Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Bluejeans and Moonbeams
by Scott McFarland
This is the second of the Captain's two "sell-out" recordings done for the Mercury label, produced by the DiMartino brothers. The record has its moments of minor-league charm, but bears little relationship to the rest of Beefheart's extraordinary catalogue, save the immediate predecessor Unconditionally Guaranteed. The highest praise actually due this record from an artistic standpoint is that it is not as bad as Unconditionally Guaranteed; the songs are less overtly maudlin, and the sound is more relaxed. Some of the record becomes a fair example of the type of music that Beefheart was attempting to make at the time - standard slick pop-rock which could be appreciated, and presumably purchased, by the average 12-year old listener.
The one track which does meet the "Beefheart standard of quality" in my opinion is "Observatory Crest." It's a simple but lovely track which manages a timeless, poetic quality. Tracks which qualify as adequate, respectable pieces of blues-rock would be "Party of Special Things to Do" and J.J. Cale's "Same Old Blues." The rest of the pieces, sadly, fluctuate between weak and terrible. There are very few musical ideas present on them, and the lyrics fluctuate between mildly interesting and completely insipid. The music is well recorded, which at times just highlights the vacuousness of the whole project.
Hey, not everyone agrees with me. Apparently Kate Bush liked this album a lot, particularly the ballads on it (how anyone could enjoy the caterwauling "Further Than We've Gone" in particular is completely beyond me). Heck, some people even like Unconditionally Guaranteed to some extent. But I think that it's a sad endeavor. Are you familiar with the rather amazing Beefheart piece "Suction Prints", cut by his 1978 Magic Band? It's a startling piece full of brilliant juxtaposition and complex, shockingly intense rhythm. His Magic Band had been playing the piece as far back as 1972 under the title "Pompadour Swamp," but they didn't cut it for LP at any point. In lieu of recording one of the Century's more remarkable compositions (in my humble opinion), Don ended up cutting a floundering dud of a track for this album and calling it "Pompadour Swamp." That lack of ambition, and that albeit temporary waste of such great talent, is why many of us can't stand this album.
See the rest of the Beefheart tribute
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