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Captain Beefheart
Clear Spot

Review By Ray Chowkwanyun
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Captain Beefheart Clear Spot

LP Number: Reprise K54007

 

  Clear Spot is a close cousin to Safe as Milk. Where Safe as Milk has more focus and intensity, Clear Spot has by far the superior production values. The two albums make a naturally complementary pair. Switching back and forth between the rawness of Safe as Milk and the smoother accessibility of Clear Spot makes both more enjoyable to listen to.

"Low Yo Yo Stuff" kicks things off with the Cap'n's last word on self-pleasuring. Lots of tasty marimba and featuring the zippy lead guitar of Zoot Horn Rollo. Yup, the Captain's penchant for zany names extended to his crew as well. "Nowadays a Woman's Gotta Hit a Man" has a swinging raucous horn section. Zoot Horn Rollo is again much in evidence and his soaring slide guitar powers this song along. As a whole, this album is definitely Mr. Rollo's shining hour. His solos don't have the complexity of a Carlos Santana or Duane Allman, rather he comes straight at you with simple tunes and a blizzard of notes. After these two high-powered songs, Too Much Time is a complete change in mood. It is a sentimental ballad bordering on the sappy, complete with female chorus, as the Captain laments dining once again on cold beans and dreams of someone to cook for him.

With "Circumstances" we're back to high energy. The Captain's voice has a menacing growl to it. The beat is relentless. Rockette Morton's rhythm guitar bangs away insistently. My Head is My Only House Unless It Rains is a surprisingly gentle ballad and for once the Captain seems to be genuinely moved rather than just parodying the genre. "Sun Zoom Spark" is "Circumstances'" twin. High energy with lots of the Captain on harmonica and Zoot Horn Rollo zipping up and down his guitar.

"Clear Spot", the song, tends to be overshadowed by this album's masterpiece "Big Eyed Beans From Venus" -- but has much to recommend it from a stomping almost heavy metal beat to a certain fetid swampy feel that reflects the lyrics. "Crazy Little Thing" is a bit, well, crazed with Zoot Horn Rollo's and Rocket Morton's guitars battling each other for supremacy. Long Neck Bottles is about (what else?) a wild woman. Here the Captain experiments with different time signatures, hairy harmonica solos and more hot lashings of Rollo's guitar. The result is nothing short of ferocious. Oops, he almost forgot the obligatory ballad. "Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles" is the only respite in the sea of high-energy rock that is side 2 of this album. Again, the Captain sounds quite genuine in this softer stuff for once in a while.

"Big Eyed Beans From Venus" is this album's money track and we find the Captain at his zany best. A long (for him) song that builds to Mr. Zoot Horn Rollo's famous long loonin' note before unleashing a torrent of musical energy. It's wall of sound time with Zoot Horn coming out of your right speaker and Rockette Morton coming out of the left. Ed Marimba on drums and Oréjon on bass firmly anchor the center.

What to make of "Golden Birdies," source of the famous "pantaloon duck" quote? It is a poetry reading from the loonie bin with a vaguely oriental musical backing.

I seem to recall seeing this album being released on clear vinyl when it first came out. Made it the devil to find a groove. The version I have is pressed on plain black vinyl with the clear cover. It is typical early 70's commercial studio sound, no better or worse than others of its ilk. A big and very generous meaty sound!

Thanks to beefheart.com for all things beefy or as they like to say, "More beef than a butcher's shop."

 

 

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