Monday, December 20, 2010

Captain Beefheart – Bluejeans & Moonbeams

Captain Beefheart or better we should say Don Van Vliet is the personality occupying more than one level of creative efforts not only in performing arts. He was influential person in American fine arts market. Being a child prodigy in sculpture, authoring a great bunch of recognized and highly valued works of visual arts he is known all over the world under his stage nickname Captain Beefheart. He is recognizable worldwide as bluesman, vocalist and harmonica player and the leader of his own group – The Magic Band. His records are the most radical and modern continuation of delta blues and progressive rock implementations of folk blues and roots music from American heritage. Except his avant-garde accomplishments, courageous experiments with linguistic poetry and deconstructing popular music, except he has overcame postmodern dilemmas yet in end of ’60s, sometimes he was just a pop blues singer.
Captain Beefheart came out from electric folk blues. One of  his masters was Howlin’ Wolf and this is why Beefheart’s Magic Band ’60s recordings – Safe as Milk (1967), Strictly Personal (1968) or Mirror Man (1971) sound like they were continuation of electric blues style. Some of his works, especially Trout Mask Replica (1969) sounded more like protopunk or progmetal and they were as progressive as they can be, which means they never have too many listeners. After series of radical recordings Don Van Vliet decided to issue two records in quite popular, rhythm and blues style. It’s just like he wanted to say something less comprehensive and of general meaning for people who don’t have enough nerve to listen Ella guru while keep on driving.

Captain Beefheart – Bluejeans & Moonbeams (1974)

The 1974 record Bluejeans & Moonbeams was an opportunity to show the new face of the artist, more popular and society oriented. Don Van Vliet sings and plays harmonica. The Magic Band were Dean Smith on guitar and bottleneck guitar, Ira Ingber on bass, on keyboard instruments Michael Smootherman, Mark Gibbons, Jimmy Caravan, on drums Gene Pello and on percussion instruments Ty Grimes. Also in Observatory Crest played basist Bob West and some musicians sang back vocals. Cover painting and concept author was Don’s cousin Victor Haydon, aka The Mascara Snake.
The concept of this program is close to popular rhythm and blues productions of early ’70s. Altough author of most songs was Don Van Vliet, there are two covers – Same Old Blues by J. J. Cale and Captains Holiday by The Tractors. Back vocals, soft and mild accompaniments, simple harmonics, schematic rhythm section and permanent weakness of instrumental solos makes this record little off the Beefheart's style. Some critics say it is „the worst Beefheart album” (Justin Sherill) and „you can live without this one” (Graham Johnston), but this opinions seem to be little too anachronistic. It’s good to remember this record was made in time of winding down the progressive scene. Even the greatest musicians like Frank Zappa, Robert Fripp, groups like King Crimson, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd or Yes had this time their worse moments. Some progressive musicians resigned or turn back to the straight rock. Only great personalities were able to resist and reconfigure their art to meet expectations of ambitious listeners.

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Saturday evening, sitting in the café and talking about next year festival, I received a text message that was so urgent in its simplicity, I found it more as a kind of illusive provocative artifact. It just said „Beefheart is gone” so my friends and me, we were quite unable to understand this simple information. Maybe we were thinking, we all are dying with every minute and nobody will be eternally alive. Every obituary says more about living  itself than about those who are gone. I am aware this short remembrance says more about me, than about the artist or even his record. And I hope it is understandable, while it is not only about myself but also about whole group of my friends. Next morning I was so unsure of what happened, I took a record with the first song  of Captain Beefheart which came to my mind. It was Further than We’ve Gone – the second song from the B-side of the 1974 Virgin record Bluejeans & Moonbeams. Unexpectedly, this song revealed a quite new denotation. And this is what gives poetry its point.

1 comment:

Father Viviane O'Blivion said...

I like Beefheart very much.. he was great persoanality. I am still Zappa maniac, but Beef is still on my heart.

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