Captain Beefheart Album by Album thread *

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

  1. RandelPink

    RandelPink The camel wore a nightie

    Honestly never noticed that until today. Right about 4:50-5:05 mark is for sure the same lick, different key it sounds but definitely the same lick.
  2. Pants Party

    Pants Party Gone Fishin'

    Washington, DC
    Bat Chain Puller might arguably be the best of Don's many masterpieces. That's saying a lot. Who knows. But I certainly put it right up there with Safe As Milk, Trout Mask Replica and Decals (I also include The Mirror Man Sessions as an equally masterful masterwork -- which basically reconstructs Don's original vision of his second album). But Bat Chain, similar to Decals and the Mirror Man Sessions, is a strikingly secure and assured vision. An artist knowing exactly what he wants and getting right to it without a wasted brushstroke.

    I sort of view Safe As Milk and Trout Mask as a set of wondrous journeys -- as exciting for the band as they are for us. Don's gritty exploratory creative adventures -- where one can easily sense his giddiness throughout the proceedings as he continues to surprise himself and us with clever ideas, irresistible shenanigans and catchy madcap brilliance. But Bat Chain, Decals and Mirror Man, represent an artist buckling down with laser-precision and internal focus, honing in on some previously unimaginable target -- and then with enough reserve, able to twist it even further into another message entirely.

    Bat Chain seems to excel at going beyond even that. There's a sense that he's so good at what he does now, that what isn't there, perhaps, becomes relevant. Negative space. Furthermore, the element of a seasoned story teller (and Don always sounded like seasoned story-teller beyond his years!) with even more wisdom at his disposal gives the music a deeper sense of meaning and poignancy.

    I don't know, I was pretty taken-aback when I first heard Bat Chain Puller. I do think his last three albums (Beast, Doc and Crow) where top notch. Call them masterpieces too -- I wouldn't argue that. But hearing the original music by an artist thirsty to get back to his business, put these songs in an even greater light to me. It's a little bit of all three of those final albums -- but with a little more buoyancy. A more emotionally rounded approach. The vigor of Doc. The bitterness of Crow. The fun of Beast. All rolled into one. I think it's flawless.
  3. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    Captain Beefheart – Bat Chain Puller (Vaulternative) CD REVIEW
    Written by Gary Steel on October 9, 2014

    FOR THOSE WHO consider Captain Beefheart (known to his mother as Don Van Vliet) an important glitch in rock history, then the delayed release of Bat Chain Puller 36 years after its recording will be as important as the reconstituted Smile was to fans of the Beach Boys.
    Although it’s been convenient for the critical establishment to deign the 1969 album Trout Mask Replica the one and only truly great Captain Beefheart work, it turns out that – while TMR was certainly a colossal piece that impacted on future rock history in innumerable ways – many of Beefheart’s other albums are pretty incredible, too, and rather more listenable.
    By 1976, Beefheart had almost disappeared off the scene after a disastrous foray with the commercial rock world. His old school buddy Frank Zappa helped him get it together to record what became Bat Chain Puller, which would see the Captain (together with the latest recruits in his Magic Band) formulate a sound that combined the insane dada blues of his earlier years with a somewhat less avant garde approach.
    Unfortunately, when Zappa’s then manager absconded with the master tapes, the album became snared in a long-running litigation. Ironically, it wasn’t until Don Van Vliet’s death in 2010 (as a result of multiple sclerosis) that the way was finally clear for the Zappa family trust to issue the album.
    What complicates matters is that – again like the case of the Beach Boys’ Smile – re-recordings of most of the songs from this project were subsequently released on what turned out to be his last three albums, many of them clustered on 1978’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and others inserted in the running order of Doc At The Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream For Crow (1982). These were all fine albums, but the Captain was tired of the rock’n’roll circus and the financial limitations of being a bona fide cult artist, so he retired to paint, finally finding a real career.
    Several pirated copies of Bat Chain Puller have appeared over the years, but sonically, they’re like black and white photocopies when the machine is in need of toner compared to the heft, width and guts of the original multi-tracks, which have been mastered with 2012 technology.
    The title track, which starts proceedings, is an object lesson in what made Beefheart so great in the latter part of his artistic life. Where his early albums displayed the full multi-octave range of his amazing holler of a voice, by now he’d jettisoned most of the lower register to concentrate on a wiry Howlin’ Wolf meets Donald Duck delivery pumped out at maximum velocity. It’s the same voice he used on 1967’s ‘Electricity’; the one that was so powerful it ruptured the very expensive recording microphones. It’s an incredible voice, and an incredible song with its oddball rhythms apparently derived from the arrhythmic pumping of Vliet’s windscreen wipers. Like many of his later songs, they’re also poetry recitals, although the combined impact of the music and vocals is so intense that this facet only struck me recently. And I’m not even going to start on those lyrics, but try this for size: “Bat chain puller/Puller puller… Bulbs shoot from its snoot/And vanish into darkness/It whistles like a root snatched from dry earth/Sodbustin’ rakes with grey dust claws/Announces its coming in the morning/This train with grey tubes/That houses people’s very thoughts and belongings.”
    There are several tracks on Bat Chain Puller that are simply lyric recitals, and one of them is the second track, ‘Seam Crooked Sam’, featuring just voice, guitar and piano. Ditto ’81 Poop Hatch’ and ‘Odd Jobs’.
    But one defining characteristic of both this original Bat Chain Puller and its faux re-recording Shiny Beast is the eclecticism of styles, and it works. The third track, ‘Harry Irene’, is unlike any other Beefheart track, being a melodic little beast that tells the story of a lesbian couple who “ran a canteen”, and features extended whistling towards the end. It’s just plain weird hearing Beefheart crooning like a singer, but it works, and it’s utterly charming.
    There are also several brilliant instrumentals, the short guitar piece ‘Flavor Bud Living’ and the tack-piano dominated ‘Ah Carrot Is As Close As Ah Rabbit Gets To Ah Diamond.’

    The album peaks, however, with a clutch of tracks starting with the mind-bending desperation of ‘Brickbats’, where the Captain’s full-throttle vocal is simply awesome, along with its splurting sax and Trout Mask-style anti-guitars. ‘Floppy Boot Stomp’ is the good Captain getting into the funky voodoo, brilliantly, and not dissimilarly to the better tracks on early ‘70s albums The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. ‘Owed T’Alex’ is also somewhat splendid, with Vliet’s atonal harmonica, cool guitar counterpoint and a desert blues vibe. Finally, there’s the incredible ‘Human Totem Pole (The 1000th And 10th Day Of The Human Totem Pole)’, a concept that would have done William Burroughs proud, had he had a moral compass.
    The album has several bonus cuts, including a rather rambling eight minute jam, and the whole thing sounds freshly minted and free of unnecessary compression.
    I have to admit, though, that this isn’t quite the great lost Captain Beefheart album I had been hoping for. With so many (re-recorded) duplications on later albums, there’s less of a surprise factor than I had expected, and mostly, I slightly preferred the re-recordings. Why? On the later Shiny Beast, Beefheart was able to call on slide guitarist Jeff Moris Tepper as well as experienced studio musicians like Bruce Fowler (trombone), Robert Williams (drums) and, most importantly, Eric Drew Feldman (synth, piano, bass). Feldman’s contributions to the sound were immense, and in their second incarnation these songs seemed finished; the versions of Bat Chain Puller, on the other hand, sound a little tentative and raw by comparison, although I’m sure there will be those who think them more spontaneous and lifelike. Also, erratic sequencing means the album doesn’t flow as well as Shiny Beast or the later, even better, Doc At The Radar Station.
    Essential for Captain Beefheart fans, then, and a reasonable entry point for initiates to the wonderful world of Don Van Vliet, without really adding substantively much to the existent discography. GARY STEEL
  4. Pants Party

    Pants Party Gone Fishin'

    Washington, DC
    I personally found the flow of Bat Chain Puller to be one of its strongest assets. So I disagree with that comment. The mastering and possibly the production seems better to me as well -- and there's more beef (no pun intended) and punch and menace, compared to the more wiry and dry presentations on Doc and Crow. And then of course, there's the life and vitality in the earlier performances that sound more like Don at his peak.
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  5. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    I would like to get a copy but they seem as rare as hen’s teeth. Haven’t heard it yet.
  6. RandelPink

    RandelPink The camel wore a nightie

    It's available on iTunes, also some physical copies on Ebay but I would expect there to be more releases slated for the future since Third Man seems to have 'partnered' with the ZFT in a way
    sharedon and vinyl diehard like this.
  7. RandelPink

    RandelPink The camel wore a nightie

    Cal Schenkel’s Apes Ma

    I wanted to post my photos after acquiring this piece just a few weeks ago, but I haven't quite figured out how to embed them. This Litho from Cal doesn't have too much more details to highlight but the blue fish are a beautiful metallic ink that really pops in certain light. I figured it was relevant to the BCP contributions not only because of the title, 'Apes Ma' but also because in the comments section it has someone adding 'This is the righful cover for batchainpuller'. I personally don't mind the existing album art that much, but would prefer it to have a little more going on and to also include 'Captain'. Maybe some who knows could chime in why it was omitted?

    Either way I am thrilled to have this in my possession and wanted to share with fellow Beefheads. If I get the photos figured out I will try to add them to this post.
  8. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

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  9. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    Post Bat Chain Puller Don did some tours with a varying lineup - interesting because he had no album to promote. here's a memorable concert from Paris in November 1977 with Eric Feldman replacing John Thomas and Robert Williams replacing John French. Bruce Fowler had not yet rejoined.

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  10. kendo

    kendo Forum Resident

    Oot Beh,Scotland
    (We should use "Blimps" to keep Beefheart threads in the Spotlight, kid....) :)
  11. Coming up on this thread’s 3-month anniversary, thanks @vinyl diehard and everyone else! I hope the conversation continues. I’ve been on a deep listening binge since it started. The only problem I’ve noticed is that when listening to Beefheart for long stretches little else satisfies.
  12. vinyl diehard

    vinyl diehard Two-Channel Forever Thread Starter

    Here is the first of a few extra titles we will put up for discussion. From Wiki:

    Grow Fins: Rarities 1965–1982
    is a 5-HDCDbox set compiled from previously unreleased recordings by Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band. The featured material spans the band's entire career, but focuses mainly on their work up to the late 1960s and the sessions for Beefheart's best-known album, Trout Mask Replica (1969).

    Grow Fins: Rarities 1965–1982
    Box set by Captain Beefheart
    May 18, 1999
    Recorded 1965–1982
    Genre Rock
    Length 234:12
    Label Revanant

    Track listing

    Disc one: Just Got Back From the City (1965-67)

    1. "Obeah Man" (1966 demo) 2:46
    2. "Just Got Back from the City" (1966 demo) 1:55
    3. "I'm Glad" (1966 demo) 3:43
    4. "Triple Combination" (1966 demo) 2:50
    5. "Here I Am I Always Am" (early 1966 demo) 3:17
    6. "Here I Am I Always Am" (later 1966 demo) 2:33
    7. "Somebody in My Home" (live Avalon Ballroom '66) 3:03
    8. "Tupelo" (live Avalon Ballroom '66) 4:15
    9. "Evil" (live Avalon Ballroom '66) 2:33
    10. "Old Folks Boogie" (live Avalon Ballroom '67) 3:15
    11. "Call On Me" (1965 demo) 3:04
    12. "Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I Do" (1967 demo) 2:11
    13. "Yellow Brick Road" (1967 demo) 1:45
    14. "Plastic Factory" (1967 demo) 2:57

    Disc two: Electricity, 1968

    1. "Electricity" (live at Cannes 1968) 3:42
    2. "Sure Nuff" (live at Cannes 1968) 3:00
    3. "Rollin n Tumblin" (Kidderminster 1968) 11:10
    4. "Electricity" (Kidderminster 1968) 3:42
    5. "You're Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond" (Kidderminster 1968) 6:28
    6. "Kandy Korn" (Kidderminster 1968) 4:23
    7. "Korn Ring Finger" (1967 demo) 7:23

    Disc three: "Trout Mask House Sessions, 1969

    1. "Hobo Chang Ba" and "Dachau Blues" tuning up" 4:59
    2. "'bush recording'" 8:18
    3. "Hair Pie: Bake 1" 5:04
    4. "Hair Pie: Bake 2" 2:44
    5. "'noodling'" 1:05
    6. "Hobo Chang Ba" 2:02
    7. ""Hobo" practice" 1:58
    8. "Hobo Chang Ba" (take 2) 3:08
    9. "Dachau Blues" 2:06
    10. "Old Fart at Play" 1:23
    11. "'noodling'" 1:01
    12. "Pachuco Cadaver" 4:08
    13. "Sugar 'n Spikes" 2:40
    14. "'noodling'" 1:01
    15. "Sweet Sweet Bulbs" 2:31
    16. "Frownland" (take 1) 2:51
    17. "Frownland" 1:52
    18. "'noodling'" 1:11
    19. "Ella Guru" 2:33
    20. "'silence'" 0:09
    21. "She's Too Much for My Mirror" 1:30
    22. "'noodling'" 0:36
    23. "Steal Softly thru Snow" 2:22
    24. "'noodling'" 1:52
    25. "My Human Gets Me Blues" 2:54
    26. "'noodling'" 1:06
    27. "When Big Joan Sets Up" 4:32
    28. "'silence'" 0:05
    29. "Candy Man" 0:57
    30. "China Pig" 4:15

    Disc four: "Trout Mask House Sessions Pt. 2

    1. "Blimp" playback" 5:09
    2. "'Herb Alpert'" 1:07
    3. "'Septic tank'" 0:51
    4. "'We'll overdub it 3 times'" 5:26

    Disc four is an enhanced CD which also contains the following video material:

    1. "Cannes Beach live '68" ("Electricity" and "Sure Nuff 'N Yes I Do")
    2. "Paris Bataclan live '73" ("Click Clack")
    3. "Detroit Tubeworks program, winter of late 1970/early 1971" ("When Big Joan Sets Up", "Woe Is Uh Me Bop" and "Bellerin Plain")
    4. "Amougies live '69" ("She's Too Much for My Mirror" and "My Human Gets Me Blues")

    Disc five: "Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Grow Fins (1969-81)

    1. "My Human Gets Me Blues" (live Amougies '69) 3:56
    2. "When Big Joan Sets Up" (live 'Detroit Tubeworks' 1971) 6:13
    3. "Woe Is Uh Me Bop" (live 'Detroit Tubeworks' 1971) 2:46
    4. "Bellerin Plain" (live 'Detroit Tubeworks' 1971) 3:26
    5. "Black Snake Moan I" (KHSU '72) 1:04
    6. "Grow Fins" (live Bickershaw '72) 5:12
    7. "Black Snake Moan II" (WBCN '72) 1:52
    8. "Spitball Scalped Uh Baby" (live, Bickershaw '72) 9:15
    9. "Harp Boogie I" (WBCN '72) 1:35
    10. "One Red Rose That I Mean" (Town Hall '72) 1:48
    11. "Harp Boogie II" (WBCN '72) 0:56
    12. "Natchez Burning" (WBCN '72) 0:46
    13. "Harp Boogie III" (1972 radio phone in) 0:53
    14. "Click Clack" (Paris, '73) 2:53
    15. "Orange Claw Hammer" ('75 from radio with Zappa on acoustic guitar) 4:39
    16. "Odd Jobs" (Don piano demo, '76) 5:13
    17. "Odd Jobs" (full band demo '76) 5:12
    18. "Vampire Suite" (1980 worktapes/live) 3:49
    19. "Mellotron Improv" (live '78) 1:25
    20. "Evening Bell" (Don piano demo '81) 0:57
    21. "Evening Bell" (Lucas worktape '81) 2:18
    22. "Mellotron Improv" (live '80) 2:23
    23. "Flavor Bud Living" (live '81)
  13. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    Great collection of rarities and fills in some time gaps in the A & M to Safe as Milk Buddah era.

    I've always wondered what kind of album A & M might have released if the second single had been successful. I came up with this:

    Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Obeah Man

    Side 1:
    Diddy Wah Diddy
    Just Got Back from the City
    Frying Pan
    I'm glad
    Who do You Think You're Fooling

    Side 2:
    Obeah Man
    Here I Am
    Somebody in My Home (live)
    Tupelo (live)
    Evil (live)

    It makes a great album, very consistent and represents the power of the band and Don's vocals and harmonica playing.
  14. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    I wish they had put the January 68 BBC John Peel session on there as well.

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  15. Pants Party

    Pants Party Gone Fishin'

    Washington, DC
    I know exactly what you mean. Once the Captain's strange language worms its way into your brain, regular music can sound too smooth -- lacking in fiber.
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  16. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    Who sings on "I'm Glad?" it doesn't sound anything like Don, maybe Victor Mortenson (who supposedly wrote the music for the song)?

    PIGGIES Forum Resident

    I've never had any reason to doubt it not being CB
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  18. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
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  19. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  20. Scope J

    Scope J Forum Resident

  21. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    Hold on I made a mistake I meant "Call on Me" not I'm glad, which is clearly Don!!
  22. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    I never doubted it was Don on either Call On Me or I'm Glad. Both sound similar to the way he sings on his other softer stuff from Safe as Milk, Spotlight, Unconditionally, Bluejeans
    PIGGIES likes this.

    PIGGIES Forum Resident

    As Rfreemen says, you can tell it's definitely Don by the way he sings on the other songs quoted above.
  24. Pants Party

    Pants Party Gone Fishin'

    Washington, DC
    Grow Fins is a bad-a$$ box set. I got it when I was first getting into Beefheart and buying everything I could. Naturally, I couldn't in no way appreciate it nearly as much as I do now -- since I just wasn't at that level of where I could fully absorb the specialness of rarity goodness yet. But it was still, even then, an awesome release to me, and I played it to death. Gorgeous package. And I read all those impossible to read liners too!

    It's exactly what a fan could ever want in a boxset -- a format which 99% of the time forces hardcore fans rebuy everything they own 6-times-over to get that one unreleased session or (God-forbid) those 1 or 2 tracks that they've been holding out on us. That's not the case with Revenant's Grow Fins. Nope. It's a cornucopia of off-the-beaten-path, odd-job rarities -- loaded with ridiculous treats. So, today, after being a fan for a few decades now... it's an extremely special set. I love it.

    As other's have probably already mentioned -- the version of "Orange Claw Hammer" is among the very best Beefheart recordings of all time.
  25. lou

    lou Forum Resident

    Yes the liner notes are a very difficult read - I'd put my glasses on, then off, then on again trying to decipher the miniscule type against varying colored backgrounds. But there's some great info in there.
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