in the way things do with "Trout Mask'. As decent an entry into the cryptic world of Beefography as you can get. On second thoughts - there is no easy point of entry.

This is just a bit too 'bluesy' for my taste. Just wait till the acid truly kicks in next year, you'll be in for a big surprise.

A good primer for the monster that was to follow.

Report this review (#403551)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
2 stars 'Strictly Personal' - Captain Beefheart (4/10)

An album that may be more famous for the drama surrounding it than the actual music itself, Captain Beefheart's 'Strictly Personal' was Van Vliet's second album, although the man later disowned it. Before Beefheart would hit his streak with 'Trout Mask Replica', this album and the debut 'Safe As Milk' represented his musical vision; an odd blend of psychedelia and blues. In a fairly similar direction as was the debut, Beefheart is slightly less successful here, creating an album that is rather disjointed, raw and aimlessly experimental. Fans of the man's work will almost surely love what 'Strictly Personal' has to offer, but as a relative outsider to the man's work, I can only see this as a mixed accomplishment, as Beefheart's better work was still to come.

The drama of 'Strictly Personal' arose when the entire album was mixed differently, without Beefheart's knowledge or permission. The engineer added much more of a psychedelic sound behind it, and one can only imagine that this was to help it appeal to a wider demographic of youthful listeners at the time. Well known for his controlling personality when it came to the music he was making, Beefheart was enraged, and effectively disowned the album. This would lead to him taking an even more active role in his music creation, in turn leading to the release of such a unique statement as 'Trout Mask Replica'. As 'Strictly Personal' stands though, it is a rather incoherent album, even for its time. In a way, it is fortunate that the mixing permitted so many more psychedelic effects, because I can only imagine that the album may have felt even more plain without them.

The majority of the music here is a drug addled wander, featuring something I might best describe as 'acid blues'. There are some more psych-leaning tracks here as well, like 'Trust Us'; an extended jam that sounds like Jimi Hendrix. Then there is even a parody of psychedelic music here, in 'Beatle Bones n' Smokin' Stones', which is little more than the vocals of Beefheart paraphrasing well-known Beatles lyrics and butchering them through what might be best labelled as 'bad humour'. Beefheart's voice is an integral part of what 'Strictly Personal' is about, and his singing does seem to be conducive with blues. His voice does have a very gravelly sound to it that can be difficult to enjoy at times, but it is very distinctive, which seems to be one of the most major selling points about Beefheart's music.

Although this album may have been more of a shock when it was released almost half a century ago, there is little to justify the album's incredibly aimless feel. There is some nice psychedelic charm here and the more bluesy moments can be enjoyable, should one be in the proper mood for them. From my own ears though, it feels more like a rough demo hinting at potential than anything else.

Report this review (#445926)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Consisting of a tighter, leaner recording of material produced during the same sessions as the sprawling Mirror Man, Strictly Personal should have been a great album - but there is one factor which overshadows the music to this day, and which makes this a divisive one amongst Beefheart fans.

That's Bob Krasnow's use of phasing and other "psychedelic" effects on the music. Whether or not Beefheart knew and approved of this is an open question, but if he wasn't averse to the idea before, he certainly decided it was a big mistake afterwards - on all his subsequent recordings he would be averse to studio trickery and manipulation of his recordings, preferring to capture the Magic Band's sound as rawly as possible.

In fact, it isn't the band that suffers the most from Krasnow's studio magic but Beefheart himself; the echo effects applied to him are so heavy that for half the album he sounds like he's singing from the bottom of a toilet and his harmonica sound is almost entirely ruined. Where Krasnow does let up, as on Gimme Dat Harp Boy, his delivery is as powerful as ever. As for the Magic Band, they've reached the halfway point between the comparatively accessible Safe as Milk and the esoteric Trout Mask Replica, recognisable blues-rock licks beginning to disintegrate and come apart at the edges. The lyrical material is veering heavily towards the extremely dadaist material of Beefheart's later career; sure, Trust Us is easy enough to follow, but there's depths to Beatle Bones 'n' Smoking Stones (aside from it being a response to Strawberry Fields Forever) that I've still not managed to fathom. There's good material on this album, but it's sorely hampered by the production. Probably one you should leave until later in your exploration of Beefheart's sonic world.

Report this review (#448979)
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Blues psychedelic slamming jams, with the best vocalist of experimental rock music - links to traditional roots guitar music and the future of the genre. The production aspects don't ruin the songs as Don Van Vleit felt at the time. The band is experimenting with the deconstructed rock elements which would take centre stage on the more famous follow up. John French' drums rumble on like a New Orleans jazz drummer on acid, lots of slide guitar and some harmonica at times. The copy I have is the 1971 Sunset Records vinyl reissue, not the best version in terms of art work. And of course there's alternative versions on the Mirror Man and It Came In A Brown Paper bag releases which add to the enigma of this era. Strong recommendation for any fan of psychadelic or experimental rock
Report this review (#2921998)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2023 | Review Permalink

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