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Captain Beefheart Safe As Milk album cover
3.86 | 210 ratings | 28 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do (2:15)
2. Zig Zag Wanderer (2:40)
3. Call On Me (2:37)
4. Dropout Boogie (2:32)
5. I'm Glad (3:31)
6. Electricity (3:07)
7. Yellow Brick Road (2;28)
8. Abba Zaba (2:44)
9. Plastic Factory (3;08)
10. Where There's Woman (2:09)
11. Grown So Ugly (2:27)
12. Autumn's Child (4:02)

Total Time 33:40

Bonus tracks on 1999 & 2017 reissues:
13. Safe As Milk (Take 5) (4;13)
14. On Tomorrow (6:58)
15. Big Black Baby Shoes (4:50)
16. Flower Pot (3:55)
17. Dirty Blue Gene (2:43)
18. Trust Us (Take 9) (7:22)
19. Korn Ring Finger (7:26)

Total Time (with bonus tracks) 71:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Don Glen Vliet / vocals, harmonica, bass marimba, shenai (13-19), arrangements
- Ry Cooder / electric & slide guitars, bass (8,11), arrangements (1,11)
- Alexis Clair Snouffer / guitar, backing vocals
- Jerry Handley / bass
- John French / drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Doug Moon / guitar (1)
- Russ Titelman / guitar (12)
- Jeff Cotton / guitar (13-19)
- Sam Hoffman / Theremin (6,12)
- Milt Holland / percussion (8), log drum (2,4)
- Taj Mahal / percussion (7)
- Richard Perry / harpsichord (? 3), co-producer

Releases information

Artwork: Tom Wilkes

LP Buddah Records ‎- BDM 1001 (1967, US) Mono audio
LP Buddah Records ‎- BDS 5001 (1967, US) Stereo "enhanced"
2xLP Music On Vinyl ‎- MOVLP343 (2017, Europe) With 7 bonus tracks

CD Castle Classics ‎- CLACD 234 (1988, UK) Mono audio
CD Buddha Records ‎- 7446599605-2 (1999, US) Remastered by Elliott Federman with 7 bonus tracks (outtakes from the Plain Brown Wrapper / Mirror Man sessions)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Safe As Milk ratings distribution

(210 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Safe As Milk reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
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

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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!

Review by aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Sinusoid
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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by 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.

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by HolyMoly
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.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
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.

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars Having escaped the urban pressures of the Los Angeles scene at an early age, the parents of Dan Van Vliet who would become better known as CAPTAIN BEEFHEART found much of his creative inspiration in the Mojave desert highlands near the town of Lancaster, CA where he became obsessed with the blues sounds of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House and Robert Johnson but was also equally intrigued by the avant-garde nature of jazz artists such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor. After developing his own musical skills and began to play on his own he would also become one of Frank Zappa's greatest partners in crime on the eccentric R&B music scene in the mid-60s before eventually creating some of the wildest unclassifiable albums ever to hit the rock music world.

For anyone who has only exposed themselves to the mind bending freakery of albums like 'Trout Mask Replica' it may come as quite a shock when coming to this debut album that was at the time of release an official project of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND. The BAND part of the equation remained a rotating cast of musicians who would come and go on the various albums throughout BEEFHEART's career. The good CAPTAIN spent his years leading up to this debut releasing some rather safe if not bland singles based entirely on blues rock for the A&M record label but it wouldn't take long for the CAPTAIN's eccentric irrepressible ways to come to the surface and cause tension which would lead to a complete meltdown. The dramatic event was triggered by what to put on the debut album affectionally titled SAFE AS MILK. While A&M wanted more cute and cuddly blues songs with a rock veneer, the good CAPTAIN simply insisted that some of his more experimental tracks find their way onto the album, specifically the amazingly electrified 'Electricity' which redefined the experimental possibilities of blues rock.

The label refused and BEEFHEART was forced to scope out a plan B which resulted in a 1967 release on the New York City based Buddha Records which favored a more diverse genre selection than many others as they included everything from the Bubblegum pop of Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company to the folk rock of Melanie and the soul of Gladys Knight & The Pips. Having seen the tides changing they took a chance on BEEFHEART's mix of blues with slightly off-kilter elements but in reality SAFE AS MILK as the title suggests is perhaps the most accessible album by the good CAPTAIN at least before the pathetic attempts to go commercial in the mid-70s. In the process of finding a new home for his recordings, BEEFHEART recruited the musical cast of Alex St. Clair Snouffer (guitar, bass, percussion), Jerry Handley (bass), John French (drums) and a young 20 year old guitarist Ry Cooder who was just getting his feet wet in the music biz.

This was the period before the good CAPTAIN really found his true calling by creating twisted gnarled blues tracks that were part jazz, part progressive rock and just part unexplainably weird. SAFE AS MILK requires no conditioning to enjoy and displays the period where not only was BEEFHEART coming of age and feeling comfortable in his skin but also showcased the tension of being expected to perform according to a label's whims while sneaking in some poetic license to let loose once in a while. The album was grace with ballsy guitar riffs influenced by the Delta blues of Mississippi along with harmonic musical structures that include rhythmic guitar slides, harmonica and BEEFHEART's grizzled vocal deliveries. It also exudes an instant attraction albeit not too distant from the influences from whence the influences were derived. Perhaps the most derivative of any BEEFHEART album, SAFE AS MILK nonetheless encapsulates some distinct escapes from the status quo.

Firstly the wild and brilliantly electrified 'Electricity' sounds as explosive as Arthur Brown's 'Fire' with its overconfident delivery of unconventionalities that included a theremin and stylistic approach that resembles danceable electronic music of the future more than the classic blues styles. While A&M deemed the track too negative and weird, the track has remained one of BEEFHEART's most identifiable earlier songs. Another interesting fact about SAFE AS MILK was that the instruments were staking out their own territorial claims instead of being subordinate to the other. The drums were independent of the bass line and the guitar tracks were finding ways to exist within the confines of the songs yet taking liberties. All in all the tracks like 'Abba Zabba' were adding African drumming and ethnic flavors which altered the bluesy natural flow and thus aspects like these were finding SAFE AS MILK as a pivotal step for the strange new twists and turns that were just around the pike.

SAFE AS MILK seemed like it lived up to its title too much for my first few experiences with this album. There are points where it is nauseatingly bland with the throwaway track 'I'm Glad' topping the list, a song so gag inducing that would've even made Leslie Gore throw it in the trash. Not only is the overwrought winey ballad clearly demonstrative of why BEEFHEART's vocal abilities were designed for more adventurous and less melodic realities but the track ruins of the flow of an otherwise fairly good bluesy rock album. While the more experimental tracks like 'Electricity' clearly steal the thunder of the otherwise pleasant but fairly traditional sounding tracks, the album still is a decent grower even if the continuity seems a little stilted. In effect this is an album that is a collection of tracks that seem to have been created under different conditions than an album that flows neatly from beginning to end but after many listens the album kinda sinks its hooks into you once the ear worms burrow themselves in. Personally i prefer the unleashed madman BEEFHEART to come but i can't deny this is a really fun 'normal' album by master of experimental blues.

Latest members reviews

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 fini ... (read more)

Report this review (#1365539) | Posted by Suedevanshoe | Monday, February 9, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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 experimen ... (read more)

Report this review (#1042580) | Posted by GKR | Monday, September 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 r ... (read more)

Report this review (#536867) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#282511) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#253970) | Posted by questionsneverknown | Wednesday, December 2, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 hi ... (read more)

Report this review (#247204) | Posted by mrcozdude | Thursday, October 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#211635) | Posted by Foolsdrummer | Saturday, April 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#144895) | Posted by Tylosand Ektorp | Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#140802) | Posted by Zargus | Thursday, September 27, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 Wandere ... (read more)

Report this review (#133007) | Posted by malcra | Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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, ... (read more)

Report this review (#50519) | Posted by | Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#37967) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 so ... (read more)

Report this review (#33448) | Posted by aqualung28 | Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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