Sunday, April 10, 2016

Captain Beefheart - 1972 - Spotlight Kid

Captain Beefheart 
Spotlight Kid

01. I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby (4:34)
02. White Jam (2:57)
03. Blabber 'N Smoke (2:48)
04. When It Blows Its Stacks (3:41)
05. Alice in Blunderland (3:55)
06. The Spotlight Kid (3:21)
07. Click Clack (3:31)
08. Grow Fins (3:31)
09. There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evenin' Stage (3:13)
10. Glider (4:37)

- Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) / vocals, guitar, harmonica, Soprano/Tenor saxophone
- Rockette Morton (aka Mark Boston) / bass, guitar
- The Mascara Snake (aka Victor Hayden) / clarinet
- Art Tripp (aka Ed Marimba) / drums, percussion, marimba
- Winged Eel Fingerling (aka Elliot Ingber) / guitar
- Zoot Horn Rollo (aka Bill Harkleroad) / guitar

Having changed music forever with his prior two releases, Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals off, Baby, Beefheart comes back down to Earth for a much more accessible album that is still highly regarded among most fans. The Spotlight Kid is easily Beefheart's most low-key album, full of deep rumbling grooves on the guitars and drums, and Beefheart doing some of his best bluesman singing. It's most definitely a "groove" album, probably of less interest to people looking for avant garde Beefheart.

Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad), Winged Eel Fingerling (Elliot Ingber) and Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) churn up an incredible three-guitar groove on the album's opener "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" that sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. Ed Marimba (Artie Tripp) is every bit as original a drummer as his predecessor Drumbo (John French) was, and keeps the disconnected guitar riffs held together with an equally angular rhythmic drive. Beefheart himself hits the lowest registers of his voice for this tune, adding the final piece to this excellent track. "White Jam" is a more straight blues, and Beefheart's vocal is the star here, hitting a heartwrenching falsetto in the chorus. "Blabber n' Smoke" is one of my favorites, a slow groove with Tripp playing the marimba, as he does on several other tracks. "Alice in Blunderland" is a relatively heavy instrumental featuring Elliot Inger. "Click Clack" is another highlight, with a churning 6/8 rhythm undercut by a strangely accented drum line, forming a perfect musical version of a train rolling down the traciks. "Grow Fins" is another key track, another slow groover like "Blabber n' Smoke", but with a striking vocal about wanting to leave the human race and "take up with a mermaid, and leave you land-lubbin' women alone."

The tracks I didn't mention aren't quite as memorable, but overall the album has a great moody vibe to it that blues fans will enjoy. It manages the admirable feat of applying a little bit of the Beefheartian offbeat sensibility to more accessible song forms. Not quite as consistently good as the following year's Clear Spot, but a nice album with a good handful of stellar moments.

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