Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - Bluejeans and Moonbeams

After the release and failure of the Unconditionally Guaranteed album, the entire Magic Band left Beefheart shortly before they were scheduled to do a major tour due to disputes over pay (a common ailment with the Magic Band). A pick up group of much more orthodox musicians was thrown together and, after the tour, a couple members remained in order to record this LP. Absolutely the most traditional sounding record of his career, this nonetheless did not chart and was a flop both critically and from a fan's perspective. The years have been somewhat kinder to the album and it has gained some favoritism since, but it lacks the Magic of any of the "real" Magic Bands.

The record starts on a promising note with "Party of Special Things To Do" sounding like a slicker, funkier Magic Band and Vlient's vocals are much stronger than anything on Unconditionally and even the lyrics are more compelling. Then, oddly, there's a cover of JJ Cale's "Same Old Blues" - not a bad tune, but highly unusual for Beefheart to cover a peer, and nothing here is particularly striking - even the Captain's vocals are restrained and fairly uninspired. "Observatory Crest" is an uninteresting 70's-styled, electric piano-laden ballad, "Pompadour Swamp" is another low-keyed affair, although Vlient's vocals have a bit more edge, and the legend of "Captain's Holiday" is that it was found on a random tape in the studio and no one knows who played on it and Beefheart denies that he performed the harmonica parts, the instrumental's saving grace. It's also the album longest number - very odd, all around...

For side two of the vinyl there was "Rock'n'Roll's Evil Doll", a repetitive 70's rocker with some neat slide guitar, but not much else going for it, then there's yet another meandering, piano ballad in "Further Than We've Gone" that has an extended guitar solo which seems to be there just to fill up some time, while "Twist ah Luck" at least has a little funky, rockin' energy but then the closing title track is another dull, lifeless ballad.

It's kind of amazing that this record came from the same man who gave us seven previous albums of blues-based, highly creative, highly original mania. Here he seems to have surrendered completely and did not care what happened. As I said before, thankfully he came back with a couple of excellent albums before retiring from music. This and Unconditionally are for super-fans only - nothing here really to recommend.