Friday, January 20, 2017

Captain Beyond - 1972 - Captain Beyond

Captain Beyond 
Captain Beyond

01. Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea Of Air) 4:08
02. Armworth 2:50
03. Myopic Void 3:37
04. Mesmerization Eclipse 3:45
05. Raging River Of Fear 3:48
06. Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Intro) 1:30
07. Frozen Over 3:55
08. Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Time Since Come And Gone) 4:05
09. I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part I) 3:07
10. As The Moon Speaks (To The Waves Of The Sea) 2:30
11. Astral Lady 1:15
12. As The Moon Speaks (Return) 2:16
13. I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part II) 1:11

Bass, Backing Vocals, Piano – Lee Dorman
Drums, Percussion [All], Backing Vocals, Piano, Vibraphone [Vibes], Bells – Bobby Caldwell (2)
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Rhino
Lead Vocals – Rod Evans

Captain Beyond is a one-of-a-kind progressive album with rock, heavy metal, and jazz influences with a "space rock" lyrical bend. Formed by former members of Deep Purple (Rod Evans, vocals), Iron Butterfly (Rhino, lead guitar, and Lee Dorman, bass), and Johnny Winter (Bobby Caldwell, drums) Captain Beyond is an album that flows from riff to riff, drumbeat to drumbeat, often with various time signatures within the same song. Taking a tip from the Moody Blues, songs flow directly into each other without benefit of any lag time between selections. Taken as a whole, the album is kind of a rush, as quick, riff-laden guitar lines predominate for a few songs before slowing down temporarily into a lull until the next takeoff. Lyrically, the album differentiates itself by exploring themes of the outer world and meanings of existence, often with references to the moon, sea, sun, and so on. Listeners may get the feeling of taking a journey to space in a rocket ship headed for destination unknown. Musically, the album is superior in all aspects. Rod Evans has a strong rock voice, Rhino plays an enormous amount of hook-laden guitar lines, and Lee Dorman plays complex basslines (for example, at the end of "As the Moon Speaks-Return") that lead to typically rhythmic, nimble Bobby Caldwell drumming. The tightness between musicians is enormous, never lets up for long, and leaves the listener feeling like the ride should continue for the indefinite future.

This is THE great overlooked early 1970s hard rock masterpiece. From beginning to end (with only one hitch, discussed below), this is a consummate performance. There is a power and consistency hardly ever found on debut albums. What's more, the production is remarkably sophisticated for its time, particularly in terms of the guitar work, which is chiefly reminiscent of Jimmy Page, and in some respects an advance over his work, but also thanks to richly-layered vocal harmonies of the sort that normally don't work in hard rock.

When it comes to the question of why this LP wasn't more successful when it came out, the first factor is clearly the lack of record company support. Hard rock was, in 1971-72, far from being as popular in the US as in the UK. It wasn't until the big breakthrough Deep Purple made in 1973 - the year 'Smoke On The Water' became an FM radio staple - that it was seen as capable of generating megabucks. In 1972 CB's record company was also riding high on the success of the Allman Brothers' Eat A Peach album, and therefore more interested in exploiting 'Southern rock' than the kind of hard rock found on CB's album. Had CB been a British band, history would probably have turned out very differently.

The second factor is the track order. With a debut album by a rock act, my view is that the track order should knock the listener's socks off by putting all the really powerful tracks on the first side, leaving the more mellow or experimental stuff for side two. Although the track order was obviously carefully put together, the result is an album whose magnificence fully reveals itself only after 6-8 listens, which is more than many merely curious listeners are likely to give an album by a new band. If the first three or four tracks had been the really powerful ones, most would have been blown away.

The big mistake, in my view, was putting 'Armworth' second and 'Myopic Void' third. 'Armworth' is one of the growers on the album, while 'Myopic Void' isn't really a track of at all - it just sounds like the extended fade out from a song we never got to hear. I took ages to discover the album myself because I kept tuning out during 'Myopic Void.' I reasoned that any band that put a track like this third on their album had nothing much to say. How wrong I was!

For those who, like me, are obsessed with track order - and I am convinced that many albums have been let down by unfortunate choices in this department - try the following sequence for a much more powerful result. This will have your computer speakers smoking

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