Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band: “Live From Vancouver 1973” (2015) CD Review

Captain Beefheart was the stage name of Don Glen Vliet, a singer, musician and songwriter known mainly for his work with The Magic Band from 1965 to 1982. Live From Vancouver 1973 captures the band in concert at the Commodore Ballroom in March of 1973, and includes liner notes by Jon Downes. The sound quality of this CD is on the poor side. This is not a soundboard recording, but seems to be an audience tape. There is no information in the liner notes about the source material, or in fact about the show itself. From what I can gather from other sources, this CD contains the entire set, in proper order. The front cover says it’s from March 3, 1973, but the title of the album on the side of the case is Live From Vancouver 1977, which must be an error. Fans will appreciate having this recording, because any Captain Beefheart is good, right? But for other folks, this is probably not the CD to serve as an introduction to this band’s music. The Magic Band had different line-ups over the years. The band on this album includes Captain Beefheart, Rockette Morton, Roy Estrada, Zoot Horn Rollo and Ed Marimba.

The CD kicks off with “Hair Pie: Bake III,” which begins nearly in full force. No introductions, no stage banter, just right into it. Of course, it’s possible that there was something before this, and whoever was recording the show started his tape a bit late. Who knows? “Hair Pie: Bake III” is a loud, odd instrumental track, a bass solo. A strange way to begin a show, no? Well, this is Captain Beefheart, so you can just forget normality. It leads straight into “Suction Prints,” a thumping and unrestrained instrumental. They then go into “Low Yo Yo Stuff,” the lead-off track from the band’s 1972 release Clear Spot, and finally we can hear that familiar bluesy rough voice of Captain Beefheart. They follow that with another tune from Clear Spot, “Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man.” One thing about Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band, they sure came up with some great, memorable titles. (Hey, who else would write a song titled “I Wanna Find A Woman That’ll Hold My Big Toe ‘Til I Have To Go”?)  It’s a shame the sound quality is so poor, because it’s hard to make out the lyrics at times, and the lyrics to this tune are pretty awesome. Check out these lines: “You gotta wait for your woman/Let her know you’re there/I knew I had to go out and tell all of the women/That I knew they were there/Now everywhere I go the women all know that I know/There ain’t no, there ain’t no other place to go but there/Yeah, I’m talkin’ about women, man/They don’t have to hit me/To make me know it’s there.”

“Abba Zaba” is a very cool track from the band’s debut album, 1967’s Safe As Milk. This is a good version, but of course I wish the sound quality were better. There are band introductions before the band goes into “Sugar ‘N’ Spikes,” an instrumental. And there is a bit of stage banter between that track and “Peon,” another instrumental tune, this one from the 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby.

Most of this material is obviously original, but the band does play a few covers. The first is “Old Black Snake,” a John Lee Hooker song (which was originally titled “Black Snake”). Before that song, you can distinctly hear audience members talking. And this one is all Captain Beefheart – some harmonica at the beginning, and then the vocals performed a cappella. It’s a short version. The band also does “I’m A King Bee,” written by Slim Harpo, and “Sugar Mama,” the blues standard adapted by Howlin’ Wolf. Though these two songs are listed as separate tracks on the CD case, they are in fact on one track, done as a medley.

The band does a ten-minute version of “Mirror Man,” which is actually quite a bit shorter than the original album version (which is approximately fifteen minutes). The CD concludes with “Big Eyed Beans From Venus” and “Golden Birdies,” the closing tracks from Clear Spot.

CD Track List
  1. Hair Pie: Bake III
  2. Suction Prints
  3. Low Yo Yo Stuff
  4. Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man
  5. Abba Zaba
  6. Band Intro
  7. Sugar ‘N’ Spikes
  8. Peon
  9. I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby
  10. Old Black Snake
  11. Alice In Blunderland
  12. I’m A King Bee/Sugar Mama
  13. Mirror Man
  14. Big Eyed Beans From Venus
  15. Golden Birdies
Live From Vancouver 1973 was released on February 17, 2015 through Gonzo Multimedia.

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