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Old 01-29-2007, 06:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Safe As Milk (1967, Buddha Records)




Tracklisting
1. Sure Nuff 'n' Yes I Do
2. Zig Zag Wanderer
3. Call On Me
4. Dropout Boogie
5. I'm Glad
6. Electricity
7. Yellow Brick Road
8. Abba Zaba
9. Plastic Factory
10. Where There's A Woman
11. Grown So Ugly
12. Autumn's Child
13. Safe As Milk
14. On Tomorrow
15. Big Black Baby Shoes
16. Flower Pot
17. Dirty Blue Gene
18. Trust Us
19. Korn Ring Finger


Review

Its interesting to note that very first sound heard on the first track of the first Captain Beefheart album is a slide guitar. Its interesting because even though Beefheart's name has become associated with wilfully difficult, obscure and eccentric music, his music is grounded in the delta blues of John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. Hearing the first thirty seconds or so of "Sure Nuff N' Yes I Do", you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in for some blues. Then the band comes in.

Beefheart's vision was to combine the beat driven sound of the blues with the unstructured sound of free jazz. Yhis vision would be fulfilled with Trout Mask Replica, one of the noisiest, most experimental and uncommercial records ever recorded by a 'rock' artist. He was not quite ready to do this in 1967 however and on Safe As Milk, the chaotic, noisy free jazz influences were toned down considerably.

The garage blues of "Sure Nuff N Yes I Do" kicks the album off in fine fashion. The slide guitars slash all over the place while the bass and drums keep the groove and Beefheart himself spits out the lyrics with a venom that Dylan had on "Like A Rolling Stone" and Kurt Cobain did on "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter." The Stones-y blues rock of "Zig Zag Wanderer" takes over and if you're not won over yet then you probably won't ever be. The songs on Safe As Milk are melodic and riff driven, catchy even. Its far more like straight up rock than what people associate with Captain Beefheart. The bouncy "Yellow Brick Road" is an album highlight, combining Beefheart's trademark quirkiness with melodic songwriting.

This isnt to say that the record is completely devoid of Beefheart's bizarre approach to music. On "Abba Zabba" he combines a nonsensical use of the English language with his own made up words. "Electricity", the song that got the band fired from A&M records for being "too negative", features an extremely bizarre Beefheart vocal and a theremin, not exactly an instrument Cream would have used.

Safe As Milk isnt all banging though. "I'm Glad" sounds like Beefheart's attempt to immitate southern soul. Like most immitations, it's not as good as a track by the genuine soul greats (Otis Redding, Solomon Buerke, Al Green) but thats not the point. It's one of the weaker tracks on the album but thats simply because of the extremely high standard throughout and Im probably just nit-picking. Its a good performance, not as good as an Otis Redding song, but its a good change of pace ftom the rest of the album.

As much as people like to talk about Beefheart, a special mention must be made to Ry Cooder. Cooder served as musical supervisor on this album. This means that Beefheart would play him a song he had written (presumably on piano as Beefheart is not a guitar player) and then Cooder would interperet it and create a full band arrangement with the other musicians. At the time Ry Cooder was only twenty years old but his interperative talents are phenomenal, conjuring up the slide guitars, pounding drums and basslines from just hearing a piano part and vocal. Even though Beefheart is credited in the liner notes with arranging the songs, its generally excepted that it was Cooder, who along with the other members of the Magic Band, jammed into existence most of the musical backing that gives these songs the power and energy that they have.

Its a faultless album by any standards. If any proof were needed that Beefheart and the Magic Band have been an influence on garage rock/blues bands it came when the White Stripes covered "China Pig." Beefheart was not the first to do garagey blues music. Dylan had done it two years earlier on the first side of his Bringing It All Back Home album and, of course, the Stones had done it on songs like "19th Nervous Breakdown." What makes all of these artists worth listening to is this - they all did it their own way.
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Old 01-29-2007, 06:14 PM   #2 (permalink)
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wow good review!
Im going to have to find a way off downloading this.

*goes off to soulseek*
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Old 01-29-2007, 07:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It might be of interest that half the reason that this album wasn't Trout Mask was because of label restrictions, which they lost when they recorded with Zappa. Absolutely amazing nonetheless. To be quite honest, I probably listen to it more than Trout Mask just because I have to be in a special place for it, whereas this album is easy to listen to whenever the hell I feel like it.
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Old 01-29-2007, 07:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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First time I ever listened to Captain Beefheart it was Trout Mask Replica and I hated it.

When I heard this album I found it so much easier to get into and found that when you could live with this album the other albums made much more sense.
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Old 01-29-2007, 07:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Just because I'd heard Safe as Milk first Trout Mask just hit me that much harder. But the first time I listened to Trout Mask I forced myself to listen to it all the way through, and every listen since then it's only gotten better.
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Old 07-21-2007, 06:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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This is my favourite Beefheart album and my favourite song is Dropout Boogie. Superb review Moon Pix!
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Old 07-21-2007, 10:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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When I first heard Trout Mask Replica I thought it was amaterish and poorly done. But now its one of my favorites.

Upon closer inspection I noticed a lot of complexites and precisions that I didn't really notice at first, Rockette Morton and Drumbos wild polyrhythms, Zoot Horn Rollos cubist arpeggios, etc. I think its mainly Beefheart himself that turns people off, with his throaty vocals, oblique lyrics and hillariously sh*tty Saxophone playing. But thats also a big part of the draw.

I haven't heard Safe As Milk, and I'm eager to hear it since Ry Cooder is on it.

Last edited by boo boo; 07-21-2007 at 12:15 PM.
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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^Yay for Ry Cooder!
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Old 11-28-2010, 11:34 AM   #9 (permalink)
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A very interesting review of an album that`s rather overlooked, even though it was apparently a favorite of John Lennon`s for a while. In England the album was sold as Dropout Boogie, presumably to cash in on the publicity generated by Edgar Broughton`s single, Apache Dropout - a cover version that spliced together the Beefheart gem with an old song by The Shadows and made it to no. 33 in the charts.
John Lennon would`ve been listening to the vinyl version that stopped at track 13, Autumn`s Child.What are the bonus tracks like ? I imagine they must have a very different feel as it looks like they`re from the sessions that turned into Strictly Personal
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Old 11-28-2010, 12:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Trout Mask Replica is such a phenomena. I don't think anybody in the world liked it on first listen, even people who adore it. The only thing I known to do that.

I hated it as first, as well. I tried maybe 4 times to get into it, and just couldn't(Could never get past Hair Pie). Found it so odd since I was already into eclectic weird music like Residents, Sun Ra, Zappa, etc. Then, randomly, as I was driving of my car, and had my USB which randomly had things thrown on it in random, and it got onto a track, I completely forget which, and I'm like "This is really awesome...", and trying to pinpoint what it is, I realized it was Beefheart.

Then, when I got home, I listened to Trout Mask Replica from beginning to end, and somehow was amazed. Ever since, I've been amazed listen to it. I don't consider it the greatest album of all time, but it certainly is something I've changed my perspective on.

I could understand how Safe as Milk would be a good precursor. I don't know, Safe as Milk I feel tends to not really break from the mold as much as later works. Personally, I think "Lick My Decals Off, Baby" though would be the ideal entry level Beefheart.
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