Friday, May 22, 2009

Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - Safe As Milk

Another absolutely essential Rev-ola reissue this time of rock Dadaist, as ol' Lester Bangs had it, Captain Beefheart’s 1968 debut of skewed blues through a garage/psych/soul slew siphoned from wholly different unholy realms than say The Doors or Love - other discardees of summer of love asininity. Forget the much acclaimed avant-garde hard to listen to claptrap that surrounds the likes of Trout Mask Replica, Strictly Personal or Mirror Man, which opened up and stretched out the elasticated liquid head further still and slip down into this house wholeheartedly. With his supernatural voice sounding like he’d beamed in from a Parchment Farm jam session with Bukka White and Howlin’ Wolf he, along with a musical co-ordinator in the form of a young Ry Cooder, set out on the trail that saw him co-opt the blues to his own unique vision than the more self-conscious psychedelic prattling of Cream. The sprightly spring clean in the mix department might not be to everyone’s majesty and pleasure, especially if used to the original cluttered mix, though that suits the irascible erratica filtering from the Captain’s bedeviled bonce perfectly. Abba Zabba may hint at musical miscreancy to come (the infamous playing around the beat) after the seemingly straight ahead (ie Muddy Waters Rollin’ and Tumblin’ taken ‘cross tracks) blues of Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do has signposted the way. Even so, that still bays at signposts on route way out west and the eerie east, along with the elated, lovely as the Elevators, psychedelicised R’n’B soul of Call On Me and I’m Glad, the mellifluous menacing undercurrent in the shimmering luminescent call and response soul stomp more like Wilson Pickett of Zig Zag Wanderer and country jaunt in a jalopy Yellow Brick Road that are, like the whole, utterly entrancing amid the more traditional (hahaha, in van Vliet-ian terms anyhops) of Plastic Factory and Where There’s Woman, not mentioning the seismic spine-crawling caterwaul on Electricity, as described in Kris Needs’ new sleevenotes. A rare case of a reissue that’d be pleasing to behold just as is, without any bonus brouhaha, just, well, just because. Maybe this and Mirror Man (out-takes of which form the seven bonus tracks here) merely wiped the slate clean, clearing the palette of all urges to follow more conventional paths, though it has been said the captain’s own disenchantment at being constrained by commercial considerations, either by label or collaborators or both, resulted in his ensuing output of increasingly discordant art-rock. Whichever it may be, as mystery suitably shrouds the full story, ever since this album most of his work has been far removed from its wondrousness, forsaking it for disembodying eddies round your senses. It still remains a remarkable record. Safe as milk?? Hahaha, safe as a straw hat in a shark attack. Dive in.
Stu Gibson

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