Saturday, December 31, 2016

Captain Beefheart — Strictly Personal


   In the history of rock music Captain Beefheart can be seen as an enfant terrible of experimental subgenres. From his debut he was one of most influencing figures, although his impact on various groups of musicians and listeners was varied. Acclaimed by critics, but generally unpopular in wide audiences, inspiring for many musicians and worshiped by group of fans, Captain Beefheart was highly creative, unconventional though he was using his creative ideas and in quite a traditional way being a kind of scarecrow for opportunists and conservatives. Although whole of his output is noteworthy, especially his early albums have the power of revolutionizing shape of rock and roll culture. But still these first experiments are in close bonds with deep stream of folk blues and traditional music.
   After successful debut album Safe as Milk, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band became product of show business and had to play according to its rules. It was a part of the system to focus the style of the band in one of most popular sub-genres to better reach the target group. Material recorded initially in October 1967 for Buddah Records but it was rejected for its noncommercial character. Producer Bob Krasnow decided to publish the album in his own label Blue Thumb and finally Captain Beefheart’s second album was recorded at Hollywood Sunset Sound Studios in last week of April 1968 and was released in October 1968. Producer of the album added some trendy effect like extended phasing and reverb to make Magic Band sound more psychedelic.
   While transferring new album to another record company the primary concept of the album has been matter of change. Initially it was called It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper and cover design of Strictly Personal is a kind of remainder for this idea. What happened Buddah Records executives didn’t approve artist’s work was their disapproval for Don Van Vliet’s experimental attitude towards music. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band came from social activism aiming to be radical artistic movement and expanding the boundaries of popular music beyond jazz or even contemporary artistic music. Debut album Save as Milk was compromise from both sides, but after it was published, artists work on more clear and advanced ideas while company was counting on reduction of risk and waiting for more moderate songs.

Captain Beefheart — Strictly Personal (1968)

   In 1967 executives of record company discarded the work done by musicians. After successes of Trout Mask Replica (1969) and Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970), parts of 1967 autumn sessions were published in 1971 by Buddah Records as Mirror Man album produced by Bob Krasnow. During 1967 autumn imbroglio some ideas of sound structure had changed, but the personnel recording Strictly Personal remained unchanged. Ry Cooder left the band after Save as Milk. He was replaced by Jeff Cotton. This way Magic Band lineup had stabilized in 1967 with Alex St. Clair and Jeff Cotton (guitars), Jerry Hendley (bass), John French (drums) and Don Van Vliet (vocal and harmonica). This lineup stayed until 1970 when Jeff Cotton suffered in argument and left the band. This was moment when Don Van Vliet was experimenting with social engineering of the band, depriving musicians of sleep and food.
   Eight songs of Strictly Personal program is a collection differentiated and giving clear picture of band’s artistic explorations. Some ideas are more surrealistic than famous Trout Mask Replica masterpiece. While other Capt. Beefheart’s recordings in this period were based on traditional folk blues roots, ideas of Strictly Personal are more abstractive. Unofficial sixth band member was Bob Krasnow who edited bands recordings changing its initial sound and adding some alienating effects to make it sound closer to psychedelic bands. Even black and white photography of the band inside gatefold cover show masked band. In these outfit they look so strange, it is hard to determine if this is allusion to cheap science fiction movies or surrealistic vision of some archetypical characters of popular imagination.

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