Sunday, April 10, 2016

Captain Beefheart - 1974 - Bluejeans & Moonbeams

Captain Beefheart 
Bluejeans & Moonbeams

01. Party of Special Things to Do (2:48)
02. Same Old Blues (4:00)
03. Observatory Crest (3:32)
04. Pompadour Swamp (3:32)
05. Captain's Holiday (5:43)
06. Rock 'N Roll's Evil Doll (3:20)
07. Further Than We've Gone (5:31)
08. Twist Ah Luck (3:22)
09. Bluejeans and Moonbeams (5:02)

- Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) / vocals, guitar, harmonica
- Jimmy Caravan / keyboards
- Mark Gibbons / keyboards
- Ty Grimes / percussion
- Elliot Ingber / guitar
- Gene Pello / drums
- Dean Smith / guitar
- Michael Smotherman / keyboards, vocals
- Bob West / bass

 There's been a lot of sustained kerfuffle and belligerent dismissal surrounding this record. As such, this was the last Beefheart album I listened to; after the cheerful banality of Unconditionally Guaranteed, I needed weightier meat. So it was on to the glories of Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), Doc at the Radar Station, and Ice Cream for Crow. Now, after having thoroughly digested those excellent records, I've come back for this last wandering stray album. What a delicious surprise!
I decided it was time for an investigation when a lovely vinyl of Bluejeans and Moonbeams appeared at the local record store. I bought it for 5.99 (plus tax), brought it home, plopped it on the turntable. I'll confess that I was immediately struck by the comparative simplicity of the record - lots of plodding 4/4 rhythms, little organ spirals, and seemingly insulting singalong passages. But something kept drawing me back. Now, as I sit here writing this review, I'm listening to the record over headphones and savoring every delicious track. Even the ill-advised and strung-out balladeering of Further Than We've Gone is music to my ears, albeit not perfect music. Ultimately that's the legacy of this album: an inferior recording for a legendary creative genius, but a stellar record by any other system of measurement.

I love Bluejeans and Moonbeams. I think it is very wrongfully decried and dismissed. Vliet's wordplay is frequently in full swing (She turned her head, You know what I mean, She turned it back), and his voice is in lovely form when it isn't being needlessly buried in the mix. That's the real crime of this record, something it has in common with the intensely frustrating Unconditionally Guaranteed - Beefheart's beautiful voice is often lost amid the shuffle of instrumentation. But muddy production values aside, this is a blues record of surpassing satisfaction. Not exactly progressive, but certainly a satisfying and completely competent slice of swamp rock with some drifting psychedelic influences. Listen to it, listen to it multiple times - this is great music, buried beneath the vaunted expectations of classic Beefheart worshipers.

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