Saturday, May 18, 2013

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - The Mirror Man Sessions

You see - I really am listening to more than C&W, bluegrass and folk these days! Picked this up at a remarkably fine price through Amazon and you should too!

Recorded under very convoluted circumstances (you can read about it all in the liner notes) this previously unreleased collection (at least in this format) shows the Magic Band somewhat in flux (guitarist Ry Cooder had just left) but still going strong and creating terrifically far-out music. A little too far-out for their record label, who refused to release this at the time, but thankfully we can hear it now!

The first three cuts here - "Tarotplane" (clever title from the blues-lover Captain), "25th Century Quacker" and "Mirror Man" - were recorded live in the studio and sound to me like a phenomenal cross between Howlin' Wolf and the Velvet Underground, driven by the superb drumming of John French. Other musicians includes guitarists Alex Snouffer and Jeff Cotton and Jerry Handley on bass and all add to the visionary sound.

The remaining tunes are a bit more "structured" (as much as any Beefheart songs are) and include "Kandy Korn" (kinda Zappa-esque with multiple changes and plenty of vocal harmonies), "Trust Us" and "Safe as Milk" (both with great, huge guitar chords, feedback, slide and pounding drums), "Beatle Bones N' Smokin' Stones" has more cool slide work as Beefheart seemingly takes the piss out of the two biggest bands in the word (though it's kind of hard to tell in his lyrics!) while the rhythm starts and stops, "Moody Liz" includes group chants over more convoluted drumming and noisy (but great) guitar interplay - kinda like a garage band version of some of Zappa's music - and the whole she-bang closes with "Gimme Dat Harp Boy" in which CB shows off his skills and blues heritage.

You can't be afraid to be adventurous with the Captain, but to my twisted ears, this is more accessible than some of his work (though I am a huge fan) and I really love this album! Is there anyone doing anything like this these days?! I wish!