Captain Beefheart Album by Album thread *

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by vinyl diehard, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. lschwart

    lschwart Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    I agree. It was very exciting to experience the releases of Shiny Beast, Doc, and Ice Cream (and later to get to hear the original Bat Chain) and very sad to find out that Ice Cream would be the end of it. All four are superb records.

    Blue Note likes this.
  2. ganma

    ganma Forum Resident

    I think his illness was only part of it. I don't think he liked the music biz much and when the opportunity came to get out, he did. No doubt he was happier in the art world.
    zobalob and jacethecrowl like this.
  3. Listening to Amsterdam '80. This band is tight live. Interesting to hear their take on the older material.
  4. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

  5. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    From PerfectSoundForever:

    Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
    [​IMG]Doc at the Radar Station
    by Bill Bamberger
    (February 1999)

    The years 1974 to 1979 were a hard ride for Don Van Vliet. The two 1974 albums which were meant to open the door to commercial success nearly ruined his career. 1975 found him asking Frank Zappa for work. In 1976 he recorded a "comeback" album which was caught in a legal tangle between Zappa (who produced it) and one of his team, the album was never released. 1978 saw the relase of Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), an album with only a handful of striking tunes, and a number of others which were uncomfortably close to the pop which had caused his 1974 crash and near-burn. 1980 finally saw the appearance of a strong record, Doc at the Radar Station.
    Van Vliet may or may not have been aware that the rhythms of the opening guitar part on the album's opener "Hot Head" are nearly identical to the opening of the Marcels' doo-wop classic "Pretty Little Angel Eyes." But there's nothing old-fashioned about the song. Robert Williams does a fine impression of the "Drumbo" drum-style (John French is present on this album, but he plays more guitar and marimba than drums). The rhythm rows like a steel galley slave. This is a hard- chugging, call and response return to Van Vliet's heavy-Americana style: "She's a hobo wire-toaster," refers to the loops hobos used to make out of old coat hangers so they could make toast over an open fire.

    "Ashtray Heart" starts and stops, the scrubbing sounds of the guitars thick over French's nimble, thumping drums. The lyrics include some of Van Vliet's most quotable fragments. Many of the words turn on the similarity of the language used for dealing with cigarettes and with love: "crush me out," "brush me off." The phrase "open up another case of the punks" was taken by a number of reviewers at the time to refer to the "punk rock" movement, many bands of which claimed they continued on paths opened up by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. But, in context, the words more likely refer to other senses of the word: as in "feeling punky," for feeling sick, or "punk out," meaning to be overcome with fear.

    "A Carrot Is As Close As a Rabbit Gets To a Diamond" is a lovely instrumental duet of guitar and electric keyboard. Its primary motif is a 4- note major scale lick that is reminiscent of "Peon." The intervals here are much smaller, however, and the piece as a whole is less chordal, more pointillistic. "Run Paint Run Run" is thin, the music a simple up/down see-saw; the lyrics not progressing far beyond the title; the vocals an unmodulated shout. The middle section includes a trombone part reminiscent of "Long Neck Bottles," but this is almost the only point of rhythmic interest here.

    "Sue Egypt" features one of Van Vliet's most unusual accompaniments. A single slide guitar plays a dirty-sounding chord pattern, over which swoops a melody on the mellotron; Van Vliet said this instrument had for him a merthiolate sound, and that is very much present here. At times the guitar drops out and the merthiolate continues unaccompanied. There are no bass or drums on the track.

    "Brickbats" is known to date from the original Bat Chain Puller of 1976, but is a very 1969 - '70 sounding composition in how the guitars wander and clash. Van Vliet's astringent alto saxophone playing is down in the mix further than usual, however. He sings full-throat, deliberately trying to force the edges of his voice to fray for effect. But here, as is true of all the vocals on the album, some of the resonance is missing from Van Vliet's voice. In its stead there is a hoarse cloudiness, a new hollowness in the lower range, making his voice a less powerful instrument than even just two years before.

    "Dirty Blue Gene" starts out at top speed, then stops and becomes a frantic badminton game with the rhythm and riffs flying from one instrument to another every couple beats. The track never resigns itself to any groove, but continues as a series of sudden changes in tempo and texture. The pieces are filled with all the jagged beauty of Van Vliet's music at its best. The vocal is again somewhere between singing and reciting.

    The music for "Best Batch Yet" is ominous, heavy as hot steel in a rolling mill. The dissonance of the guitars gives way at times to happy- sounding, thickly noted ensemble riffs, like a western swing 45 that's been broken and glued together all wrong. The lyrics tell of the creation of beautiful pearls, done "from the inside"; a parable of creativity. "Telephone" is a throw-away song. Van Vliet sings in a high strangled voice, cursing the instrument he calls a "plastic-horned devil" for the way an old-style receiver looks when set upside down in its cradle. "Flavor Bud Living," the solo by Gary Lucas, is antic, more fragmented than such pieces as "Peon" and "A Carrot," but its Asian-tinged overtones float nicely above the pounding-nails attack Lucas uses (per Van Vliet's instructions).

    French plays both bass and drums on "Sheriff of Hong Kong," and this makes a magical difference. The track has a density that none of the others even approach. Despite the excellence of many of the compositions on the album, this is the only track which can be considered an equal to the power of the classic 1969-72 recordings. This is the only track recorded after 1972 to equal the gripping strength of performances such as "Doctor Dark" and "Click Clack."

    This song is colored by Van Vliet's enthusiasm for Chinese music. On the tour, a recording of Chinese opera was played as intermission music before the band came on. On this song, Van Vliet plays a pair of gongs (considered "male" and "female") such are used for Chinese opera. The force with which he plays them, however, make them sound like the ricochets of shells bouncing off his hull. This song includes Van Vliet's only lyrics in Chinese: "er-hu," he sings, and "zing-hu." These are the names of Chinese violins. These names and the genders of the gongs may in fact have been the inspiration for the lyrics: they tell of a man and woman struggling for dominance, and whoever is temporarily dominant is "the Sheriff of Hong Kong," all of which could be the story of the two instruments sounding one after the other, each tone dominating in turn.

    "Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey On My Knee" is another poem-and-music track. A cartoon steam engine-sound created by a tootling synthesizer and drums powers the opening section of the music. A series of dramatic-cue sound sculptures (again like "Golden Birdies," or "Sam With the Showing Scalp Flat Top") make up the middle, and the steam engine returns before the track abruptly ends---and with it, the album.

    At least some of the music here was recycled from 1969 - 70 tapes, but this doesn't detract from the enjoyment of hearing Van Vliet's music at its strongest.

    See Jeremy Hepburn's review of Doc At the Radar Station
  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    i like beefheart. i am not one who thinks trout mask is a masterpiece, so forgive me, it was interesting, but the band deserve all the kudos for putting up with beefheart on that one.
    shiny beast is quite brilliant. i loved doc at the radar station and ice cream for crow was a great way to go out.
    BrentB and vinyl diehard like this.
  7. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    The Bamberger piece repeats the myth that Zappa produced Bat Chain Puller, which of course we all know he did not. He does point out the detrimental changes in Don's vocals quite accurately I think. He underrates the album but these things are always subjective as which album is best. His complaints about Shiny Beast being "uncomfortable close" to the commercial albums that preceded it is nonsense IMO - that "commercial" side was part of Don's musical makeup, we saw it emerge on Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot (and even Safe as Milk), and in fact some of the songs on Shiny Beast date to that time - Love Lies, Ice Rose, Harry Irene - and earlier - Candle Mambo. If the songs on UG or BJ&M had been as good as the "commercial" songs on Shiny Beast, they would have been more successful. The more "standard" songs on Shiny Beast actually make it the perfect bridge between the 74 albums and Doc.
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  8. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    Bump. A slow burn......
  9. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    From Ultimate Classic Rock:

    Captain Beefheart was in the middle of a late-career renaissance when he released Doc at the Radar Station in August 1980. Not that too many people noticed. It wasn’t like Beefheart (who was born Don Van Vliet) and his Magic Band sold a ton of records, or even enough to make much of a dent in the chart. (His best-ever showing was for The Spotlight Kid, which reached No. 131 in 1972.)

    But somehow, quietly and without anyone really paying attention, Doc at the Radar Station arrived and continued the relatively forward momentum of Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), a 1978 album that rose from the ashes of a project — which involved a double-dealing manager, displaced royalty checks and an angry Frank Zappa — two years earlier.

    Shiny Beast was Beefheart’s best album since 1969’s landmark Trout Mask Replica. In fact. Doc at the Radar Station is even better.

    Part of this has to do with many of Radar‘s tracks stemming from the Trout Mask Replica era, a period in which batches of song sketches, musical ideas and entire cuts were left unused as Beefheart moved on to some other muse. Resurrecting the songs, as well as being creatively jump-started by a new Magic Band that came together during the recording of Shiny Beast, gave Beefheart a sort of scattered focus to his resurrected career, which had been floundering since the mid-’70s.

    Even with a handful of numbers pulled from the original Bat Chain Puller — the 1976 album funded by manager Herb Cohen from Zappa’s royalty checks without Zappa’s knowledge, that remained unreleased while Cohen and Zappa settled the matter in court — Doc at the Radar Station sounds like a unified piece, a new-decade-dawning statement by a fringe artist who managed to survive the ’60s and ’70s, and mostly in one piece.

    And it all starts with two of Beefheart’s best songs: The opening “Hot Head” and “Ashtray Heart,” three and a half minutes of abstract rock ‘n’ roll (sorta rooted in the blues), surreal poetry and a Mellotron that carries in sampled strings like they were beamed from Mars. It’s a head-spinning piece of work, punctuated by stabbing guitars and Beefheart’s howled, cracked vocals, more screamed than sung.

    For 39 minutes Beefheart and the Magic Band balance their most out-there ideas in years with a few of their most commercial surroundings (again, all of this is relative to the dozen albums Beefheart released in his lifetime; the original Bat Chain Puller was eventually released in 2012, two years after his death). Tracks like “Sue Egypt” and “Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee” are as challenging as they are inviting, semi-updated versions of Trout Mask Replica‘s avant-whatever.

    Not that it mattered much. Doc at the Radar Station got great reviews, and all the right people were paying attention to Beefheart’s music again. But the album couldn’t even crack the Top 200 (it stalled at No. 203). When he returned two years later with the equally abrasive and innovative Ice Cream for Crow (which didn’t chart at all), its release was soon followed by Beefheart’s retirement.

    For the next 28 years, he focused on painting (his work graced the cover of Doc at the Radar Station), a gig that turned out to be more financially rewarding than the decade and a half he spent making music. Doc at the Radar Station is the culmination of that wildly brilliant part of his life.
    RandelPink likes this.
  10. DrStroganoff

    DrStroganoff Forum Resident

    South Wales, UK
    I really dig Doc at the Radar Station. My favourite Beef after Decals. For some reason, the track that always comes to mind first when I think of this album is Telephone! I love the Captain's frantic raving and ranting in this one! A great record front-to-back.

    I'm looking forward to hearing opinions on Ice Cream, because that one I struggle with... But we'll get to that later! :)
    oldjollymon and vinyl diehard like this.
  11. jacethecrowl

    jacethecrowl Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    Anyone know what doo-wop song he's talking about? Found a tune with this title by Curtis Lee, but did not hear any "Hot Head" in it.
  12. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    Bump for Don.
    Scope J likes this.
  13. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    I ordered Doc today. Have a download but that’s not good enough.
    JimSpark and Scope J like this.
  14. Platterpus

    Platterpus Forum Resident

    Sorry @vinyl diehard for jumping the gun with my post related to the final album "Ice Cream For Crow." I was not thinking right that day, like many days.:doh:
    vinyl diehard likes this.
  15. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

  16. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    We seem to be at a stand still, so moving on.

    From wiki:

    Ice Cream for Crow
    is the twelfth studio album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, released in September 1982. It is the last Don Van Vliet recorded before abruptly retiring from music to devote himself to a career as a painter. It spent two weeks in the UK album charts, reaching number 90, but failed to make the Billboard Top 200.

    Ice Cream for Crow
    Studio album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
    September 1982
    Recorded May–June, 1982
    Studio Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood, California
    Genre Blues rock, experimental rock, spoken word
    Length 37:29
    Label Epic, Virgin
    Producer Don Van Vliet
    Singles from Ice Cream for Crow
    1. "Ice Cream for Crow"
      Released: August 1982
    While Ice Cream for Crow was being produced, Herb Cohen had settled his lawsuit with Frank Zappa over the latter withholding the master tapes to Captain Beefheart's unreleased Bat Chain Puller album. Don Van Vliet proposed that half of the tracks from Bat Chain Puller be included on Ice Cream for Crow, but Zappa refused Vliet's request, leading Vliet to compose mostly new material for the album (the one exception is the a cappella track "81 Poop Hatch", which Vliet included from his own copy of the Bat Chain Puller tape, although "The Thousandth And Tenth Day Of The Human Totem Pole" was rerecorded). The songs "Semi-Multicolored Caucasian", "The Past Sure Is Tense" and "The Witch Doctor Life" had been written for earlier albums but not used.

    "Skeleton Makes Good" was written in one evening. According to Vliet's biographer Mike Barnes, "the most original and vital tracks [on the album] are the newer ones." Thus, Ice Cream for Crow, while rooted in past musical ideas, points toward a new musical direction for Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Indeed, Barnes writes that the album "feels like an hors-d'oeuvre for a main course that never came".

    Release and promotion

    The album cover features a painting by Van Vliet and a portrait photo of him by Anton Corbijn. A music video was made to promote the title track, directed by Van Vliet and Ken Schreiber, with cinematography by Daniel Pearl, which was rejected by MTV for being "too weird". However, the video was included in the Letterman broadcast on NBC-TV, and was accepted into the Museum of Modern Art, where it has been used in several of their programs related to music. Van Vliet explained in a 1982 interview on Late Night with David Letterman that the album's title represented the contrast between the black of a crow and the white of vanilla ice cream.


    Disc jockey John Peel, in his narration to the BBC documentary The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart, called Ice Cream for Crow one of Captain Beefheart's best albums.

    Ned Raggett of AllMusic called the album "a last entertaining blast of wigginess from one of the few truly independent artists in late 20th century pop music, with humor, skill, and style all still intact", with the Magic Band "turning out more choppy rhythms, unexpected guitar lines, and outré arrangements, Captain Beefheart lets everything run wild as always, with successful results". Raggett says that Beefheart's "entertainingly outrageous" spoken word performances are successfully cohered with the Magic Band's "insanely great arrangement". Robert Christgau gave the album an A–, saying that "Ornette or no Ornette, the Captain's sprung delta atonality still provides surprising and irreducible satisfactions, but his poetry repeats itself more than his ideas warrant. Any surrealist ecologist who preaches the same sermon every time out is sure to provoke hostile questions from us concrete-jungle types".

    Track listing

    All tracks written by Don Van Vliet.

    1. "Ice Cream for Crow" 4:35
    2. "The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O" 2:25
    3. "Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian" 4:20
    4. "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat" 3:13
    5. "Evening Bell" 2:00
    6. "Cardboard Cutout Sundown" 2:38
    7. "The Past Sure Is Tense" 3:21
    8. "Ink Mathematics" 1:40
    9. "The Witch Doctor Life" 2:38
    10. "'81 Poop Hatch" 2:39
    11. "The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole" 5:42
    12. "Skeleton Makes Good" 2:18

    Bonus track on remastered version
    Title Length
    13. "Light Reflected Off the Oceands of the Moon" 4:47


    Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harmonica, soprano sax, Chinese gongs, prop horn
    Jeff Moris Tepper – steel appendage guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar
    Richard "Midnight Hatsize" Snyder – bass guitar, marimba, viola
    Gary Lucas – glass-finger guitar, slide guitar, guitar, National steel duolian
    Cliff R. Martinez – drums, shake bouquet, glass washboard, metal drums

    Additional personnel

    Eric Drew Feldman – Rhodes piano, synthesized bass
    Janet Van Vliet and Jeff Moris Tepper – production assistance
    Don Van Vliet – arranger and producer
    Phil Brown – engineer and mastering
    (The descriptions "steel-appendage guitar" and "glass-finger guitar" were Beefheartian coinages for slide guitar, respectively using a metal tube or a glass "bottleneck" on the fret finger. Similarly, "shake bouquet" is his name for the maracas.)
    RandelPink likes this.
  17. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  18. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  19. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  20. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  21. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  22. Denti

    Denti Forum Resident

    This record has grown in my appreciation.
    The bass player worked at my favorite record store when I was younger. Kinda cool.
    RandelPink, Jack Keck and Blue Note like this.
  23. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    I have to listen to ICFC. again. I think it seemed to me that as much as I liked it, it didn't feel as accessible as either Shiny Beast or Doc. But I may be wrong.
  24. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    You're right.
  25. Denti

    Denti Forum Resident

    Agreed, and in my opinion it's not on the same level, quality-wise. But, it's still stellar music.

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