Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Doc At the Radar Station
By Jeremy Hepburn
The first sound that emanates from this album is a rhymic thunder of colluded, disturbed guitars battling for unison before "Hothead" instantly grabs us by the throat and throws us headlong into a myriad of tumbling, discordant lead guitar riffs from Jeff Morris Tepper. When the song finishes with an incredible keyboard burst from god-knows where on this earth (from the masterly touch of Eric Drew Feldman) then personally, I am hooked!
The album just goes from strength to strength as Captain Beefheart takes us to even more complex realms of free jazz and foot-tapping beats while just retaining the fundamental of the song. On "Ashtray Heart," he screams 'I was just looking for an Ashtray Heart!" Hey,Don, I won't argue with that one, no sir, not me!!
Here is a man who means what he sings. Do not mess! There is a beautiful change of mood as we are lulled through an ambitious instrumental of almost classical proportions with probably one of the great song titles of all time: "A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond" Pure genius! It is also notable to mention that the other instrumental, "Flavor Bud Living," shows off some great solo guitar craftsmanship from Mr Gary Lucas- not only versatile guitar player and french horn maestro but to also become Captain Beefhearts' manager and the formulator of some sterling music on Beefhearts' last album, Ice Cream For Crow. But that's another story. The profusion of superbly crafted ,almost grating, angular guitar patterns sets this album aside as one of the main precursors of the later New Wave music scene- the album just oozes magnificent dry guitar runs, while the Captain literally blows his stack on some of the later tracks.
One of these most notably is "Brickbats," where a manic howl and then scream from Beefheart seems almost to not only blow your mind but possibly break the speakers! It seems here as if Captain Beefheart is trying for the last time to really give every inch from his vocal chords while his larynx allows! An incredible vocal performance and one which any blues singer would be proud of. The album has more cohesion than some of the earlier albums and is not only a must for Beefheart fans but a treasure for anyone interested in hearing music to challenge.
"Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee" is worth having if for the title alone, but is a clever piece of musical comic-theater and is also highly amusing to listen to!
My personal favourite (although I profess to loving the whole album) must be "Best Batch Yet." The song is a reference to his erstwhile 'new' band, consisting of whom the Captain terms 'The Best Batch Yet'- the song also tastefully manages to fuse the fresh element of this group with lashings of harsh guitar work, intertwined with the most irregular and unbelievably complicated drum beats and time signatures that defy the human ear. Mesmerising!
The whole album is a burst of fresh air each time you hear it but, as was the case with the Beefheart catalogue, a too complex and challenging listen for the common peruser. A great album that satifies more with every listen. If you got ears, you gotta listen. Enjoy.
See the rest of the Beefheart tribute
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