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Captain Beefheart - The Spotlight Kid CD (album) cover


Captain Beefheart


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3 stars Following the double whammy of Trout Mask Replica and the even freakier Lick My Decals Off Baby, Captain Beefheart returned to a somewhat more conventional blues/rock sound. This may well have been motivated by a desire to make some money - his innovative dadaisitc fusion of free jazz and delta blues may have wowed the critics but it didn't exactly storm up the charts.

The Spotlight Kid is by no means a bad album, but is tame stuff by Beefheart's standards. There are a few stand out tracks, but too much of it sees Beefheart and the Magic Band coasting where they should be flying. Blabber and Smoke is an enviromentalist rant against those who talk but never act, and is perhaps more pertinent today than it was 30 years ago. Art Tripp adds some excellent marimba to this song, and it is his contributions that really stand out on this album. Alice in Blunderland is an instrumental that allows the band a chance to cut loose and has some imaginative interplay between marimba and slide guitar. Click Clack is a piano driven take on a train blues song, and There Ain't No Santa Claus On The Evening Stage is a slice of vintage Beefheart weirdness. Otherwise it's a low key and slightly depressing album,.

3.5 stars if you're already a Beefheart fan, but not recommended to newcomers. It's available as a twofer with the vastly superior Clear Spot, which is probably the best way to pick this up on CD.

Report this review (#39271)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is definitely more the "bluesrock" Beefheart than the "freaky progressive" Beefheart, but I'm giving out ratings on overall quality not "prog-quotient", so I say it's a bit of an underrated . . . well, not quite "a classic" but "a very good album by a legend."

The best thing about this album is the quality of the songs, which is pretty high. "Blabber & Smoke" is a great song about pollution, quite moving in an understated way. "Click Clack" is a truly great train song (in ye olde blues tradition) that really "rocks" in that off- kilter Magic Band way (they're hardly just playing a 4/4 backbeat here!!!!!) "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" is also very rocking in a non-traditional way. "Grow Fins" is about going off to sea to fall in love with a mermaid. "Alice in Blunderland" is one of the catchiest instrumentals he ever cooked up.

This is a must-have for Beefheart fans (even if it is overshadowed by "Clear Spot" from the same year, with a similar title.) Makes a pretty decent entry point to the Captain's universe for the non-initiated too.

Report this review (#50570)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Captain beefheart have a varied discography. From the bluesy rock on "Safe as Milk", to the avant garde and wierd "Trout Mask Replica". This one shows his bluesy side. All songs are deeply blues influenced, and they are heavy and trippy too. This record gets kind of boring after about 3 songs, because it's not a very varied album. The Songs you remember are "I'm Gonna Boolgarize You Baby'", "Blabber n Smoke", "White Jam" and "Grow Fins". This was my first Beefheart purchase, and i would recomend you to start somewhere else. 3/5.
Report this review (#85708)
Posted Friday, August 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Bluesy, totally bluesy, and totally wonderful. If Trout Mask Replica didn't exist, this would be the best Beefheart album. Anyway, his second best work, a work of art, no more, no less. If you want to discover how great singer Beefheart is, have a listen to The Spotlight Kid rather than the double craziness of Trout... (but have a listen to Trout... in order to discover the most strange and destructurized album of all times !). This record is awesome. Too short, maybe. But awesome.
Report this review (#164037)
Posted Sunday, March 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars A return to the twisted blues of pre-Trout Mask albums, The Spotlight Kid is an album of consolidation and taking stock for Beefheart rather than one in which he ploughs forward into new territory - though we're still leaning well towards the avant-garde side of the Mirror Man/Safe as Milk sound. The musical backing from the Magic Band seems a bit tired (and by all accounts, they were thoroughly fed up by this point), but Beefheart's vocal delivery and eccentric compositions remain diverting. It's not a vital part of the Beefheart discography, but it's certainly worth a listen if you're already a Beefheart devotee.
Report this review (#490280)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
3 stars Sweaty Voodoo Blues with a Twist

Having changed music forever with his prior two releases, Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals off, Baby, Beefheart comes back down to Earth for a much more accessible album that is still highly regarded among most fans. The Spotlight Kid is easily Beefheart's most low-key album, full of deep rumbling grooves on the guitars and drums, and Beefheart doing some of his best bluesman singing. It's most definitely a "groove" album, probably of less interest to people looking for avant garde Beefheart.

Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad), Winged Eel Fingerling (Elliot Ingber) and Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) churn up an incredible three-guitar groove on the album's opener "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" that sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. Ed Marimba (Artie Tripp) is every bit as original a drummer as his predecessor Drumbo (John French) was, and keeps the disconnected guitar riffs held together with an equally angular rhythmic drive. Beefheart himself hits the lowest registers of his voice for this tune, adding the final piece to this excellent track. "White Jam" is a more straight blues, and Beefheart's vocal is the star here, hitting a heartwrenching falsetto in the chorus. "Blabber n' Smoke" is one of my favorites, a slow groove with Tripp playing the marimba, as he does on several other tracks. "Alice in Blunderland" is a relatively heavy instrumental featuring Elliot Inger. "Click Clack" is another highlight, with a churning 6/8 rhythm undercut by a strangely accented drum line, forming a perfect musical version of a train rolling down the traciks. "Grow Fins" is another key track, another slow groover like "Blabber n' Smoke", but with a striking vocal about wanting to leave the human race and "take up with a mermaid, and leave you land-lubbin' women alone."

The tracks I didn't mention aren't quite as memorable, but overall the album has a great moody vibe to it that blues fans will enjoy. It manages the admirable feat of applying a little bit of the Beefheartian offbeat sensibility to more accessible song forms. Not quite as consistently good as the following year's Clear Spot, but a nice album with a good handful of stellar moments.

Report this review (#848661)
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 | Review Permalink

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