Thursday, 18 October 2012

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART REVIEW (with a note from Jon)

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - The Lost BroadcastsThere are two ways of looking at his DVD. Either you buy into a fascinating, but all too short glimpse of Beefheart and his Magic band at their best, or you bitch about the fact that there’s less than half an hour of music including three takes of the same song and an ad hoc bass solo that sounds more like a line check than artists statement, plus a band intro.

Beefheart interrupts the bass solo with a familiar play on words he used at live shows. Thus;  ‘This is the Mascara Snake, becomes  ‘this is the Mascara Fake’ and then ‘this is the mascara for god’s sake’, in an apparent reference to Art Tripp’s unseen gourd, named after the former band member Victor Hayden aka the Mascara Snake.

You pays your money, you make your choice, but you can’t help but wonder why the label couldn’t have gone the extra mile and found some other audio visual Beefheart delight.  (Ummm. Because this is a DVD of the show from Beat Club and this is all there is JD) But what is on offer is undoubtedly classic stuff, including rare footage of Art Trip with hair! But for the rest, ‘The Lost Broadcasts’ is everything diehard fans would hope for, with the Magic Band doing their thing in front of a bemused German TV crew.
I say bemused, because for every subtle overlapping montage and deftly applied zoom there are some really curious semi profile shots of legs and feet.  But even those strange moments are eclipsed by the Don Van Vliet’s band intro, during most of which the camera remains statically focussed on drummer Art Tripp. You wouldn’t put it beyond the realms of possibilities that Beefheart had planned all this, or more likely barked out a general instruction open to general interpretation.

Everything from the fractured melodies, the throaty gargled vocals, the sizzling rhythmic interplay between Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) and Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad) on slide, to the coloured back drops, the band’s extravagant choreography, the hippy stage clothes and even the Captain’s delicately tousled main, seem just a fraction too coy to have just spontaneously come together.
Indeed, on the three takes of ‘I’m Gonna Boogalarize You Baby’ the dance steps don’t really change, and even Beefheart’s deeply wrought blues phrasing remains pretty rooted to the original arrangement.  That said, his ‘in the moment’ poetry on ‘Golden Birdies’ (from ‘Clear Spot’) is truly unique, as is his dissonant soprano playing on the dense instrumental ‘Steal Softly Thru The Snow,’ which is imaginatively shaped by Ed Marimba’s free from approach.

Put simply despite its brevity, this DVD is an absolute delight. It’s the sort of broadcast the BBC so often failed to deliver leaving programmes like Germany’s Beat Club to capture a glimpse of one of the weirdest but most compelling musical lineages of the hippy era.

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