Friday, December 31, 2010

Captain Beefheart – Unconditionally Guaranteed

First of two commercial albums made by Captain Beefheart for Mercury Records in 1974 was Unconditionally Guaranteed released in April 1974. With following album Bluejeans & Moonbeams, recorded in August and released in November, this pair established most criticized group of Beefheart’s works. Although main idea of this productions was to show more soft and popular picture of Beefhearts music, no commercial success has been reached by these albums. They are example of big record company’s weakness and misunderstanding cultural niche’s needs. Captain Beefheart was extremely disappointed. After album was published, he encouraged buyers to “take copies back for a refund”.  
Due to legal issues, artist didn’t have a chance to decide on his music. Made out of Captain Beefheart’s sight this album became the beginning of serious crisis in artist's biography. The era of freaking out in sixties has gone without any alternative idea. Psychedelic and surrealistic formulas has no chance to exist in main stream pop music, in developing in Europe glam rock these elements became a kind of unimportant ornament. In 1974, the year of ABBA European and world triumph, for large audience the style of sixties was obsolete and sometimes just pathetic. In later recordings Don Van Vliet came back with his school friend Frank Zappa (Bongo Fury) and signing his own name (Shiny Beast and Ice Cream for Crow), but there was no new opening. Beefheart appear more fragile than average artist in show business and unable to fight against disco and commercialization of rhythm and blues music.

Captain Beefheart – Unconditionally Guaranteed (1974) 

Even if Don Van Vliet called it “horrible and vulgar”, Unconditionally Guaranteed is almost successful compromise between radical vision of RnB and musical genres popular in 1970s. The complete set of Van Vliet’s songs could be quite impressive if they were realized more firmly, with this rhythmic precision and more determined articulation we know from his previous albums. The performing style we known from his earlier recordings had gone. And what we got, can convince, the contract with Mercury was violation of Van Vliet’s artistic personality. One look into record cover gives explanation of the mood concurrent to the creation of this record. Distance and mockery were arrays contradicting to previous Van Vliets attitude. Some men in Mercury didn't take the trouble to understand more than customers' expectations.
Question is how much Captain Beefheart was guily himself. Musicians were disappointed, the known from Trout Mask Replica, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo and bassist Rockete Morton came out of The Magic Band. At last line up of The Magic Band was always rotating. It was Captain Beefheart who tried to hit the market and hoping to convince wider group of consumers. In effect, he lost reliance of his fans. And this makes him totally responsible for the final effect. No matter he credited his wife Jan Van Vliet and producer of the album Andy Di Martino as coauthors of all songs. In such moments one have to admit, sometimes is better to refuse than publish anything.

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