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Captain Beefheart


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Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica album cover
3.76 | 390 ratings | 80 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Frownland (1:39)
2. The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back (1:53)
3. Dachau Blues (2:21)
4. Ella Guru (2:23)
5. Hair Pie: Bake 1 (4:57)
6. Moonlight On Vermont (3:55)
7. Pachuco Cadaver (4:37)
8. Bills Corpse (1:47)
9. Sweet Sweet Bulbs (2:17)
10. Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish (2:25)
11. China Pig (3:56)
12. My Human Gets Me Blues (2:42)
13. Dali's Car (1:25)
14. Hair Pie: Bake 2 (2:23)
15. Pena (2:31)
16. Well (2:05)
17. When Big Joan Sets Up (5:19)
18. Fallin' Ditch (2:03)
19. Sugar 'N Spikes (2:29)
20. Ant Man Bee (3:55)
21. Orange Claw Hammer (3:35)
22. Wild Life (3:07)
23. She's Too Much For My Mirror (1:42)
24. Hobo Chang Ba (2:01)
25. The Blimp (mousetrapreplica) (2:04)
26. Steal Softly Thru Snow (2:13)
27. Old Fart At Play (1:54)
28. Veteran's Day Poppy (4:30)

Total Time: 78:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Don Glen Vliet / vocals, tenor & soprano saxes, bass clarinet, Simran horn & musette (10), composer & arranger
- Jeff Cotton / slide guitar, Fx (4), lead vocals (15), narrator (25)
- William Earl Harkleroad / slide guitar, flute
- Victor Hayden / bass clarinet, vocals
- Mark Boston / bass, narrator
- John French / drums

- Doug Moon / guitar (11)
- Gary Marker / bass (6,28)
- Frank Zappa / voice (25), producer

Releases information

Artwork: Cal Schenkel

2xLP Straight ‎- 2 STS 1053 (1969, US)

CD Reprise Records ‎- 2027-2 (1989, US)
CD Zappa Records ‎- ZR20014 (2013, US) Remastered by Bob Ludwig

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Trout Mask Replica ratings distribution

(390 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (10%)

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART Trout Mask Replica reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I have to admit that hilarious cover art was one of the reasons I wanted to check out this one. I wasn't very familiar with Avant-Prog back when I got it (except for stuff like Henry Cow and Can) so it surely was a strange listen first time I heard it. I didn't truly enjoy it though but after a while I started to enjoy more of the stuff here, even though some song still remains weak. The music on the album could best be described as a mix of RIO, Delta-Blues and Free-Jazz with lot's of insanity (both lyrically and musically) and nonsenseical yet complex and flowing melodies. The musicianship is completely asymmetric (but excellent)and Beefheart's voice is completely on it's own over the arrangements, yet these guys manage to groove, in the most weird way that is. It sounds surprisingly structured while it's not in the slightest sense.

This is a bizarre and hard listen for many but it is a grower, and if you can appreciate this, then you can get Beefheart's other albums as well without worrying. If you wan't a challenge, try out this one. Just be open minded and don't take it too seriously. It's a complex and inaccessible album but if you like earlier Zappa or bands like Faust and Samla Mammas Manna you should enjoy this too! I'll give this 4 stars for it's uniqueness and nostalgic impact on this particular genre.

Review by frenchie
5 stars This is a masterpiece, yet it can be difficult to see it as a masterpiece. Some say this is an acuired taste and i would partly agree. This was my first taste of Captain Beefheart and i wasn't very optimistic, yet when i listened to it i instantly fell in love with this record. i thought it was incredibly weird and that some of these tracks were just outrageous, very good but sometimes it was like "what the hell is this?". After more listens this album has revealed its hidden beauty to me. I believe that Captain Beefheart and his incredible Magic Band have created a piece of subtle genius here. It took me about 3 or 4 full listens to realise that behind all the weirdness and obscenity, there is an incredible fusion of jazzy blues, amazing vocals, great guitar work and plain weirdness. Captain Beefheart is a musical genius, yet his talents can be hard to find. This record however revealed to me all the things that make him so great, i have heard a few more records after this that amazed me but trout mask replica took his skills to the maximum.

28 tracks, it can be a mouthful but the album flows together really well. Frank Zappa did an excellent job on the production. Although it seems like a slap together collection of songs, you can actually start to admire how much care they have taken over making this album. The flow of the album is often interrupted by strange recording conversations, often entertaining. I dont think this takes anything away from the album. The main genius here is solely in the amazing compositions, fused with great jazz and blues, a traditional bluesy voice gets its spotlight with the incredibly weird lyrics. The prog arangements are definetly there and this helps the album to flow incredible well. These are the things that make "Trout Mask Replica" a masterpiece.

The standout tracks on this album are, in my humble opinion, "Frownland", a weird intro that follows one set path and kicks off as soon as you press play, an odd intro to such an epic album, especially one of prog rock as it has no kind of build up. This put me off a little at first but after hearing the rest of the album i found it to be quite clever. "The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back" has no music, just a record skipping, yet i still loved it. "Ella Guru" is the first really amazing piece, showing off great fusion. "Hair Pie: Bake 1" has amazing saxaphone doodles followed by some amazing guitar, continuing into "Moonlight on Vermont". "My Human Gets Me Blues" is one of my favourites on the album, it sounds a bit more normal and better structured than the rest, i think its good to have the odd normal sounding song to keep the listener appealed. "Pena" is a classic, probably my favourite song on the album. It starts off with Captain Beefheart and The Mascara Snake talking about "Fast n Bulbous" (a common occurance throughout this album). This leads into one big rackett with a crazy voice rambling on about weirdness. It is brilliant and slightly humorous. "Well" and "When Big Joan Sits Up" keep the flow going brilliantly. Towards the close of the album, "She's Too Much for my Mirror", "The Blimp (mousetrapreplica)" and "Old Fart Play" stand as the essential tracks.

This is an album that will go down well with fans of experimental music, spacey psychadelic music, acid rock fans, RIO fans, blues fans, jazz fans and fusion fans. If you think it is good, yet challenging and completely weird at first then just give it a few more tries and hopefully you will fall in love with the guitar and jazz qualities like i did. This is definetly a masterpiece. One of the most daring pieces of music ever made as well as one of the most interestingly produced and strangely composed albums ive ever heard.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars This album is definitely VERY overrated! The songs are AWFUL! Many say it is very hard to acquire, but I wonder WHAT can be acquired? And if there was nothing to acquire? Indeed, where is the music here? Where is the melody, the structure, the finesse, the elaborated rhythm, the catchy character, the addictive parts? The Captain has a very bad voice, as being very negligent and nonchalant. Apparently, the music is absolutely not improvised; well, it is hard to believe! The guitar notes are dissonant, and it is so irrelevant and incoherent that it seems young kids of 6-7 years old play with their Fisher Price guitars in the basement! The tracks contain NO keyboards! The strongest point are the EXCELLENT elaborated drums, but unfortunately, the retarded electric guitars sounds and Vliet's irritating vocals kill everything that could be good on this record. The sound of the electric guitars is very gross, unrefined and primitive! Vliet is good and very funny with Frank Zappa, like on the "Bongo fury" album, but here he is pitifully insipid. Nevertheless, I've been able to find some rare better structured rhythmic parts, like on "Pachuco Cadaver" and on "Sugar' N Spikes". The bass, despite quite present, does not seem to make a definite catchy rhythm. The album has a strong experimental dissonant blues influence. 28 redundant tracks all sounding the same? That's TOO much! There are numerous pseudo humorous narrations a la EMINEM: this is not encouraging. Some crazy free sax parts contribute to give a CACOPHONIC character to this album! Frank Zappa speaks on "The Blimp". As improvised-like dissonant albums, I strongly prefer Pat Metheny - Song X, a complex free jazz album: at least, the album is technically outstanding and there is much more structure in the music! The best I can give is 1 well deserved star for the DRUMS here!
Review by hdfisch
3 stars Edited 10/02/05!

This was by far The Captain's most critically acclaimed and polarizing album. Certainly it has been a sort of milestone in RIO music due to its oddity and uniqueness. It can be called even more than an acquired taste, hardly bearable at least for my ears. Musically there is not much on here to be rated as being of high quality. Still the best performance has been showed by the drummer. The other musicians are hard to be judged since most of the times it sounds if everyone would play just what is coming to his mind at that moment. After giving it enough number of spins on your player there might be 2 or 3 songs to be fairly enjoyed like "Frownland" or "Ella Guru", keeping at least a quite nice rhythm. But I've to say as well he's done a bunch of better albums, "Safe As Milk", "Clear Spot" or "Mirror Man" being the best ones. This is a tough one but one should have listened to it, at least tried and with one eye (ear) closed I can still rate it with 3 stars. Even if it's not really justified by the music, the cool artwork alone is worth an extra star!

Review by penguindf12
5 stars It's probably the weirdest thing you will ever hear. No, it has no keyboards. It is nothing like symphonic prog, and do not expect symphonic prog. It is jagged, sharp, dirty, impenetrable, questionable, disgusting, odd, and dissonant. It may sound like a bunch of idiots bashing their instruments into the wall against a growling and howling vocal by a drunken crackpot, but it really isn't. Behind all that disgusting weirdness is actual music, trust me. I'm not saying this just to "show off my tolerance" or say CAPTAIN BEEFHEART is making some artsy point here which "mere humans cannot understand" or some crap like that. I'm talking about actual music. It just takes a little effort and an open mind. This music isn't improvised or recklessly done. It is well planned out and executed (maybe except for the horn and saxophone). The way the guitars, bass, and drums interlock, it cannot be improvised. This sounds much weirder than anything could possibly be if it were improvised.

The opening track is "Frownland," and it instantly shows what you're in for, hiding nothing. It wiggles, it bites, it pokes, and it changes constantly, becoming virtually unrecognizable as it goes. The vocals of the Captain are eccentric and bluesy, and definitely an aquired taste, more so than even Peter HAMMILL of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. Following this is the much quiter "The Dust Blows Forward...", which features CAPTAIN BEEFHEART (aka Don Van Vliet) crooning in creaky 40s tones an impromtu poem in which he stops every few seconds and switches off the microphone to make up the next verse. It's fairly short, and thus painless, and somewhat enjoyable once or twice.

"Dachau Blues" is a dark song, about "World War Twee" as the Captain puts it. He uses a hideously deep bass voice, set against maddening instrumentation and a crazy bass clarinet in the background. The next song, "Ella Guru," is one of the best on the record, a twisted blues/RIO/pop tune which shuffles between rhythms, all instruments conflicting in a hideous yet wonderful way. It soon shifts into an excellent chorus which plugs along with all hands on deck, creating complex conterpointed melodies which sound...awesome!

After that is "Hair Pie: Bake 1," which is actually the home run-through of the finished, polished version, "Bake 2," which in my opinion is a bit better. It starts with a honking, dancing sax and horn duo, which begins to spiral into a low note where the rest of the band comes in. You can hear a plane in the background (they recorded this at the Captain's house, with the band inside and the horn and sax outside, and the tape recorder, as you will a bush). Following the instrumental (brilliant, by the way), you'll hear the Captain talking to a couple of kids who walked by to see if they could have the drummer in the band (they didn't know they were signed!). It seems the kids had a band of their own, and had heard the Magic Band playing and liked the drummer (John FRENCH, I think, is the most solidly virtuosic drummer I have heard - I certainly love his style better than even BRUFORD, PALMER, or any other straight-rock drummer), and had come to ask if they could have him come play with them. Of course, they couldn't.

After a long, uncomfortable silence in which you can hear a dog barking and a plane buzzing overhead, the drums roll up and announce "Moonlight On Vermont," a sharp and bluesy complex song, brilliantly written and executed. Following is "Pachuco Cadaver," which begins with the Captain and "The Mascara Snake" saying a few words about "fast and boulbous," then dives into a strange section reminescent of Frank ZAPPA (who, by the way, produced this album) which features the drums and guitars playing in 4/4 time while the bass bounces along in 3/4. Soon, things get faster and the song becomes another of the Captain's greatest.

"Bills Corpse" is a fast paced, morbid, dissonant yet excellent song which is followed by the more beautiful (in it's own jagged way) "Sweet Sweet Bulbs." The weirder "Neon Meate Dream..." is next, which has someone improvising strange words over well- planned instrumenation. "China Pig," the next song, is the only one with truely improvised instrumention. It also has a garage sound, and was once covered by the WHITE STRIPES. It's fairly simple, but well-done for something so improvised (even the lyrics are improvised!). "My Human Gets Me Blues" is a truely proggy song, done in the Captain's style, which moves on thru different themes, each one excellent. It also has a sort of urgent tone to it. "Dali's Car" follows, a sharp, almost classically trained and precise instrumental with each guitar complimenting the other, and leaving a lot of space between each carefully placed note.

But "Hair Pie: Bake 2" is by far the most amazing instrumental here. It is extremely progressive, with each instrument going thru each theme in a complex and structured rythm. Don't take my word for it, though. Download the MP3 and see what you think.

After that is a short bit of dialogue about "fast n' boulbous," leading into "Pena." It's on this half of the album that BEEFHEART gets even weirder, if that's possible. "Pena" is maddening, crazy, and nauseating, and that's just from the childish and urgent vocals backed by roaring insane nonsense from Van Vliet behind the instrumentation. But somehow, it's still good in a hilarious way. "Well" is yet another acapella track in the vein of "The Dust Blows Forward..." in which the Captain uses his huge blues voice in a haunting spiritual poem.

Next is "When Big Joan Sets Up," a boogie about a fat woman, and the longest track here. It goes thru a large sax solo, then speeds back up, with the honking sax rejoining later on. It struggles and drowns for a second, the climbs back up and twitches its way to the ending. Another highlight. "Fallin' Ditch" follows, as well as "Sugar n' Spikes", "Ant Man Bee" (with the most frentic sax on the whole album), "She's too Much for My Mirror": all excellent songs, difficult to get but the most rewarding listening you can get. The only real drawback on the whole album is "Orange Claw Hammer," a pointless acapella done like "The Dust Blows Forward..." but which falls flat this time because of its unbearable length.

"The Blimp" is a more psychadelic track, with instrumentation much smoother than any of the other tracks. In fact, it is music played by Frank ZAPPA's Mothers of Invention, with one of the Magic Band's voice recorded doing strange impromtu poetry over the telephone. "Steal Softly Thru Snow" is another well-done song, featuring some catchy bass and more of the same indescribable music, followed by the brilliant "Old Fart at Play," a hilarious song from which the album's title is derived. It's about an old fart who makes his own trout mask replica which he uses the break a window and cause general mischief. "Veteran's Day Poppy" is a great closer the most "normal" song on the album, on which you may even catch a whiff of psychadelia in a closing instrumental section which leads off into the end of the album.

It's been one year since I wrote this review, and I laugh at my nievety in this review. After hearing this for a year, I have come to love it even more. I listen to it at least once a day - the greatest thing ever. It cannot be topped, except perhaps by its predecessor "Lick My Decals Off". Get it now, listen to it casually for a year. You will get it if you want to and if you give it time to grow on you - but it could take a couple years. But it is the most rewarding thing you will ever hear.

Review by Neu!mann
5 stars The five stars are meant only as provocation: I really don't have a clue how to rate this thing, except to note my astonishment at first hearing it.

And this is from someone, keep in mind, who has already plumbed the deepest recesses of FAUST, sampled the arcane political noise of HENRY COW, and fallen under the spell of THE SHAGGS. Speaking of which, it just occurred to me that on their LP "Philosophy of the World" the Wiggin sisters had already reached pretty much the same aesthetic end as CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, but of course (bless their little backwoods hearts) without the same massive intake of drugs.

So what was the reaction of this veteran Proghead and connoisseur of the un-commercial after his first belated exposure to the good Captain? I laughed out loud. I cringed in horror. I danced around my living room in happy spasmodic twitches, wearing nothing but my socks. I forgot my middle name. I developed a sudden craving for raw potatoes. And I finally understood the entire recorded legacy of THE RESIDENTS.

70+ minutes of uncompromising outsider music is a lot to swallow in one sitting, but it's an experience everyone should try at least once in their life. Legend says that every note on this massive double album (now a single CD, and still too much to digest) was meticulously composed, arranged, and rehearsed beforehand. But it still has the slapdash sound of an amateur garage band jam after too many beers.

I listened to it once. I can't say if I'll ever willingly listen to it again. But I'm grateful there's stuff like this out there to shake people up. And (someone call a doctor) I haven't been able to get the song "Moonlight On Vermont" out of my head for days now.

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator

Okay, I'll admit at first this album just sounded like a cat with a fork clutched in its paw scratching a chalkboard that doubled as a plate, but after giving it a few good listens I can see some things to like about this album. Captain Beefheart (AKA Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band recorded this album in 1969 at Frank Zappa's Laurel Canyon home as well as rehearsed it (though when you listen to it, it doesn't sound one bit like it was rehearsed). The Frank Zappa/Mothers feel is certainly on this album (I mean, the man did produce the damn thing), but there are more often than not extremely original and well-rehearsed ideas. This double album, with songs that are generally around the 1-2 minute range, is mainly just free jazz-blues with some quasi-atonal sounds with a very earthbound singer on top of it all. At first, you may think it is just chaos and that the album should never have been produced, but it is after the second or third listen that you really start to understand what is going on.

From Frownland to Veteran's Day Poppy. your mind will numb and tear apart from the musical onslaught. The entire band plays their "music" to perfection, and by perfection on this album I mean they played it so well it sounds out of sync and sometimes like it doesn't fit in the mold of the song. Stand out tracks are Hair Pie Bake 1, which is more like or less a 5 minute free jazz experiment that comes of perfectly. The blues numbers on the album, such as My Human Gets Me Blues and Dachau Blues, are also wonderful tunes that feature raunchy harmonica from Beefheart himself. The lyrics on this album are a mixed bag, most of them feel improvised and some of them feel well rehearsed, but they all have this feeling of magic among them, because you don't know where the music will turn next. It's that sense that makes this album so good.

In the end, if you can get past the musical barrage, then you may find something to enjoy. Beefheart did better works in my opinion later on, with Lick My Decals Off, Baby and the Mirror Man, but it is this album that he will always get his reputation from. It's sad that this was the only Beefheart album that Zappa collaborated on (although they would later team up for Bongo Fury), because if they had continued their partnership Beefheart might have released another Avante-Garde masterpiece. You'll either love or hate this one. But for me, I liked it. 4/5.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Well, well, well!!!!!!!! How DOES one proceed to review such a crazy and stupendous album? When Van Vliet's CB&HMB did get introduced in our Archives, I thought about reviewing it while the reviews were few, so re-listened to the album twice and got majorly scared at the thought of not being able to talk of it in a fitful manner.

So now that a lot of reviews are in, I will use a major cop-out and send you towards other much-better-than-mine reviews most noticeably to Dex F's, Studebaker's or RetroVertigo's but also Greenback's (his reaction to this album is perfectly understandable, even if I prefer liking this UFO). Clearly Beefheart's career got a major lift from Zappa's production of this record as previous albums are not quite this weird, elaborate - 68's Mirror Man was almost straight blues - or crazy.

So I use this non-glorious cop-out to make a long story short and urge you to consider carefully the investigation of such an album. You might want to ponder the irreversible side effects of getting an earful of this weird/crazy non-sensical (in appearance only) musical trip that very few drugged-out hippy drippy psych rock could match. Permanent damage to your sanity on the horizon!!!

Review by Tom Ozric
3 stars ABSTRACT....... This is one helluva 'strange trip' - I just don't get it, well, maybe only slightly. I really enjoy the RIO sub- genre of prog - especially Henry Cow and affiliated, even those free-blowing Elton Dean records make more sense to me, but there's just something I am missing here. I grant 10 points for the Captain and his bold crew for actually committing something this unruly to vinyl - and, not just 1 single album, but 2 FULL LP's worth. I get the impression that it sounds like each band member were in different studios across town recording their own tid-bits of music on their respective instruments, and Frank Zappa (bless 'im) somehow managed to dub the parts together to form a 'song'. But realistically, this is prime Avant- Garde composition, and whilst difficult to ascertain where these guys were coming from, one can just tell where they were going to......(?), but, when the band 'locks together' (scarcely), you can hear that they DO KNOW how to play, and it can be tight, too. I can't pin-point which tracks do this, but there is something here to be found. I have listened to this beast quite a few times in the 5 or so years I've had it, but I fail to see this as the masterpiece many claim it to be. Each to their own - it's still commands at least 3 stars - 1 for its uniqueness, 1 for its bravery, and 1 for its 'success'. I'm off to listen to it again - that'd be twice this week.
Review by russellk
3 stars Well now, what have we here? Only one of the most controversial recordings ever. An album important enough to appear both in the publication '1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die' and on a The Rolling Stone's Top 100 albums list, and maligned enough to feature on many 'worst records of all time' lists. This should tell you all you need to know ...

... but you're still reading, so I'll add that a typical reaction to this record is to hate it at first, respect it after a while, and end up liking or even loving it.

What's it like? Well, it's recognisably American, a pastiche of American musical sensibilities, with clever lyrics. It's not an album of great tunes. It's as near to high-brow art as music comes. It's music to be understood, not enjoyed (at least not at first). If that's not what you want to do with music, don't buy it. Personally, I fall short of declaring it a masterpiece: I do think music ought to make its way to your head via your heart.

This record is not essential by any means. But if you want something different, you'll find it here.

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
2 stars Warning this album may mess with your head until you bleed out the ears. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised by all the positive reviews here. I have a taste for weirdness in progressive music, but this one has never clicked with me.

It's been in CD collection amongst the first 200 titles I added and is probably the main reason I haven't explored the Captain's albums beyond Doc At The Radar Station and his appearance on Zappa's Bongo Fury. This means it's been in my collection for about 20 years and I dread every time it comes up in rotation and I am relieved when the end of the album comes. It had a good reputation and Zappa produced it, but it's like Beefheart got a bit too much rope and hanged himself.

I did get brave enough to try out another one, Safe As Milk, and I'd recommend it or Doc as a starting place to explore the weird guy's music. This one just barely rounds up to a two.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you listen to this album with only "music" perspective in your mind, you will definitely end up with something really bad about this controversial album by Captain Beefheart. Why? Because this is not just music, it's a product of art as the leader is not just a musician but a visual artist. There is barely catchy melody you might expect in any typical song-orientated music as this is more towards an expression of art instead of crafting beautiful notes into a musical composition. This is an art product where the disharmony has become a harmony. It's perfectly understood that harmony is a very subjective definition which differs from one person to another. I remember vividly when I was teenager playing Yes "Relayer", I received complaint from my friend as they said that the music has no harmony. But I disagreed with him and telling him that Yes "Relayer" has a powerful harmony. The music is harmony or not has become a tough debate from one person to another.

So why do we need to appreciate this kind of "Trout Mask Replica" album by Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet)? Two reasons: First, the album is quite original in which the influence from other band can hardly be identified except the fact that Don was a childhood friend of Frank Zappa. You can categorize some passages as jazz style while other passages are rock'n'roll or blues or in fact avant garde. You might find similar vein with some passages of King Crimson's Island or Lark's Tounge in Aspic albums. If you are open mind and have a willingness to explore, this is an album worth appreciating. Second, there are so many unexpected things happen from one passage to another without any pattern that you can predict. This is becoming a "joy" in itself because the thing that previously you say as "no harmony" it will become "harmony" when you play the album repeatedly.

Overall, I consider this as an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Please do not expect something "symphonic" here. But if you can enjoy Frank Zappa, Thinking Plague, Phish,you might be able to enjoy this album. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
1 stars Like one of Jackson Pollock's

This is an album which has intrigued me for years. Many people hold it up as one of the best albums ever made, but for one reason or another it was only recently that I decided to see what the fuss was about.

I have to confess, I find myself mystified as to what the appeal of this album (and indeed more widely the appeal of the Captain) is. I readily admit that jazz as a whole does little for me, but while the music here has a large freeform element to it, I suspect jazz is not really the appropriate term for it.

This 1969 album was the third release by Captain Beefheart. It is though arguably the first to truly represent what Beefheart and his Magic Band were all about. Encouraged by Frank Zappa (who produced the album), they threw all the previous tenets and restrictions they had worked to aside, and recorded exactly what they wanted to record, the way they wanted to do it. Such lofty ideals can seem gallant, but they also carry with them a high risk strategy. The results can either be brilliantly innovative, or hopelessly uncontrolled. If nothing else, this album demonstrates such a situation perfectly, but it is for the listener to decide which of the results was achieved.

At first, the track list can be somewhat daunting, offering no less than 28 tracks spread over a double LP. Clearly then, there are no side long epics here, or indeed anything which might be described a long by any standard. In musical terms, it seems few would deny that the listener should not expect to hear compositions as such. This has been described as "a work of art" (by DJ John Peel), and it would seem that to gain anything at all from it one must approach it on that basis. As we all know though, art comes in many diverse forms, and beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. As someone who fails to see the attraction in abstract or modern art, my feelings towards musical works such as those presented in this album tend to parallel my views of the painted form.

In such cases, there is the offer of mitigation in being able to appreciate something without actually liking it. I regret to say that in this case I neither appreciate OR like what I hear on "Trout mask replica". For me, the songs here have all the symptoms of a hotchpotch of quickly thrown together ideas without substance or direction. I search in vain for a hint of a melody, a virtuoso performance on guitar, or even just a lyric which has a modicum of value. Not only do I fail miserably to garner any sort of pleasure from the album, I am embarrassed to say I also fail to understand what it is which leads others to appreciate the album on any level.

In the end, I can only offer a practical analysis, in the hope of assisting those wondering whether the album might be for them. This album does not contain music in its traditional form. It contains intense experimentation and improvisation devoid of apparent structure. There is no ambience to the resulting sounds, but those with a liking of jazz may find an overlap with that style. There is no doubt that this album does have something, there are so many people for whom it is a masterpiece or close to it. Regrettably, I can offer no help whatsoever in defining what that something is.

Review by MovingPictures07
5 stars This is one of the weirdest and most influential albums I own. On top of that, it is also one of the most hilarious. The instruments are played with high proficiency, though there are no keyboards and there is tons of dissonance, which may prove to be impenetrable for a substantial amount of proggers. Beefheart's poetic lyrics are cryptic and insane, which complements the music perfectly. I love the tracks where Beefheart plays the saxophone especially; all the compositions are crafted extremely well.

This album has a very unique feel to it and may take several listens to fully enjoy, particularly with its length. The music is almost indescribable. very jagged, dissonant, yet beautiful in a twisted way. You can feel the creativity of Van Vliet and the Magic Band pouring through each song; it's wonderful.

A masterpiece. This is not for everyone though.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars EDIT summer 09 - A-This is not so for song orientated album Q-Is this human orientated? A-It's hard to understand it, it takes time Q-And is it even possible? I mean, I've tried some of the hardest prog rock delicate things (like Van der Graaf Generator, Anglagard etc) and I often liked them. So it's probably not me. This album is one of the most reviewed/rated ones and has so great rating, that it seems like bad dream to me. Every cell of my brain is shouting in confusion what is wrong. With this situation, average is that mostly 4-5 ratings are given. More of 5 stars, so these 1-2-3 will counterweight it. I'm giving frickin 1 star, it's my only 1 star (except Queen's latest "effort" which I take as blasphemy). But Queen at least have melody, though not artistic/prog qualities in their latest. A-not everyone will like it Q-Indeed, some of the bands (as I said, VdGG) have similar "problem". Listeners are often relieved and enjoy it much more when they finally get into it. But I just don't think there is something as a "prize". There were tries to get together image and sound. Take for example The Wall, or Tommy. Or Help!. OK, this is different. Strange, it's same haunting as The Wall, but far less interesting.

-I'm aware that I'm broking one of the rules by partially quoting some of the previous posts, I just needed them to amplify my edit. To finally, after months of deciding, to say it.

Actually, this is the worst album I've ever met. And I tried maybe few hundred albums in rock genre, I've enjoyed lot of them, but this is (how they say it sometimes in English speaking countries, but not on this page), really pain in the a-s. I know that it's not right to mention others in my review words of others, but this album deserves it. And, by the way, lot of others, not only users, but prog reviewers done so too.

Well, you can say, that it's the masterpiece. But I, personally, see this as mystification. That those, who gave it five stars fooled themselves, covered their eyes with pink sunglasses and just raised martyrdom and suffering when listening to this album to other side. To pleasure moments. Well, or I and few others aren't intelligent/delicate enough to appreciate this piece of music. Please, don't take this as offense, it's simple. When this album has around 3.91 rating and when considering that I'm giving this one star rating, then my opinion is far from being average. But at least it's tolerated to have so low rating on this record. EDIT: I wouldn't wait to tell anyone when somebody will give 1 star rating to something like The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon and so on, thank you for being tolerant here

Oh boy, I just don't see any masterpiece, any goodness in this record. I can't find anything nice/ beautiful on this. It's not for soft-hearted ? Is it even for humans ? I've listened to this Trout thing and now I'm repairing my destroyed mind with Premiata Forneria Marconi to hear something normal. I must say (as a excuse) that I love Frank Zappa, especially his first two albums. I'm not against experimental music and absolutely not against weird lyrics. King of Prunes ? It's not normal, but it's great. But this, weird weirdishness is probably not my cup of tea. I don't want to fool myself, be blind to this ugliness and enjoy torment. Not if there is thousands of better and more pleasant things. Am I right ? I hope so.

I know that it may look strong to gave only one star, but this album can be accepted fully or you can disagree, also fully. I strongly disagree. That's my opinion.

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
5 stars This album may be too much for your mirror.

Of all the albums on the archives that are considered (or could be considered) avant-rock Trout Mask Replica may take the cake in terms of avantness, unpredictability, abstractness, and sheer ability to stupefy. (A minor footnote to that: While some avant-garde music may best Trout Mask Replica in any or all of these qualities I don't believe any of those are on/should be on Prog Archives. ) Even with its far reaching influences and variety of styles presented (in whatever bastardized form the Capt. wanted), this album rocks. The energy, the attitude, the instrumentation (for the most part)...all of it scream out rock.

In some ways this album makes me question my definition of avant-rock. I have used Cartoon's Sortie as my "standard" for judging the avant-rock quotient of albums that are classified (at least by me) as avant-rock/avant-prog. This album has very little in common musically with the aforementioned Sortie. Yet, there is no debate if this album is can add in a number of other styles (blues, free-jazz, etc) but the two genres that can not be left out are avant(-garde) and rock. The only reason I add this anecdote to my review is that truly progressive albums make you think about music differently, make you analyze music differently, and force you to forget everything (or at least some things) you thought you knew beforehand. And Trout Mask Replica does that for me.

Musically this album is very diverse. However, there is one unifying factor: The music is jagged, rough, irregular, and can come off as crude and unprofessional sounding. But, the magic here is that it all works together to create a complete sound. The music is akin to a jigsaw puzzle. The guitar is fused with the drums, which are fused with the saxophone, which are fused with the bass, which are fused with Beefhearts vocals, which are fused with whatever other sounds are introduced in that particular song. Removing any part of this puzzle would weaken the overall foundation, if not crumple it all together. Once again, this is a unique trait to Captain Beefhearts music, especially in 1969 when it was originally released. As for the music itself, others have described it very well. Blues meets free jazz meets abstract poetry meets rock meets avant-garde meets a meat grinder. Yet, everything is still perfectly crafted in a way similar to that of tying fourteen dozen knots together is.

In some ways its best to consider Trout Mask Replica as a whole, using only the track titles and separations as signals to where the lyrics switch, however, I will still point out a couple of favorites of mine. 'The Dust Blow Forward 'N The Dust Blow Back' is an excellent vocal solo that focuses on the craftsmanship of Beefhearts lyrics, perhaps juxtaposed, by Beefhearts gruff voice. I must say that I really enjoy the sound of his voice. Its not majestic, its not sweet, its not serene, its not smooth, but it is gritty, like it has lived its life on the streets and is now showing the scars of those endeavors. In a strange way it seems to justify the obvious blues influences. Additionally, it fits the music perfectly and hearing any of these songs with "clean" vocals would detract from the experience significantly. 'Dachau Blues' is another highlight with lyrics that I've always liked (for perhaps reasons unknown). 'Hair Pie' (Both bakes) are excellent musical excersions that really show off the chops of the musicians. It would be appropriate to emphasize Drumbo's excellent playing. Not only does it highlight the music perfectly, it rarely "settles down" into, so called, regular beats. I can't imagine this is easy to play, yet it sounds flawless. 'The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)' is another top notch piece that is actually quite catchy (and also probably my favorite song on the album). Other highlights include: 'Neon Meate Dream Of An Octafish', 'Pena', 'Hobo Chang Ba', and 'Pachuco Cadaver'.

To be fair, there is one main downside to this album (other than its strangeness and repulsive air, which some may see as a downside, but this reviewer does not): its length. Seventy-Eight minutes...admittedly it is a little difficult to sit all the way through this album in one listen, but not because of its contents. (Personally anything nearing the Seventy minute mark is a bit difficult to listen to all the way through without stopping for me...even if its gentle, soothing music.) This can be even more off-putting, but at the end of the day if you can sustain interest in this for the entire time you would have grown as a person, and come out for the better on the otherside.

All in all, Trout Mask Replica is fully deservent of the full five star rating. Its progressive, influential, and unique (in a historical context mostly, but still...even now there are few works that can reside on the same pedestal as this beast). It is sound art. However, this album is certainly not for everyone. If you are a strict fan of symphonic prog, neo-prog, or crossover prog, you will probably not enjoy this. If you don't like your music with dissonances, awkward structures, the feeling that the music can fall apart at any time, rough vocals, you will probably not enjoy this. If you shy away from Henry Cow, Frank Zappa's more difficult works (Lumpy Gravy, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, etc), Univers Zero, and this ilk, you should probably stay far far away from Trout Mask Replica (and Beefheart as a whole) However, if you like your music to push boundaries, to be different, to be bold, to be unconventional, to be whatever it wants to be, to be complex, to be off-putting, to be chaos in motion, this is a record you should hear. Fans of truly progressive music need to hear Trout Mask Replica at least once in their life. Call it ugly, disgusting, vile, revolting, hideous...just call it genius as well. 5 stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars It was fictional guitarist David St. Hubbins who once said "It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever." And this album is an illustration of how easy it can be to fall on both sides at once. Trout Mask Replica can be both inspiring and insipid, and exceed at both. Where this album works is when the band is sowing the seeds of the oddly disjointed music that became one of the trademarks of The Magic Band. Where it doesn't work is when the band attempts a rock version of "free jazz". It sounds a lot like when my teenage son and his friends are sitting around, all playing different, unassociated riffs, no one listening to each other. I just don't think these guys, at this point in their careers have the chops for it.

Don Van Vliet's poetry here is just as hit or miss. At times it seems inspired. At others, it sounds very similar to some pseudo-intellectual ramblings of some drug addled teenagers I knew in high school.

But being about 50/50 hit and miss, and also originally being a double album, there is still an albums worth of good material here.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars This isn't one of those albums one idealises as the epitome of prog rock. This is an album where people begin to question the credentials of progressive rock. Okay, I have to admit that the Captain's vocals sound like what Ian Anderson might have been thinking of when he came up with ''Aqualung'', and the compositions sound like vomit and turds.

It can get to be a bigger headache with the random a capella pieces scattered in there like ''Well'' and the studio goofing off like at the beginning of ''Pena'' (Captain and producer Frank Zappa can't narrate an over-elaborated story without giggling). In other words, from the cover to the songs to the structures, this sounds like a total mess.

However, after listening to the album a couple of times, I got this feeling that the album sounds too random to be improvised (paradox?). There's plenty of great bluesy avant-rock meat to sink your teeth into like the ''Hair Pie'' bakes, ''Moonlight in Vermont'', ''Pachuco Cadaver'', ''Hobo Chang Ba'' and ''Veteran's Day Poppy''. My only true problem is that there are simply WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY too many tracks for this to be truly worthy.

Any newcomer to Captain Beefheart might want to get SAFE AS MILK first, as it is, well, safer than this album. However, to all of those with an open mind, TROUT MASK REPLICA is worth a try.

Review by Dobermensch
5 stars I've heard around 300 prog albums but nothing compares with 'Trout Mask'. Forget what sounds like an awful home recording of 'China Pig', everything else is fantastic! Real wacky, off the wall bonkers crazy stuff that sounds tight - I mean really tight!. These guys under Van Vliet were so drilled they daren't make a miniscule mistake within Van Vliet's vision of how things should sound. Suffice to say - it's clearly the best Beefheart album (followed by Lick my Decals off Baby') and is also one my favourite albums of all time. Brilliant, and definitely worth 5 stars for the sheer loopiness of the whole thing. But it's definitely one of those albums you'll either love or hate.
Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Master of the absurd presents a unique experience that becomes ultimately repellent

Captain Beefheart is renowned for one album; Trout Mask Replica. For years I had been avoiding this album simply because it's reputation precedes it. The cover has that iconic image. It is well known as being a freaky trippy album with insanity turned up to 11 and experimental RIO Avant nuances. Often the infamy of an album becomes an enigma, and in this case the enigma of the album is far stronger and compelling than the actual material on it. In a similar way to Zappa's infamous 'Freak Out' album, 'Trout Mask Replica' is a journey into the absurd. Beefheart blows the doors off all vestiges of normality and plunges ass deep into the irrational. He gets into it up to his neck in fact and drags the unsuspecting listener in there with him and we have no alternative but to sink into the dark recess of a jaded mind. It is not even slapstick comedy but is rather fuelled with a disturbing and at times entertaining bizarre cynical edge. The edge is tarnished in places with overblown anti-poetry and in a sense anti-music. Many of the songs have a time signature that does not sync with the words, a drum may seem completely out of rhythm with the jangly guitars. The singing is terrible, it is meant to be I believe, and really sounds like nothing more than the mad ramblings of a deranged lunatic. Some of the tracks have no music at all and consist of a Beefheart monologue. These are the worst on the album. China Pig, and Hobo Chang Ba, for instance, are insufferable. The lyrics are weird to say the least, though at times the high strangeness is amusing making this an endurable curio album. But you have to sit through this for a full 78 minutes.

On 'Well' Beefheart states "night blocks out da heaven like a big black shiny bug!" On 'Old fart at play' there are a number of ramblings such as "mama, pecked the ground like a rooster, swivelled like a duck... the old fart smelled this through his breather holes, his excited eyes from within the dark interior glazed watered in appreciation.... oh man that's so heavy". On 'The Blimp' we have the iconic insanity of "the mothership! the mothership! the blimp! the blimp! it blows the air the ceiling fan look up into the sky, all the people stared, oh mama who cares it's the blimp! its the blimp!" Best of all is 'Pena' with the hilarious dialogue, "Fast and bulbous, also a tin teardrop!, The mascara snake, bulbous also tapered. Stuff billowing up from between her legs made me vomit beautifully and crush a chandelier" Now if at this stage you are scratching your head thinking what the heck is that about, then perhaps this album is not for you. The whole album is full of such anecdotes and none of it makes sense.

The moment you try to pin some kind of meaning on this baloney is the moment you have completely lost the point of the album. The point is that sometimes music does not make sense and we shouldn't try to pin on it sense when there is none. The dissonance of the time sigs, and instruments competing against each other is the avant sound that Beefheart strives for. This music is all about escaping a mediocre mainstream sound to make way for the new sound; a sound that is at times innovative, highly creative and other times hilarious, at times disturbing and creepy, and then unfortunately often becomes tedious. The tedious moments overwhelm the compelling moments. Even though there are 28 tunes to revel in, I could only find a mere 5 that were worth repeated listens.

The problem with the album arises from the fact that after the initial shock reaction and admittedly amusing response that will be generated from the album, (indeed it can become a topic of conversation in the same way as The Residents), the music will soon become confronting and unpleasant. There are no virtuoso guitar solos or brilliant musicianshil, arguably that would defeat the purpose of the album, and the lyrics are not exactly Shakespeare, and the singing is rather malignant, backed by benign dialogue. It is similar to 'Freak Out' with the smatterings of dialogue, and a rawness that is edgy, psychedelic, or is that psychotic, and dissonant. The sax blasts from the captain are great, the flute and clarinet add to the fun, but the jangalang guitar dominates as well as some sporadic drumming. In a sense the music is the best thing about it but you cannot ignore those hyper weird lyrics and Beefheart's exaggerated accentuated growls.

Some tracks are painful with Beefheart blaring out a bunch of nonsense. Was he a genius or simply off his rocker? I believe a bit of both would be an apt description. For me. It is impossible to rate this as a masterpiece though I can see many may come to that conclusion for all the reasons stated thus far. The album though is too clever or too weird for its own good, and Beefheart's prose and idiocy causes him to disappear up his own tail shaft. Pretentious? Not even that! One thing for certain is that you are unlikely to hear anything this ludicrous.

The 5 tracks that jump out and bite my ears that I would recommend are 'Pachuco Cadaver', 'Sugar 'N Spikes', 'When Big Joan Sets Up', 'Ant Man Bee' and 'Old Fart At Play'. As for the rest, I am afraid it went clean over my head. At first some were funny, but the joke grows stale, so I guess this works best as a one off listen and then one can move on and say they at least have heard the most unique, bizarre music from one of the absolute masters of the absurd. The late great Captain Beefheart.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Classic controversial album, for decades it was the reason for love/hate discussions.I really love that craziness, freedom and all that Van Vliet's world ,placed in one bag without restrictions.

Crazy lyrics, cacophony (or what could sound as cacophony for unexperienced ear), bluesy roots, free jazz atmosphere and freaky sound combinations. Two LPs-long album, full of voices and noises as above - not everyone' s nerves are ready to stand such test! But for others (and me between them) this album has it's beauty, possibly more in atmosphere then in one or another musical piece.

This music is evidence of time and place (not geographical one though) when and where the grass was greener and air was more clear. You can know it,or not. And if not - possibly you will never accept such unusual,possibly even unpleasant sound. Nothing is wrong with it at all - modern world is turning with help of millions normal people. Where would we be without them? But it's so great that Cpt. Beefheart (R.I.P.) half a century ago recorded such a fantastic music, and it's great that there are still few listeners who enjoy that almost forgotten sound from the time when the life was different.

Excellent album for those who knows what the real music is.

My rating is 4,5, rounded to 5.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I uploaded my review of Safe As Milk in hopes of pushing myself to write a review of Trout Mask Replica. Still, it took me a few days to collect my thoughts and make my opinion of this composition.

Some might consider it a make it or break it experience of an album that both dismisses many of its audiences while making others return hoping to finally decipher the riddle behind it. I consider myself to be stuck between the two, with an alignment to the latter. I'll put it frank; My understanding of Trout Mask Replica is nonexistent, still I keep returning to this work in hopes of getting a new outlook on the work. There is no doubt in my mind about the album's progressive merits and that it's far from the psychedelic rock movement that was so prominent in the end of the '60s. Almost every passage of the composition sounds as if it has been rehearsed to the smallest detail and that every instrumentalist knew exactly where to come in and end their arrangements while leaving enough space for Don Van Vliet to add his artistic touch to the material.

Are the results extraordinary? I certainly think so. But do they create an excellent album experience? Questionable. As I already stated here, I find Trout Mask Replica to be an untamable beast even to this day, but this is probably the main reason why it keeps me coming back for more! The whole "thinking outside of the box"-mentality feels highly refreshing even within the boundaries of progressive rock. It also manages to complete my trilogy of the most mentally straining albums that I've had the pleasure of experiencing so far, together with Univers Zero's Heresie and Can's Tago Mago.

You might have noticed by now that I haven't written much about the music in question, but that decision is completely intentional on my part since the passages featured on the album are difficult to describe and I doubt that any two people could ever completely agree on their experiences. This is why I leave it all in your hands! Go ahead and experience this enigma of an album, but be prepared to spend quite a few hours deconstructing what you've heard upon your first experience. I also highly recommend to keep an open mind about this composition since I doubt that it has anything in common with anything that you've heard before. Even the more experienced progressive rock fans are guaranteed to scratch their heads after experiencing this album, but there is certainly a charm to that as well.

The thing that still confuses me is the fact that Rolling Stone magazine included Trout Mask Replica among the top 100 of their of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. I mean, you have your the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen Neil Young and the Who records and then you have this! The absurdity of this contrast makes me smile even to this day.

PS Is it even possible to break this album down into song-by-song ratings?

Review by aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Trout Mask Confusion

This is probably the most atypical style of progressive music that has reached my ears. Atypical because there is nothing to which I can compare it and progressive because of the improvisation, experimentation and absurd structure (if any). I have a feel that this sort of attitude or approach could be better expressed in a film or a form of writing or poetry rather than in a musical format.

What I find is that I can not listen through most of the songs on this album, although there are exceptions where slightly entertaining (Ella Guru) and bluesy tunes actually exist (Moonlight on Vermont, China Pig). I do also find some sort of character in tracks where Captain Beefheart chooses to sing only (or rather narrate) without the support of any instrument (Well, Orange Claw Hammer). And finally, there is considerable enjoyment in the closing track of the album which is probably the only real highlight, containing a means of structure. I can not give an overall description of the musical style but can see the bluesy and jazzy influences here and there, components that also existed in the debut album - the only other Captain Beefheart album with which I am familiar and fairly enjoyed. When doing a quick comparison with that, structure and the principle of full songs are missing here.

Trout Mask Replica pushes the limits of musical expression to a point where I can not really follow. The album is too long to bear and there are numerous moments that I regard as pointless, even if others might argue. For an acquired taste this certainly is, but I am not entirely sure if it can ever be digested musically.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Released back in 1969 this must have been a shock to those who heard it. Certainly with Zappa's involvment as Producer there was some attention directed towards this album for that reason alone. I remember buying a copy of this years ago and the guy who owned the record store commented that he never could get itno that one. Lots of people can't get into this one (haha). It was rated number one on Mojo's 50 Most Out There Albums of all time.That's saying something. Apparently the band practised these songs for a year before recording this album.

The negatives for me include the length at 79 minutes as well as the dissonance. Now I like dissonance but not All The Time !! And for 79 minutes ? Too much. The vocals are an acquired taste and I don't mind them but again it goes on for so long.The positives are certainly the lyrics which I think are brilliant and also the humour. I laughed right out loud at times. It's cool hearing the various sax and clarinet melodies. Or should I say non-melodies. 28 tracks over two vinyl albums back in the day, so yeah a lot of short tracks.This flows quite well though. Although "flow" might be the wrong word.This is turbulent folks. I'm not going to go through each track because I would be repeating myself over and over. There are some amazing songs here and I can't disagree with those who think this is a masterpiece. I also can appreciate those 1 and 2 star ratings.This isn't for everyone. For me I don't enjoy or appreciate it enough to offer up the fourth star, but maybe one day. 3.5 stars.

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you are willing to drive yourself insane only to find you're not insane but rather in a heightened state of mind that everyone you love and hate will find insane, this album is for you.

That intro was about as complex as this album which at first seems completely insane but as you delve deeper you find that there is more going on then what first meets the ear. Captain Beefheart is somewhat of an odd type of genius that only few can admire. This album is a dive into sounds that had never been made before and words that had never been spoken. There are times when it makes you want to shoot yourself and others when you admire how thoughtful Don really was.

It is ultimately pointless to describe this album to someone who hasn't heard it because it is pretty much hypocritical of itself. When it tries to be comedic it tends to be much more serious and vice-versa. That is what makes this a gem. Music being pushed to it's limits.

Isn't that why we love it?

4.2 stars.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Beefheart's early-era albums - Safe as Milk, Mirror Man, and Strictly Personal - twisted and warped the blues. Trout Mask Replica blew it apart. Given a sparse, raw production job by Frank Zappa, who occasionally pops in with bemused-sounding commentary and directions, the album is proof of two things: first, that Beefheart was a true avant-garde genius in terms of the songs he dreamed up for this album, and second that the relevant lineup of the Magic Band were geniuses when it came to interpreting and actually performing the material!

Although on the first approach the album sounds like an incoherent mass of sound, there are in fact subtle variations build into it; Moonlight On Vermont and Veteran's Day Poppy were recorded a while before the rest of the album, and are very slightly more approachable than the rest of the material, several songs consist entirely of spoken word poetry from Beefheart, and on "The Blimp" the Magic Band take a rest and the Mothers of Invention provide instrumental backing. On the rest of the tracks, the name of the game is strange, angular rhythms played apparently out of sync - but as you listen patterns begin to emerge, the different instruments blending in and out of each other and creating a sonic labyrinth that is, for those who enjoy it, a sheer delight to explore even decades after the fact. Not only the purest expression of Beefheart's personal vision, but a keystone album in RIO and avant-prog. Trout Mask Replica proved that music doesn't have to sound melodious to be moving; sometimes, it doesn't even need to sound like music.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Trout Mask Replica' - Captain Beefheart (7/10)

An acclaimed, influential, and ultimately hyped album, 'Trout Mask Replica' has a way of tearing a crevice between music listeners. Some hail it as one of the most original sounding and adventurous albums ever made, while other recoil in disgust at its fairly loose and quirky approach. As with many albums that get hyped up with their controversy, I get rather excited, in eager anticipation to see whether I'll be in the 'love it' or 'hate it' school of thought. With this album though, I find myself in a very unique position. I can relate to the views of both, and understand fully why someone would either adore, or abhor it. Simultaneously, Captain Beefheart has created an album that is both ingenious, yet can be interpreted as stupidity. An album that is dissonant and ugly-sounding, yet warm and endearing. Although very imperfect, 'Trout Mask Replica' does revel in its flaws, and while I still don't quite understand the legendary hype around this album, Captain Beefheart has created an intriguing artistic statement here.

A very long album for its time, 'Trout Mask Replica' is comprised of a twenty eight track, seventy eight minute wander through Captain Beefheart's rather deranged mind. Although I was expecting to hear something unclassifiable as the hype would have me believe, I interpret 'Trout Mask Replica' as a loose and experimental style of blues rock, with jazz and spoken word elements. Of the twenty eight sections here, things can be divided up into either bluesy songs, jazzy instrumental snippets, or spoken interludes with some surreal and often very silly dialogue. The blues element to 'Trout Mask' is arguably the most conventional, and gives the most concrete impression of songwriting that the album can muster. The jazz elements are much more loose, and rely more on the keen yet intentionally rough musicianship of the Magic Band, rather than the nasal charisma of Beefheart. Lastly, the interludes offer the least musicality to the album, but rather aim to break up the action a little, giving a nicer sense of flow. Indeed, the album is not all over the place, but instead seeks to return to a handful of different styles that are weird and off-putting enough to keep sounding fresh.

Probably the biggest point of derision for 'Trout Mask Replica' is the really jammed-out instrumentation behind Beefheart's voice. Indeed- especially upon a first listen- it sounds very much like each band member is playing something completely independent of the rest of the band. This could be interpreted as brilliantly polyrhythmic, but the way that the band passes themselves off makes it sound like they cannot play their instruments at all, and that alot of the sound on 'Trout Mask Replica' is fashioned out of their incompetence or ambivalence towards the album. Of course, this is not true at all; the Magic Band are very talented musicians, and while I can admit that even I was wondering at a few points over the course of the album whether or not these musicians had a little too much to drink before recording, the best way to appreciate 'Trout Mask Replica' is to take everything as is, and interpret everything as being feverishly intentional.

The sound and originality to 'Trout Mask Replica' is brilliant, but the album's length does feel unwarranted, especially when listening to the second half of the album seems almost like a total reprise of the first. Although lyrics change and the details become different, Beefheart's freakout blues does repeat itself, and over the course of twenty eight tracks, it really does feel as if there is material here that is on the record only to emphasize a previously made point, rather than to add anything new to the album. Listening to the second half, it really did feel in parts as if the entire thing was repeating itself, and while a longer album often equates to more value, 'Trout Mask Replica' could have made an even bigger statement if it had been cut down a little. The quirky passion is here in Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band like nowhere else, but unless the point was to create a deja-vu feeling, some of the time here could have been trimmed.

Captain Beefheart's genius does shine through here, although it is a tough pill to swallow at first. This is not music that can be enjoyed all too much without paying close attention to everything that is going on, and while I do love what Beefheart sets off to do here, 'Trout Mask Replica' still feels like an album that could have been improved upon. The first ten songs or so give an intense and refreshing experience, but as the album plods on, the recycled quirk can wear thin. All the same, 'Trout Mask Replica' is intense, and while it still may not be the 'weirdest' thing out there, it will challenge even the more adventurous listeners out there.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 8/10

"Trout Mask Replica" is one of the most sincere Experimental albums ever.

Avant-Garde has never been so Avant-Garde. One of Zappa's many adopted children, Captain Beefheart is certainly one of the very best of these. "Trout Mask Replica" is indeed one of the most sincere Experimental albums ever, one of those albums that has tons of character, making it a great, fun listen.

Beefheart's love for Blues Rock has always been a major factor in his music, since his first days, when albums like "Safe As Milk" were released. When "Trout Mask Replica" came out, our man started mixing it even more with Experimentation than before; the result of this collision is a huge mess, in a good way. The Captain, at this point, has reached the zenith of musical chaos. People might tend to call it nonsense, random and completely out of tune, and that is why this album still is one of the most controversial albums of our time. But listening to it pretty carefully, it is obvious that everything is very much studied and almost every song written and not improvised. Underneath the mess, there's music. Music that not many found, even though it is between Free Jazz freak outs, very odd rhythms, distorted and almost irritating guitar work, and Beat Poetry often screamed by the Captain's low guttural voice. Lyrics are another important part of the album, being just as nonsensical as the music, and again another element subject to controversy.

"Trout Mask Replica" is one of the first double albums, and it is most definitely one of the hardest listens you'll experience, no matter if you like what you're hearing or not. The album has twenty eight tracks that finish after an exhausting hour and twenty minutes. This is maybe the only complaint I have about it, even though it's certain that the artist meant the album to be this tiring and almost unbearable after a while. Like I said, Avant-Garde has never been so Avant-Garde. It is almost amazing to me that I can find highlights here; "Ella Guru" is the most fun song of the album and maybe one of my favorite songs ever. "Moonlight On Vermont" sounds like an violent but funny abruption of a romantic dinner with your girlfriend. The two instrumental parts "Hair Pie" reassume the whole album. They are so many songs in the album I cannot try to name all the goods ones, so I'll end by mentioning the a cappella tracks here, all three of them funny as hell and, in a way, fascinating.

"Trout Mask Replica" is an essential album for whoever loves Avant-Garde music, it's historical importance is huge for genres that will be generated decades later such as Post- Punk or Avant-Prog. This also is David Lynch's favorite album of all time, no surprises there.

Review by stefro
3 stars Whilst there is absolutely no doubting the sheer sonic vision imposed upon this unique oddity of an album by it's genre-hopping creator, there is one rather large problem with this otherwise impressively singular release: it's virtually un-listenable. As an exercise in sheer, mind-boggling musical innovation 'Trout Mask Relica' surely goes down as one of rock music's most iconic 'art-house' albums, a swirling cacophony of ideas shot through with endless instrumental creativity. However, those on the lookout for entertainment, and in the end my friends that is what music is really about, are advised to steer clear of this multi-coloured bout of sonic insanity. Released in 1969, this is the album most people associate with Captain Beefheart, though better representations of his unique talents can be found on his superb debut 'Safe As Milk' and it's acid blues follow- up 'Strictly Personel'. Alongside virtually anything by The Residents, Zappa's less coherent moments and the zany psych-rock eccentricity of Tim Smith's Cardiacs, 'Trout Mas Replica' ranks as one of the most bizarre moments in the history of rock 'n' roll. Beware.


Review by HolyMoly
4 stars So much has already been said about this album, both on PA and elsewhere, that I'm just going to try to look past the hoopla and sensationalism in favor of weighing this album's pros and cons. Without a doubt, this is an iconic album that was pretty much unprecedented when it was released in 1969, and it therefore incites extreme opinions in either direction. I have been listening to this album for over 25 years now, so while the initial shock has long since worn off since I first heard it, that may prove to be a positive boon as I try to address the album objectively.

On the plus side, you have The Magic Band pulling off some of the most revolutionary ensemble playing ever released on record. What at first sounds like a free form jam becomes an intricate, nonlinear series of tightly wound riffs layered on top of each other, upon closer listening. And there are over 20 tracks of this kind of thing across two records -- right out of the gate with "Frownland", you are thrown into confusion until your head catches up with your ears and you realize there's actually a GROOVE going on in there. "Dachau Blues", "Ella Guru", "Wild Life", "She's Too Much for My Mirror", "When Big Joan Sets Up",.... and on and on, each track more dazzling and confounding than the last.

There are occasional moments of relative normality -- "China Pig" is a basic bare-bones blues number, "Moonlight on Vermont" has recognizable hooks and song structure, and there are a few a capella or spoken word pieces to give the band a much needed break ("The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back", "Orange Claw Hammer", "Well"). Still, the album as a whole oozes weirdness, and has rightfully become a benchmark of sorts for avant garde rock music.

On the minus side, and I hate to say this, Captain Beefheart himself actually holds the album back just a little bit. As wild and untamed as he was, getting a good vocal take from him was a real challenge, and his singing levels and timing are wildly inconsistent. Though this was later hailed as a sign of genius by many critics (especially when punk came around), to me it's just irresponsible record making. Sorry Cap. You should have at least agreed to wear headphones in the studio. Why you refused to do that, I'll never understand. Another slight "minus" on the album is the overall presentation by producer Frank Zappa. I get a strong feeling he wanted to make a "freak show" album like he'd done with Wild Man Fischer the year before. Including false starts, spoken nonsequitors between tracks ("Fast n' Bulbous!), using a phone conversation with Mothers of Invention accompaniment as a track ("The Blimp"), this all added to the circus atmosphere. It's weird to hear myself complaining about this, because that novelty aspect was what really hooked me in the first place, but I can't help but think the album could have been a lot tighter and taken more seriously had it been presented a little better.

Add it all together and you've still got a four star album. A real wower, but certainly not without flaws. And not even his best album...

Latest members reviews

5 stars Trout Mask Replica is one of the most divisive albums of all time, it is a love it or hate it situations, but the reasons to loving it or hating it are mostly the same. Just by seeing the cover you can know that this is not going to be pop, jazz, or even psychedelic rock, you can only be ... (read more)

Report this review (#2649941) | Posted by Putonix24 | Monday, December 6, 2021 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Well I assure you sir, this thing sucks (Don Van Vliet on selling a vacuum cleaner to Aldous Huxley) Of the many albums that sit gathering dust, undisturbed in the rack yet are routinely adored by their house proud owners, it is perhaps Trout Mask Replica that best represents the disingenuous l ... (read more)

Report this review (#1715486) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Friday, April 28, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After revisiting Trout Mask Replica, I've gained a new appreciation for this album and the role it played in my life. This album helped me realize I was attracted to things that were dense, abstract, off-kilter, absurd, innovative, and from left field. Beef and his buddies gave me a chance t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1666301) | Posted by PlacesofLight405 | Friday, December 9, 2016 | Review Permanlink

3 stars He, who had forever loved and praised natural environment, reacts unnaturally and totally out of sync once he's been surrounded by nature...or I have to quit from music. Many ideas but with absolutely zero substance. It's a thousand light years away from the safe waters of " Safe as Milk " as we are ... (read more)

Report this review (#1595308) | Posted by ProckROGue | Saturday, August 6, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica' has to this date probably been the most difficult album I've ever listened to. Considered something of an infamous album I was keen to check it out. I had the chance to listen to it for the first time a few months ago while visiting a friend. I was brow ... (read more)

Report this review (#1432833) | Posted by AndyJ | Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | Review Permanlink

2 stars If you like blues cliches and forced vocals, this is the record for you. There are 3 types of songs on this record: complex rock songs with beat poetry, a cappella vocal tracks, and avant-garde jazz instrumentals. That's about it for variety. I like some experimental music, such as Can and Cluster, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1292238) | Posted by thebig_E | Wednesday, October 15, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 tim ... (read more)

Report this review (#1012225) | Posted by andrewrankine | Tuesday, August 6, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars All the things you hear about this album make you believe that this is some unlistenable stuff and an atrocity on the level of Metal Machine Music (not really knocking Metal Machine Music, I actually like that album very much) suitable only for serious critics, that will take at least a 100 listenes ... (read more)

Report this review (#780971) | Posted by Grape_Jam | Monday, July 2, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is such a great album. It's as if all my demented, wierd, and insane thoughts (I have quite a few) were put to blues music. However, like most double albums, I think it's too long. You have to clear 90 minutes to get through this, which not alot of people can do, and there are definatley some s ... (read more)

Report this review (#759433) | Posted by smartpatrol | Sunday, May 27, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first time I listened to this record I put it off after six disturbing songs (the first six songs!). Being dazed and confused I could not get this record out of my head. So I listened it again and again. After two days I bought this bizarre record on vinyl and went on holiday. And even when I w ... (read more)

Report this review (#448895) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, May 17, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is a landmark plain and simple... This album has even adopted a tag for many different albums...for example, if I were to say that an album was a Trout Mask Replica, it means either you love it and completely understand it or you don't understand it at all and can't see any artistic ... (read more)

Report this review (#415234) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Sunday, March 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Part excellent, part annoying..Welcome to the world of Captain Beefheart (and who can forget that magic band of his) This is one crazy album if i may say so, i can really see what he's doing with a good bit of it but a lot of it i doubt he really knew what he was doing himself, spoken word pass ... (read more)

Report this review (#282515) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Honestly, I'm insulted that this album only carries a four-star rating. Sure, everyone's entitled to their opinion, and I can see how this album could be a 'turn-off' to some people, but it's influence on pop music and its artistic freedom are both irrefutable. Sure, Don's combination of blues, ... (read more)

Report this review (#259530) | Posted by classicprogsovereign | Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As Frank Zappa would so elegantly put it: "If you get it, it's wonderful and it works for you. If you don't get it, don't feel too bad, because you probably weren't meant to get it in the first place." (Or something along those lines) "Trout Mask Replica" is indeed a real piece of work. When one ... (read more)

Report this review (#253364) | Posted by Preciousgoo | Saturday, November 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of the most debated albums of the popular music history. It is hailed as the weirdest album of all time and just as often cursed as the weirdest album of all time. It is the favourite album of Simpsons creator Matt Groening and it is also one of my all time favourites. I knew the c ... (read more)

Report this review (#221532) | Posted by PurpleCobra | Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars My first contact with Captain Beefheart's work was when I first heard the Frank Zappa song "Willie The Pimp", where he does an amazing job, a really threatening and aggressive voice, with great groove, like a pimp really! However, that's not what I find here, this album is just an amount of recor ... (read more)

Report this review (#221437) | Posted by JTP88 | Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This is an album that is only interesting from the view point that people actually find something of value here. Now I don't really enjoy abstract expressionism and find the mindset of most the people that do to be pretentious. The reason for that is because in order to enjoy something like this ... (read more)

Report this review (#210602) | Posted by cmbs | Monday, April 6, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I would say four stars directly and the fifth for so much seperate reasons that normally wouldn't relate, but all come together in this album. To name just a couple; - It sounds terrible at first listen. I learned that quite often this leads the way to a musical gem, a gem in the way that ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#209321) | Posted by jeromach | Monday, March 30, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well, folks, here it is. The big one. The Blimp. The life-changing, perspective-altering, avant-garde totem/behemoth that is 'Trout Mask Replica'. You'll love it or loathe it, 'get it' or remain forever nonplussed by it - but one thing is sure; you'll certainly have an opinion about it!First ... (read more)

Report this review (#174945) | Posted by song_of_copper | Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Dare you enter the world of Beefheart? This album is so hrd to fit into a genre. Maybe think of it as avant-garde blues, with a hint of free jazz. This weird album twists and turns through 28 tracks, each one with its own individual feel, but all staying with the manic styl of the album. The ins ... (read more)

Report this review (#172127) | Posted by burtonrulez | Sunday, May 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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