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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Captain Beefheart biography
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART (real name: DON VAN VLIET) is a true genius and definitely one of the most original and innovative musicians of the twentieth century. With his blend of blues, rock 'n' roll, free-jazz, avantgarde and poetry, he invented his own genre of music, which even seems to go beyond music itself. Captain Beefheart's music at its best is a form of art, that is maybe best compared to an abstract painting.

Captain Beefheart was born January 15, 1941 in Glendale, California. He was born Don Vliet, but he changed his name into Don van Vliet in the early sixties. His genius was discovered very early through his paintings and sculptures, and at the age of thirteen, he was offered a scholarship to study in Europe. His parents didn't accept the offer, and decided to move to Lancaster instead. It was during his stay there, that Van Vliet met Frank Zappa (see also FRANK ZAPPA) in high school, and that he taught himself how to play harmonica and saxophone. Van Vliet derived the name Captain Beefheart from Zappa's and his film-project, called "Captain Beefheart Meets The Grunt People". The film was never completed.

In 1964 Captain Beefheart formed The Magic Band, and in 1965 the band signed to A&M, for which they recorded two singles. The first, "Diddy Wah Diddy" (The Bo Diddley-song), was actually quite successful, but A&M wasn't interested in Beefheart's ideas for an entire album. In 1967, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band finally got the opportunity to release their debut album, "Safe As Milk", on the label Buddah. At this time, the band consisted of guitarists Alex St. Clair, Ry Cooder and Antennae Jimmy Semens (born Jeff Cotton), bassist Jerry Handley and drummer Drumbo (John French).

After 1968's "Strictly Personal" was sabotaged by the producer Bob Krasnow (he radically remixed the album without Van Vliet's permission), Frank Zappa offered his old friend to make an album on his own label Straight Records, promising him complete creative freedom. Of course Van Vliet couldn't refuse this offer, and he recorded arguably the weirdest, most fascinating, original and avantgarde rock album ever made: "Trout Mask Replica". It was released in 1969 and it consisted of two discs, on which Beefheart and his colleagues "freaked out" in 28 raw, poetic tracks, seemingly ignoring all musical borders. A true masterpiece, graced by some fantastic cover artwork. By this time, Captain Beefheart had given all band members nicknames. The Magic Band no...
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Trout Mask ReplicaTrout Mask Replica
Reprise / Ada 1990
Audio CD$47.81
$9.33 (used)
Spotlight Kid & Clear SpotSpotlight Kid & Clear Spot
Reprise / Ada 1990
Audio CD$4.74
$3.58 (used)
Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)
Import · Remastered
Virgin Int'l 2006
Audio CD$3.71
$3.00 (used)
Doc at the Radar StationDoc at the Radar Station
Remastered
Astralwerks 2006
Audio CD$3.74
$6.48 (used)
Strictly PersonalStrictly Personal
Import
EMI Europe Generic 1995
Audio CD$5.44
$4.49 (used)
Lick My Decals Off BabyLick My Decals Off Baby
Hi Horse Records 2012
Vinyl$16.60
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Mirror Man Sessions [CD New] US $6.28 Buy It Now 2h 3m
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The Buddah Years by Captain Beefheart (CD, Feb-2006, Sony BMG) US $4.99 [1 bids]
4h 33m
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9h 2m
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12h 30m
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13h 2m
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART**SAFE AS MILK**VINYL US $10.95 Buy It Now 13h 3m
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART-SAFE AS MILK-SIMPLY VINYL SVLP 122 LIMITED UK NEW SEALED 2LP US $31.98 Buy It Now 13h 43m
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Electric Poetry/Through the Eyes of Genius '80 Live 2 LP US $59.99 Buy It Now 14h 18m
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND " SHINY BEAST " WARNER US $8.99 [0 bids]
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Doc At The Radar Station (LP) (180 gram vinyl) US $21.00 Buy It Now 18h 52m
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART A CARROT IS AS CLOSE AS A RABBIT GETS TO A DIAMOND. 1993. US $5.00 Buy It Now 1 day
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART The Buddah Years Best Of Greatest Hits CD NEW US $8.40 Buy It Now 1 day
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND HIS MAGIC BAND SAFE AS MILK - VINYL LP RECORD BDS 5063 US $32.95 [0 bids]
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Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" Straight 6420 US $9.99 [1 bids]
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Roots Of Captain Beefheart [CD New] US $8.87 Buy It Now 1 day
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & MAGIC BAND.ICE CREAM FOR CROW.UK 1986 VIRGIN REISSUE OVED121 US $5.08 [1 bids]
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART BLUEJEANS AND RARE ORIGINAL YUGOSLAV 1ST PRESS 1975 EX/EX US $34.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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Captain Beefheart "Doc At The Radar Station" Original Virgin Pressing US $9.99 [1 bids]
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Captain Beefheart - Grow Fins Vol. I ~ Rare 2LP Gatefold- 1999 Xeric W/ Booklet US $15.00 [8 bids]
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Captain Beefheart - Grow Fins Vol. II ~ Rare 2LP Gatefold-1999 Xeric W/ Booklet US $15.80 [10 bids]
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Captain Beefheart - Grow Fins Vol. III~ Rare 2LP Gatefold-2001 Xeric W/ Booklet US $19.49 [11 bids]
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Mirror Man COLORED VINYL LP SEALED US $13.99 Buy It Now 1 day
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART LP: THE SPOTLIGHT KID OG 1972 US $29.95 Buy It Now 1 day
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Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band/Grow Fins Vol. 2/Mint Double Album US $40.00 [0 bids]
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND safe as milk LP Mint- 6.23171 Buddah German US $100.00 Buy It Now 1 day
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART bluejeans & moonbeams LP VG+ SRM 1 1018 Vinyl 1974 Record US $27.00 Buy It Now 1 day
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART shows & tickets


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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.86 | 126 ratings
Safe As Milk
1967
3.39 | 66 ratings
Strictly Personal
1968
3.80 | 260 ratings
Trout Mask Replica
1969
4.11 | 79 ratings
Lick My Decals Off, Baby
1970
3.53 | 61 ratings
Mirror Man
1971
3.27 | 44 ratings
The Spotlight Kid
1972
3.85 | 49 ratings
Clear Spot
1972
2.42 | 38 ratings
Bluejeans & Moonbeams
1974
1.76 | 30 ratings
Unconditionally Guaranteed
1974
4.13 | 78 ratings
Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)
1978
4.06 | 66 ratings
Doc At The Radar Station
1980
3.45 | 47 ratings
Ice Cream For Crow
1982
4.04 | 7 ratings
Bat Chain Puller
2012

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.89 | 8 ratings
London 1974
1994
4.14 | 13 ratings
I'm Going to Do What I Wanna Do: Live at My Father's Place 1978
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Merseytrout: Live in Liverpool 1980
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Magnetic Hands Live UK 72 -80
2002
3.00 | 1 ratings
Railroadism Live U.S.A 72- 81
2003
4.00 | 1 ratings
Amsterdam '80
2006

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 7 ratings
I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain't Weird
1992
3.33 | 3 ratings
A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond
1993
3.04 | 4 ratings
Electricity
1998
2.96 | 7 ratings
Grow Fins (Rarities 1965 - 1982)
1999
3.11 | 6 ratings
The Dust Blows Forward: An Anthology
1999
3.25 | 4 ratings
Dust Sucker
2002
3.00 | 2 ratings
Dichotomy
2003

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Diddy Wah Diddy
1965
5.00 | 2 ratings
Yellow Brick Road
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
Moonchild
1968
5.00 | 1 ratings
Plastic Factory
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
Click Clack
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Too Much Time
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sixpack - Six Track EP
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Light Reflected Off The Oceands Of The Moon
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
Ice Cream For Crow
1982
3.05 | 5 ratings
The Legendary A&M Sessions
1984

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Safe As Milk by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.86 | 126 ratings

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Safe As Milk
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team

4 stars Continuing my 1967 trip according to my Progshine post (progshine.net/2013/10/prog-rock- 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.

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 Trout Mask Replica by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 260 ratings

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Trout Mask Replica
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by andrewrankine

3 stars Quite a strange album, unlike just about anything that I have heard before. Individually the songs sound to me like demos, but together they create a work dissimilar to any other (not necessarily a good thing). It was tough to finish this record the first time around, but enjoyable the second time. Still, I don't like it that much. It lacks any order, and the complete insanity can become slightly less humorous after a few beginnings to songs in the same vain. Loses the shock effect. Worth a listen when confined to a train/bus/airplane/automobile for an hour or so. Tough to rate... worth a listen to anyone (5 stars) but many would say it is terrible (1 stars). On the other hand, a completionist might enjoy this type of record if completing a Beefheart collection. Split the difference, give it 3.5 stars... round it down for my own personal findings to 3 stars.

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 Doc At The Radar Station by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.06 | 66 ratings

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Doc At The Radar Station
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sinusoid
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Believe it or not, this album was released in 1980.

The thing is, Captain Beefheart was never really a man of his time other than his earliest career phase (and I really like his debut, SAFE AS MILK, despite the 60's overtones). If you haven't been initiated with Captain Beefheart, he has a music style that is rough, jagged, avant-garde and seemingly difficult to digest, yet there's always a fine line underneath the chaos that keeps the music together. Stomping beats, swinging tempos, bluesy rock guitars, the occasional delve into abstract poetry; it's all here for Beefheart fans to soak up and enjoy.

Some of what is familiar Beefheart territory is best described in ''Hot Head'', ''Sheriff of Hong Kong'', ''Best Batch Yet'' and ''Run Paint Run Run'' (my overall favourite cut). There are a few others can get a little dicey. ''Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on My Knee'' is as weird as the title suggests as it's nothing more than mellotron washes underneath unusual fantasies. ''A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond'' sounds a little out of place concerning the overall style of the album (in contrast, this song is a restrained piano/guitar interlude), but warranted given that it's slotted between two rough-and-tumble numbers. And the Beefheart voice of Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde is in full throttle going from constipated old man to ''out-of-breath-after- getting-punched-in-the-stomach'' vocals, and yet Beefheart still makes those sound plausible.

DOC AT THE RADAR STATION is one of the more digestible Captain Beefheart albums I have come across, and considering that his trademark style is splattered all over the album, I'd say this is a good starting point for the uninitiated. This album proves that you can base yourself in avant- garde overtones and still have hooks in your music.

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 I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain't Weird  by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1992
3.37 | 7 ratings

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I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain't Weird
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

3 stars Strictly Naked

I actually got this CD before I was ever able to locate a copy of its official-release counterpart, Strictly Personal. While I do enjoy the heavy handed psychedelic production of that album, the unfettered versions still feel like the definitive versions to me. This particular release has since been made obsolete by the readily available reissues of Safe as Milk and Mirror Man (while Strictly Personal still languishes in relative obscurity), as bonus tracks on those CDs, so don't go out of your way to find this CD unless you're a collector.

The essay inside talks about the whole scandal involving the release of the aforementioned Personal album, how it was released on a small label (Blue Thumb) by producer Bob Krasnow and lots of psychedelic effects were pasted on to the songs after the fact, a move (supposedly, though I have doubts) that was not sanctioned by Beefheart nor the band. This release was the first attempt to set the record straight, even though I doubt Beefheart himself had any involvement in the release of this CD. It presents the majority of the album's tracks in their unfettered form, presenting them as tough blues-based psychedelic rock numbers, with strong hints of the jagged rhythms that would come to full fruition on Trout Mask Replica the following year.

"Trust Us" is my favorite of these, and it's presented here in two versions, though it takes a real close listen to tell them apart. It's probably the tune that comes closest to the Trout Mask sound. My other favorite is a song that never ended up on an official album, the mesmerizing "Moody Liz", a woozy song with brief group vocals at the beginning followed by a long instrumental coda - very similar in approach to the final album's song "Kandy Korn".

What's here is good stuff, certainly very handy for my collection, at least until the reissues came out, which has made this CD somewhat superfluous. Also, several of these tracks are incomplete or otherwise uncompelling ("On Tomorrow" is done as an instrumental, for example, and it doesn't make an especially interesting instrumental). But otherwise it's quite strong.

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 Ice Cream For Crow by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.45 | 47 ratings

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Ice Cream For Crow
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars A Fine Way to Go Out

By 1982, Captain Beefheart had gotten tired of the music business, and retired to pursue his painting and sculpting interests. This at a time when it seemed like the world was finally starting to catch up with him -- some high-profile appearances on Saturday Night Live and The David Letterman Show seemed to indicate that his popularity was on the rise. After the razor-sharp fury of Doc at the Radar Station, this album finds Beefheart settling into a more laid back groove. Laid back, but not happy and content. Not depressed or bitter either, just... a bit weary.

The title track opens the album with a jolt of electricity which is inviting and accessible -- the band released a promotional video clip of the song, even -- and it even sounds a bit bright and optimistic, as if the Captain still sees hope and good prospects ahead for delightful mischief. Things quickly settle back down into darker territory with "The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O", a typically fine spoken piece with typical jagged accompaniment. The third song, "Semi-MultiColoured Caucasian", is less typical - a relatively smooth instrumental focusing on the interplay of the guitars, reminiscent of "Alice in Blunderland" from The Spotlight Kid (1972). My personal favorite Beefheart poem is next, the baffling "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat". Strange images ("...and the rainbow baboon gobbled fifteen fish eyes with each spoon!...") collide in random fashion, with suitably unpredictable and strange backing music. Gary Lucas (guitar) contributes the lovely solo piece "Evening Bell", and side one ends with another spoken piece similar to "Garland", entitled "Cardboard Cutout Sundown". So far we have plenty of odd and weird music, not to mention wild poetry, but these pieces differ from the prior album Doc at the Radar Station in that the Captain's rage and fury seems to be taken down a few notches.

Side two picks up the pace for a couple of peppy tracks, "The Past Sure is Tense" and "Ink Mathematics", both revealing a paranoid worldview in that abstract Beefheart way. "The Witch Doctor Life" brings out Beefheart's cracking falsetto and a bit more of a melodic singing style reminiscent of the Spotlight Kid album. "81 Poop Hatch" is a spoken word piece with no musical accompaniment, spoken in a low, serious tone of voice that intones lines like "my eyes are burnt and bleeding" and "trumpet poop on the ground with peanuts, its bell was blocking an ant's vision" in the same solemn tone. This song as well as the following "Thousand and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole" were leftovers from the original Bat Chain Puller album (see my review of that work for details), and the latter piece is one of this album's clear highlights. Totaling nearly six minutes, the music is long- winded and trudging, climbing in a linear fashion to a climax that never comes. Beefheart's recited allegory that accompanies this music is among his most astute and vivid bits of social observation. Ending the album is a scary bit of growling in the grotesque "Skeleton Makes Good", Beefheart's last spit of venom before he bows out of the music business.

In the context of Beefheart's discography, this sits as a very comfortable, self-assured album that indicates that he was on a creative roll, even if his energy level and emotional investment were quickly falling. It was a good note to go out on, a nice cap on a very solid discography.

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 Safe As Milk by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.86 | 126 ratings

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Safe As Milk
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Spotlight Kid by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.27 | 44 ratings

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The Spotlight Kid
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

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.

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 I'm Going to Do What I Wanna Do: Live at My Father's Place 1978 by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Live, 2000
4.14 | 13 ratings

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I'm Going to Do What I Wanna Do: Live at My Father's Place 1978
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars Beefheart and his freshly-assembled Magic Band hit the road to support the well-received comeback "Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)" album, and it's immediately clear that he's back on his game, as evidenced by this superbly presented live document by Rhino/Handmade. The repertoire relies heavily on "Shiny Beast" material, though it also favors the smoother strains of "Clear Spot" material (Nowadays a Woman's Got to Hit a Man, Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles) as well as a generous number of "Trout Mask Replica" songs (Well, Old Fart at Play, Moonlight on Vermont, Veterans Day Poppy), and a couple of songs that are even older (Dropout Boogie, Abba Zaba, Safe as Milk). The era of his misguided attempts at mainstream acceptance is wisely avoided. This catches Beefheart right in the midst of a turning point in his career, and I can only imagine how elated his fans were to see him back in such commanding form.

Sound quality is impeccable throughout, leading me to think this was professionally recorded with the intention of being released, or broadcast over the radio. It was an unusual-sounding lineup. Bruce Fowler (ex-Zappa) plays the bass parts on trombone (or "air bass" as Beefheart amusingly calls it), Robert Williams provides the kind of tom-heavy offbeat rhythms that are a hallmark of Beefheart's music, Eric Drew Feldman fills in the spaces jumping around between keyboards, guitar, and bass. Jeff "Moris" Tepper plays the slide with even more joyful abandon than his precursor Zoot Horn Rollo (if not as expertly). The band handles the Trout Mask material adequately, though they do seem more comfortable with the "Shiny Beast" material they helped to create.

Beefheart himself sounds confident and in charge. He communicates with the crowd with humor and good-natured sarcasm (best moment: yelling at an audience member for clapping in 4/4 time during "Well", an acapella piece that is in anything but 4/4). All in all, this is probably the best live document of Captain Beefheart you are likely to find. 4 stars.

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 Doc At The Radar Station by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Studio Album, 1980
4.06 | 66 ratings

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Doc At The Radar Station
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

5 stars Grade "A" Beef

I always knew this album was ranked up among my favorites by Beefheart, but after listening to it again several times just recently, I'm still surprised at how HARD, TOUGH and MEAN this album is. From beginning to end, from "Hot Head" to "Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee", this album is razor sharp, intense, and Beefheart's energy and focus are at unusually high levels. It's now clear to me that Beefheart and his Magic Band have never been better than they were on this album, and it is with much joy that I award it five stars.

Track by track, this thing smokes. "Hot Head" sets a four-note octave-hopping riff in motion, propelled by a Drumbo-like beat by superlative drummer Robert Williams. Beefheart sneers, howls, and growls seductively as the riff repeats endlessly, punctuated by ace slide playing by Jeff "Moris" Tepper.. "Hot Head" is catchy and inviting, and rocks like crazy. The second track, "Ashtray Heart", also benefits from a hard-charging rhythm (like many of the tracks; the energy level borders on punk rock at times), but interrupts this rhythm frequently to bring in really weird sections of "ensemble meltdown", and even a Mellotron! On this track, Beefheart's voice reaches new heights of insanity too -- imagine your cranky neighbor shouting so loud across the yard that his voice starts cracking and going into quasi-falsetto. Next up is the guitar/piano duet "A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond", a very pretty, short instrumental. Then it's more cranky neighbor screaming on "Run Paint Run Run" set to a galloping rhythm, colored with odd interjections by various instruments and sudden stops and starts. "Sue Egypt" is a neat change of pace, taking out drums entirely for a guitar/spoken word duet (but again with a Mellotron interlude), and Beefheart sounds no less intense even though he takes the voice down a register or two. "Brickbats" closes side one, a leftover from the Bat Chain Puller days, and it ratchets the album up a few notches on the avant-rock ladder. Mostly recited with plodding, chaotic ensemble accompaniment, until the inevitable shriek, "BRICKBAAAAATTSS!!"

Side two opens with the absolutely exhilarating "Dirty Blue Gene". Beefheart pulls out all his voices for this rapid fire assault of rollicking guitar riffs, speedy and quick-changing drums, and free-flying slide guitar, not to mention enthusiastic call-and-response shouts with the band. If there's one track on the album that represents all that makes this album what it is, this is the one. "Best Batch Yet" is more contemplative (shoot, even Slayer is more contemplative than that last song), but it's still a mind-bending maze of tricky rhythms, instruments coming in and out, and Beefheart's usual surreal lyricism. Beefheart goes back into maniac mode for "Telephone", which has such a crazed and wacky delivery, it's almost funny. This insanity is short-lived, as the one minute piece gives way to another one minute piece, the delicate solo guitar instrumental "Flavor Bud Living", executed by part-time member John French (who in the past was Beefheart's de facto musical collaborator for many years). This turns out to just be a brief breather for the climax of the album, the 6 minute hell-storm of "Sheriff of Hong Kong", where guitars rage and weave in and out without respite or mercy, drums thunder onward, and Beefheart rants and raves without caution or conscience, locking in completely with the music and bellowing with an intensity and rage that has by now become typical of this album. The hangover that follows, the closing "Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on My Knee", is a surreal, spooky piece of musical drama, with recitation by Beefheart (in which he uses the "F" word a couple of times, so beware kids), And lo and behold, the Mellotron is back too (thank you, Eric Drew Feldman!). The album ends on a sinister mystery chord like you might hear at the "cliffhanger" moment of a suspenseful TV show. What's next? You wonder. Flip the puppy over and start it all over again.

There isn't a track on here that I'm not uber-enthusiastic about, and I can't say that about many (if any) other Beefheart albums. Often lumped together with the two other (fine) albums surrounding it, this album stands apart from the pack as the most hard-hitting, intense album he ever did.

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 Grow Fins (Rarities 1965 - 1982) by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1999
2.96 | 7 ratings

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Grow Fins (Rarities 1965 - 1982)
Captain Beefheart RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

3 stars This is a very attractive looking 5 disc box set consisting of practically every rare recording that Beefheart fans the world over could dig out of their boxes of bootlegs. The word "bootleg" is used strategically here, because although this is a legitimate release, and a beautiful looking one at that (I just love holding it close to my chest sometimes), the actual recordings included within are mostly bootleg-quality. Still, there are enough treasures in here to entice the fanatic, and perhaps even some curiosities to rouse the merely curious.

The main attraction is disc three - "The Trout Mask Rehearsals". Between this and John French's long essay contained in the booklet, my view of the Trout Mask Replica album was changed forever. The stock line on that album had always been that Don Van Vliet was some musical genius who re-taught all his bandmates how to play their instruments a special way to accommodate his twisted visions. In fact, the band was pretty much left to itself to work out the music, based on some very non-specific (certainly non-musical) direction from Van Vliet, translated to the band in musical notation form by drummer John French. In the rehearsals, you can hear the band play through almost all of the album's songs, without vocals, bringing the instrumental interplay into sharp focus, and showing just how painstakingly intentional all this musical madness was. This is the point at which you realize how incredibly talented they were, and how incredibly hard they worked to play stuff that was this off-the-wall. The sad punch line to this story is that John French did not even receive a performing (let alone composing) credit on the original Trout Mask Replica vinyl release (go ahead and check! he's not there! I think he's credited on the CD release though), thanks to a momentary fight/spat between French and Beefheart just as the album went to print. That's just not cool.

The other discs are only fitfully interesting. Disc One focuses on the very early days, presenting some high and low quality demos for Safe As Milk songs, as well as other songs that didn't make the cut. Disc Two focuses on the live performance side of that band, the intersection between their blues raveups and their psychedelic experimentation. Some cool non-album tracks like Korn Ring Finger (later released on a reissue of Safe as Milk) are of special interest. Disc Four only contains a few minutes of "music", mostly just some dialogue from the TMR rehearsal tapes, but on the CD there are also some video files featuring rare footage of the band. The footage of the Lick My Decals Off band playing "Bellerin' Plain" for a TV is the clear highlight for me. Wow. Disc Five is a random collection of odds and ends across the whole career, without much to recommend it.

Basically a two-star affair, but I'll award it an extra star for the revelations offered by the Trout Mask Sessions portion, as well as the excellent booklet and beautiful beautiful packaging (I'm gonna hold it close to me again... mmmmm)

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