|Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972|
Captain Beefheart — Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972
♣ The collection brings together Lick My Decals Off, Baby from 1970 and The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot from 1972. Everything has been newly remastered for the first time.
What is perhaps of most interest is a fourth bonus disc that features plenty of outtakes; early mixes, alternates, instrumental versions — all previously unreleased. Even better, there is a choice of CD box or vinyl set. © Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alan Messer / Rex Features ( 371807aj ) CAPTAIN BEEFHEART VARIOUS
Birth name: Don Glen Vliet
Also known as: Captain Beefheart, Bloodshot Rollin' Red
Born: January 15, 1941, Glendale, California, U.S.
Died: December 17, 2010, Arcata, California, U.S.
Album release: November 11, 2014
Record Label: Rhino
CD 1: Lick My Decals Off, Baby (Straight, 1970)
“Lick My Decals Off, Baby” 2:38
“Doctor Dark” 2:46
“I Love You, You Big Dummy” 2:54
“Bellerin’ Plain” 3:35
“Japan in a Dishpan” 2:59
“I Wanna Find a Woman That’ll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go” 1:54
“Petrified Forest” 1:41
“One Red Rose That I Mean” 1:54
“The Buggy Boogie Woogie” 2:18
“The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)” 2:10
“Space–Age Couple” 2:32
“The Clouds Are Full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye)” 2:47
“Flash Gordon’s Ape” 4:14
CD 2: The Spotlight Kid (Reprise, 1972)
“I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby”
“Blabber ‘n Smoke”
“When It Blows Its Stacks”
“Alice in Blunderland”
“The Spotlight Kid”
“There Ain’t No Santa Claus on the Evenin’ Stage”
CD 3: Clear Spot (Reprise, 1972)
“Low Yo Yo Stuff”
“Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man”
“Too Much Time”
“My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains”
“SUN ZOOM SPARK”
“Crazy Little Thing”
“Long Neck Bottles”
“Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”
“Big Eyed Beans from Venus”
CD 4: Out–Takes (previously unreleased)
“Alice in Blunderland” — Alternate Version
“I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam”
“Pompadour Swamp/Suction Prints”
“The Witch Doctor Life” — Instrumental Take
“Two Rips in a Haystack/Kiss Me My Love”
“Best Batch Yet” — (Track) Version 1
“Your Love Brought Me To Life” — Instrumental
“Dirty Blue Gene” — Alternate Version 1
“Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man” — Early Mix
“Kiss Where I Kain’t”
“Circumstances” — Alternate Version 2
“Dirty Blue Gene” — Alternate Version 3
Ξ Chris Bagarozzi Project Assistant
Ξ Fatima Budica Project Assistant
Ξ Captain Beefheart Primary Artist
Ξ Reggie Collins Editorial Supervision
Ξ Kate Dear Package Supervision
Ξ Donna DeChristopher Project Assistant
Ξ Jason Elzy Marketing, Product Manager
Ξ Tim Fraser–Harding Inspiration
Ξ Lisa Glines Art Direction, Design
Ξ Kate Haffenden Marketing, Product Manager
Ξ Daniel Hersch Remastering
Ξ Bill Inglot Release Production
Ξ Brian Kehew Mixing
Ξ Douglas Parker Photography
Ξ Rip Rense Liner Notes
Ξ Patrick Tempest Art Producer
Ξ Ed Thrasher Art Direction, Photography
Ξ Doran Tyson Marketing, Product Manager
Ξ Don Van Vliet Arranger, Composer, Cover Drawing, Paintings
Ξ Ginny Winn Photography
Ξ Steve Woolard Release Production
By Andy Beta; November 12, 2014; Score: 8.8
♣ Then and now, confrontation with Captain Beefheart’s music produces polarized and extreme reactions. Take two Rolling Stone reviews from the era, both of which mention 1969's Trout Mask Replica : one reaction was akin to Montezuma’s Revenge — “I about puked…what is this shit?” — while in another, Lester Bangs crowned the album “a total success, a brilliant, stunning enlargement and clarification of his art…the most unusual and challenging musical experience you’ll have this year.”
♣ Decades have done little to mitigate such responses, and Trout remains as barbed as a blowfish. As a gateway to Captain Beefheart's singular amalgamation of country blues, psychedelic rock, free jazz, and beat poetry, it puts off as many listeners as it draws in. Which is a shame, in part because rock produced only one figure like Don Van Vliet. He was equal parts inscrutably gruff and warm, and he could be both room–clearing and mesmerizing onstage; the impregnable imagery in his lyrics slid to reveal a sly commentary, and he was able to both howl like a wolf (or Howlin’ Wolf) and purr like a cat. It’s not that he re–imagined Delta blues or Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics (not to mention gamelan or lute music or proto–punk) as much as he took them all in and then presented every angle at once, the closest rock music could get to cubism.
♣ Beefheart’s genius can be more easily gleaned on Trout Mask Replica’s 1970 follow–up Lick My Decals Off, Baby, taut and streamlined where the former sprawls and splays. Unfortunately, it's languished out of print since the early CD era and now reappears as the first disc of Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972, a handy 4xCD compilation (disc four a fascinating set of outtakes and unreleased material) that captures the good Captain’s cagey albeit failed move towards mainstream rock acceptance. Rather than the impenetrable poses of TMR, Decals finds Beefheart at his wiliest and most playful, a new persona that takes centerstage across this album as well as its follow-ups, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. As the critic Robert Palmer once noted: “The dada–dabbling surrealist has become the teasing, tantalizing back door man who entices crazy little things with almost drooling gusto.” Take the title track, where he shoves aside the Beatles’ boyish sentiments with lines like: “Rather than I want to hold your hand/ I wanna swallow you whole/ ‘n I wanna lick you everywhere it’s pink/ ‘n everywhere you think.” He's no longer the trench–coated, trout–masked weirdo in a corner.
♣ It’s a strange guise for Van Vliet, but the mischievousness of songs like “Space–Age Couple” and “I Wanna Find a Woman That’ll Hold my Big Toe Till I Have to Go” (not to mention a line that rhymes “dinosaur” and “Dinah Shore’s shoes”) succeeds because of the Magic Band behind him. Featuring TMR holdovers John “Drumbo” French, Bill “Zoot Horn Rollo” Harkleroad, and Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston, augmented by the addition of former Frank Zappa member Art Tripp on marimba, Decals shows off a Magic Band so tight so as to be spring–loaded, as fearless as a daredevil stunt team (check this rare live footage of this short–lived group). On this concise album, death–defying time changes and complex chords abound. There are also two stunning, contemplative and complicated solo guitar compositions, “Peon” and “One Red Rose That I Mean”, that sound at once stately and knuckle–breaking to play.
♣ A song like “Bellerin’ Plain” contains multitudes in its three and a half minutes. It starts with a tough serrated guitar riff that soon unspools as Drumbo’s closed hi–hats and quick drum rolls keep finding more space even as Van Vliet’s surrealist bark about railroad brakemen and black smokestacks pushes to the fore, the music itself metallic and clacking like a train. A considered yet dense bass solo not unlike something from a John Coltrane side comes in before Beefheart and band lurch back. There follows a double helix of marimba and guitar that contains the DNA for most '90s post–rock in its 45 seconds. The band returns with even more fury, one of the Captain’s Albert Ayler–shrieking solos flares up and carries the song out.
♣ Soon after Lick My Decals Off, Baby, John French was out again, the band was reconfigured, and Captain Beefheart signed to Warner Brothers, where across two albums from 1972 (The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot) it sounds like he was being groomed to be the next Van Morrison. But after many albums of being difficult and diffuse, a slightly more mainstream Beefheart is a fascinating beast. Some edges of his sound are sanded, the Martian blues inherent in the guitars decidedly more grounded. ♣ The squalls of soprano sax and shenai are shelved, Van Vliet’s force–of–nature voice lowered, revealing it be a more cracked and nuanced instrument as a result. Obtuse as his lyrics could be, there were traces of the real world tucked in there, with nods to ecological concerns, garrulous people, female empowerment. Familiar blues tropes are upended to reveal new imagery, the “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” re–imagined as a merman returning to the ocean on “Grow Fins”.
♣ Produced by Ted Templeman (who would go on to discover Van Halen), Clear Spot is Beefheart perfectly balanced between his aslant sensibilities and the desire for radio play, as on “Circumstances” and the transcendent roadhouse rock of “Big Eyed Beans From Venus”. “Too Much Time”, replete with horns and backing vocals sounds like a lost track from James Taylor or Bob Dylan circa “You Angel You”, is the pop move where Beefheart began to alienate his fanbase. But whether you heard “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles” on the Dude’s headphones during The Big Lebowski or here for the first time, it remains the Captain’s loveliest, most heartrending creation.
♣ Nothing here became a hit or brought Beefheart any closer to popular acceptance. Instead, Clear Spot ultimately marked the end of this particular era of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, as they would depart once they discovered his shifty accounting practices, leaving him to assemble a group dubbed “the Tragic Band” by critics for his next two disowned albums. When Van Vliet returned to the critics’ good graces at the end of the '70s, it was as the hard–edged, irascible crank. This slightly sweeter, gentler Beefheart was dropped like a mask, rarely glimpsed again. :: http://pitchfork.com/
Review by Sean Westergaard; Score: ****
♣ Finally! As of 2014, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid, and Clear Spot had needed a proper remastering treatment for quite some time when Rhino came to the rescue, remastering all three in one fell swoop as Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972. As if that weren’t enough for fans, they added an entire bonus disc of outtakes and alternates as well. The albums themselves are fairly different from each other. Lick My Decals followed directly after Trout Mask Replica and is the closest there is to Trout Mask’s sonic assault. On the other side, Clear Spot‘s horn charts, backup singers, and Ted Templeman production were probably catchy enough for actual radio success (well, maybe in a better world). The Spotlight Kid is pitched somewhere in between. ♣ However, it’s all prime Beefheart. The band is always in sync, Don’s voice sounds great (as does his harmonica playing), and it’s all got that unique rhythmic sense. The bonus material doesn’t disappoint either. It’s all from the Clear Spot and Spotlight Kid sessions and sounds fantastic. The alternates of songs that were on the albums are interesting but not revelatory, but hearing these early versions of songs that appeared on later albums is pretty fascinating. This version of “Harry Irene” predates both the Shiny Beast version and the Bat Chain Puller version. The two takes of “Dirty Blue Gene” are quite interesting as well, not just because they’re significantly different than the version that ended up on Doc at the Radar Station but also because they’re significantly different from each other (the third take is quite a bit more aggressive, with a really cool guitar tone at the end). “Pompadour Swamp” is a great guitar instrumental that ended up as “Suction Prints.” It’s hard to believe some of these cuts were left off originally, but albums were shorter back in the day. They make this set pretty close to essential for longtime fans (as if the fantastic sound weren’t enough).
♣ The Spotlight Kid (simply credited to "Captain Beefheart") and Clear Spot (credited to "Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band"), were both released in 1972. The atmosphere of The Spotlight Kid is, according to one critic, "definitely relaxed and fun, maybe one step up from a jam." And though "things do sound maybe just a little too blasé," "Beefheart at his worst still has something more than most groups at their best." The music is simpler and slower than on the group's two previous releases, the uncompromisingly original Trout Mask Replica and the frenetic Lick My Decals Off, Baby. This was in part an attempt by Van Vliet to become a more appealing commercial proposition as the band had made virtually no money during the previous two years — at the time of recording, the band members were subsisting on welfare food handouts and remittances from their parents. Van Vliet offered that he "got tired of scaring people with what I was doing... I realized that I had to give them something to hang their hat on, so I started working more of a beat into the music." Magic Band members have also said that the slower performances were due in part to Van Vliet's inability to fit his lyrics with the instrumental backing of the faster material on the earlier albums, a problem that was exacerbated in that he almost never rehearsed with the group. In the period leading up to the recording the band lived communally, first at a compound near Ben Lomond, California and then in northern California near Trinidad. The situation saw a return to the physical violence and psychological manipulation that had taken place during the band's previous communal residence while composing and rehearsing Trout Mask Replica. According to John French, the worst of this was directed toward Harkleroad. In his autobiography Harkleroad recalls being thrown into a dumpster, an act he interpreted as having metaphorical intent.
Clear Spot's production credit of Ted Templeman made Allmusic consider "why in the world [it] wasn't more of a commercial success than it was," and that while fans "of the fully all–out side of Beefheart might find the end result not fully up to snuff as a result, but those less concerned with pushing back all borders all the time will enjoy his unexpected blend of everything tempered with a new accessibility." The song "Big Eyed Beans from Venus" is noted as "...a fantastically strange piece of aggression." A Clear Spot song, "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles", appeared on the soundtrack of the Coen brothers' cult comedy film The Big Lebowski (1998).
|Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972|