Sunday, May 11, 2014

Rare Captain Beefheart Concert Recording

Captain Beefheart Harpo's 1980
It seems that even the bootleggers had a hard time pinning down the legendary Captain Beefheart (a/k/a Don Van Vliet) since there seems to be a lack of the artist’s live material available for purchase. There are a handful of European shows of dodgy legal (and sonic) provenance released via fly-by-night labels, a misbegotten effort that did little to extend the good Captain’s musical legacy.

Rhino Handmade had a nice little 1978 vintage radio broadcast available on a limited basis, but there were no authorized live records released during Beefheart’s major label career that I’m aware of…and since the few Beefheart boots and semi-boots appear and disappear without warning, there’s not much available for the collector to spend their hard-earned coin. Thanks to Gonzo Multimedia, however, fans of the Captain have reason to rejoice with the May 13th, 2014 (U.S.) release of Harpo’s Detroit Dec 11th 1980, a 17-track live recording from the infamous Motor City venue and a show that the Reverend likely attended (mass beer consumption has dulled otherwise vivid memories of many Detroit nights).

Captured live on tape during the 1980 tour for their Doc At The Radar Station album, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band at the time included guitarists Jeff Moris Tepper and Richard Snyder, bassist Eric Drew Feldman, and drummer Robert Williams. While the set is heavy on material from Radar Station, comprising six of that album’s twelve songs, it also includes such Beefheart favorites as “Abba Zabba,” “Safe As Milk,” and “Bat Chain Puller” as part of the set list.

Growing up north of Los Angeles in the desert community of Lancaster, California Van Vliet found a kindred spirit as a teenager with fellow musician and oddball Frank Zappa. He began performing as Captain Beefheart in 1964, joining the existing Magic Band line-up that had been formed by Alexis Snouffer in 1965. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band released their critically-acclaimed debut album Safe As Milk on the Buddah Records label in 1967, but Buddah execs shied away from that album’s follow-up, Strictly Personal, which was subsequently released in 1968 by producer Bob Krasnow’s Blue Thumb Records.

The third time’s a charm, as they say, and after being dumped by both Buddah and Blue Thumb, Beefheart and crew were signed to Zappa’s Straight Records, where they were provided complete artistic control, resulting in the classic 1969 album Trout Mask Replica. Beefheart and one form or another of the Magic Band would record a total of thirteen studio albums before Van Vliet retired from music after the 1982 release of Ice Cream For Crow. Van Vliet turned to painting as his chosen form of expression, a career that proved to be more commercially successful than music, and in which he was equally as influential.

As Captain Beefheart, Van Vliet influenced a generation of musicians to follow, and one can hear his impact on artists as diverse as Sonic Youth, the Residents, They Might Be Giants, and Tom Waits, among many others. Van Vliet passed away in 2010 after a lengthy illness, but his musical legacy is still growing, and the release of this live set from Harpo’s is a welcome one, indeed! For more info on the Captain and the Magic Band, check out the Radar Station website.

Buy here from Harpos Detroit Dec 11th 1980

Harpo’s Detroit 11th 1980 track listing:

1. Nowadays A Woman's Gotta Hit A Man
2. Abba Zabba
3. Hot Head
4. Ashtray Heart
5. Dirty Blue Gene
6. Best Batch Yet
7. Safe As Milk
8. Doctor Dark
9. A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond
10. One Red Rose That I Mean
11. Bat Chain Puller
12. My Human Gets Me Blues
13. Sugar And Spikes
14. Sheriff Of Hong Kong
15. The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back-Kandy Korn
16. Suction Prints
17. Big Eyed Beans From Venus

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