Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot


   Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band were probably most uncompromising performers of crossover music during sixties. Its original style covers wide span of different directions from experimental rock to free jazz, and from R&B to protopunk. They were in situation of outcasts. After they met some artistic freedom in late sixties, when any kind of music was easy to sell just because of its counter-culture aspect many things have changed. Next decade became slow pursuit of solutions with commercial potential. This was much easier for naïve pop stars than for natural rebels, but in both cases it was inevitable.
   Like many others in early 1970’s, Captain Beefheart was evolving towards fulfilling audience expectations and to achieve commercial success. In his music the only reasonable solution was to merge experiments with blues and R&B sound. He was moving towards such idea for two years already. In fact, it was since Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Mirror Man when band was moving back to folk roots of progressive rock. Published in October 1972 Clear Spot became just next step in this direction, because it was also the last of Captain Beefheart’s albums before two commercial albums of 1974 – Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams.

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot (1972)

   The Magic Band played in 1972 sessions with guitarists Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad), Rockette Morton (Mark Boston), drummer Ed Marimba (Art Tripp) and Orejon (Roy Estrada) playing bass guitar. The guest guitarist was Russ Titelman (in Too Much Time). This lineup was augmented by horn sections and singing back vocals The Blackberries ensemble with Venetta Fields. And since The Magic Band was never only a psychedelic group, such lineup was quite clear vision of its development. The Magic Band sound quality was always on the level of best ensembles of progressive rock and rhythmic precision exceeded even these levels was comparable to modern jazz. With producer Ted Templeman who also co-authoring horns arrangements and engineer Donn Landee they created thick, expressive sound with strong rhythmic continuum, showing the ambitious plan of market expansion.
   Also original cover conception with transparent vinyl inside was the idea of provocative exposure. It was abandoned as too expensive. Original edition was sold in transparent plastic cover with white insert. The photo is showing Captain Beefheart and three musicians of the Magic Band in control desk of Griffith Park Observatory Planetarium in Los Angeles. This became the base for cover design of later editions. Clear Spot is seventh album in official discography of Captain Beefheart. Commercial success was moderate – 191st position on Billboard Top 200. In fact this album is quite average Captain Beefheart’s release, what means it’s still great. Every song here could be a hit. In 70’s times Circumstances, Crazy Little Thing and Big Eyed Beans from Venus were great alternative for ABBA, today whole dozen of songs sounds just perfect. Four and a half star for drive and clear intentions.

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