If you have come at the Captain through his earliest works, this record might feel like not much or a man settling into his mid life. It’s far less radical than his most radical work of the early ’70s, wherein he basically pioneered the intersection of blues and free jazz and other things.
Those things are present here, but in a relatively accessible form and ” Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian” sounds like a straight ahead blues instrumental that could have been made by any number of people less weird and original.
But this is a pretty strong set of songs the Captain (as these things go…) and the playing is pretty stellar. Instead of viewing this as a failure to return to past glories we could also view it as someone comfortable in their own skin – this how Beefheart sounds and this is a particularly good example of that sound.
So good, in fact, that I would suggest it is a much better place to enter his oeuvre than his most extreme work, Basically, if this record puts you off, don’t ever listen to Trout Mask Replica. And it works better as an introduction than something like Safe as Milk because, though you get a slight glimpse of where he was going on that record, you really don’t have any idea what’s coming.. This, at least sounds like The Magic Band in full force.
Yes, it’s relatively conservative compared to his best work and, yes, it is very much just another Magic Band record, but as these things go I think it is quite strong and worthwhile. Its a nice reminder that even in the 1980s some of the innovators of the 1960s hadn’t completely given up on their idiosyncratic choices.
- “Ice Cream for Crow” 4:35
- “The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O” 2:25
- “Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian” 4:20
- “Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat” 3:13
- “Evening Bell” 2:00
- “Cardboard Cutout Sundown” 2:38
- “The Past Sure Is Tense” 3:21
- “Ink Mathematics” 1:40
- “The Witch Doctor Life” 2:38
- “’81 Poop Hatch” 2:39
- “The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole” 5:42
- “Skeleton Makes Good” 2:18
- Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harmonica, soprano sax, Chinese gongs, prop horn
- Jeff Moris Tepper – steel appendage guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar
- Richard “Midnight Hatsize” Snyder – bass guitar, marimba, viola
- Gary Lucas – glass-finger guitar, slide guitar, guitar, National steel duolian
- Cliff R. Martinez – drums, shake bouquet, glass washboard, metal drums