Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band • Trout Mask Replica


   As Frank Zappa mentioned in his Real Book, under the ground of California rock scene in sixties, there was many independent musicians driven by ideas of progress and creative spirit. About many of them nobody remembers, but those who were putting their creative contribution in next decades, are now recognized as classics of California scene. Musicians and sound technicians led experiments with new sound and formal elements, trying to invent new possibilities of expression. One of most famous was Don Van Vliet known as Captain Beefheart who was combining raw blues vocal techniques with blues and rock, to create his unique vision of music. It wasn’t rock, although in 1980’s some authors were trying to place Captain Beefheart’s music in proto punk context. It wasn’t even blues, even if he made some efforts to make us think so. This music was his own mixture of avant-garde, blues, modern jazz and rock with citations from popular culture and artistic music, so probably progressive rock is most appropriate category.
   The problem with categorization of Captain Beefheart music is its changeability. He was using some different idioms giving some chances for various interpretations. Most complex and artisticly independent is Captain Beefheart’s third  album. In August 1968 and March 1969 Captain Beefheart recorded material for double LP album produced by his friend Frank Zappa. Released June 16, 1969 album Trout Mask Replica is absolutely the one of crowning moments in history of both progressive rock and experimental music. Whole musical material was created and rehearsed in one year period. Album has benn produced by Frank Zappa and published under Straight Records label being companion to Bizarre Records, the pair of companies for publishing more mainstream or more experimental musical projects. In fact Trout Mask Replica, although published by Straight Records, remains most unusual and un-straight album in both collections.

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band — Trout Mask Replica (1969)

   The raw sound of and complex rhythmic patterns are most characteristic elements spanning to whole material of this album. Although in 1969, during recording Trout Mask Replica album raw sound was Captain Beefheart’s hallmark, this was first time when production was precisely connected with musical contents. In some parts minimalistic effects and atonality, in others folk blues and free jazz ideas interlock in multidimensional fabric. The precision of this band was legendary in next decades until digital recording technologies made possible similar effects. Most of these elements and ideas in 1969 were not new, but its combination was definitely fresh and for many listeners just shocking. This was time of dividing rock music into more popular, commercial popular music and progressive trends with plenty of formal ideas. As Frank Zappa proposed Captain Beefheart possibility of recording album with complete artistic freedom, this album become perfect example of expanding frontiers of rock and blues-rock genre.
   As a project of Captain Beefheart this was most ambitious and consequent undertaking. The line-up of The Magic Band was refreshed, all musicians’ names were replaced with nicknames. Drummer John French was called Drumbo, guitarist Jeff Cotton was covered under pseudonym Antennae Jimmy Semens, guitarist Bill Harkleroad was noted as Zoot Horn Rollo, playing bass guitar Mark Boston was under name Rockette Morton, and cousin of the leader, bass clarinetist Victor Hayden was The Mascara Snake. This unconventional way of presenting the band was consequence of earlier trend which result was nickname Captain Beefheart Don Van Vliet owed to Frank Zappa. Many uncredited musicians were taken from Zappa’s band Mothers of Invention, bass guitarist Roy Estrada, pianist Don Preston, saxophonists Ian Underwood and Bunk Gardner, trumpet player Buzz Gardner. Zappa himself is heard as speaking voice of engineer, but he was uncredited as engineer neither. Five stars with no redundant comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment