“Clear Spot” by Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - album review

TJR says

BEEFHEART IN BRASS SECTION, FEMALE BACKING SINGERS AND SOULFUL GROOVES SHOCKER!

Purists who paid attention to such things may have been horrified to hear that their hero was in bed with the MOR team of producer Ted Templeman and engineer Donn Landee for this October ’72 release. In his career game of pontoon he was sitting on 18… twisted… and hit 21. The clash between his lunacy and their normality seems to find a balance which still sits left-of-centre but is, by Beefheart standards, accessible to norms. I’d be the first to complain if these tunes were Doobie-fied, but even the pop-cuts such as “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains” and “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles” retain enough Beefheart gruff to remain on the right side of the fence. That said – I wouldn’t want to hear an album full of them.

The general sound of the LP sees Memphis Soul meet the Delta Blues with plenty of whackyness, Psychedelia, Pop and Rock n Roll, all stirred into one glorious big melting pot. These are imaginative and inventive well-driven rhythms, with superb vocal performances at every turn. Early doors, “Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man” lives up to its great title with a killer groove to go. Upfront, it’s full of Bo Diddley’s rhythmly goodness and Van Vliet’s humourous lineage: “Men you been lookin' all around for the women, But they always been right there, Nowadays a woman has to haul off and hit a man, T' make him know she's there, Other night a woman came up 'n hit me, Like I wasn't even there, Yeah, mmm dawned on me, man, That a man been doin' a woman unfair”. When you get a good groove AND a good laugh you really can’t go wrong! The humour helps the deeper message – Van Vliet was one of the first male rock artists to make an unequivocal stand against man's mistreatment of women. He castigates men in general for their habit of ignoring women and putting them down, and in doing so distances himself from that type of guy. He claims that “none of my women have tears in their eyes” – although I don’t think Mrs. Beefheart will be best-pleased at his mischievous use of the plural.

Closing side 1 of the album is “Sun Zoom Spark” which surely demonstrates the quintessential essence of a great Captain Beefheart record – it’s a funky-rock loose-caboose beast oozing with charisma, every bit as gruff as it is humourous. The Magic Band famously boasted that they were into “anti-music sound sculptures”. Listen to that rhythm – how do you dance to THAT? The majestic “Big Eyed Beans From Venus” is probably the finest example of a “halfway-house” compromise working best within the Beefheart fraternity. Here, the “anti-music sound sculputures” give way to “guitar arrangements of orchestral complexity”; where Beefheart had once seemed hell-bent on avoiding the beat, on this album everybody, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo included, was part of a topsy-turvy, funk rhythm section. And who could resist the charm of THAT particular moment when the good Captain turns to his sidekick and begs of him “Mr. Zoot Horn Rollo, hit that long lunar note and let it float”… what follows is surely the greatest single guitar note in Rock n Roll history!

In the final analysis, “Clear Spot” is more approachable than ever, yet is still loaded with creative character in abundance – ultimately a much more satisfying experience for me, although it still wasn’t all that popular in the stores. This is clearly Captain Beefheart’s best album and I thoroughly recommend it to any musical adventurers. Luckily, in art, the general greatness of a performance is not measured by public popularity.

The Jukebox Rebel
23-Mar-2007

A1 [03:41] 7.7.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Low Yo Yo Stuff (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A2 [03:46] 10.0.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A3 [02:50] 9.7.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Too Much Time (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A4 [03:14] 9.8.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Circumstances (Don Van Vliet) Proto-Punk
A5 [02:55] 7.2.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains (Don Van Vliet) Cerebral Pop
A6 [02:13] 10.0.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Sun Zoom Spark (Don Van Vliet) Proto-Punk
B1 [03:40] 6.7.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Clear Spot (Don Van Vliet) Proto-Punk
B2 [02:38] 8.6.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Crazy Little Thing (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B3 [03:18] 9.3.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Long Neck Bottles (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B4 [02:57] 7.2.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles (Don Van Vliet) Cerebral Pop
B5 [04:23] 10.0.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Big Eyed Beans From Venus (Don Van Vliet) Proto-Punk
B6 [01:36] 7.6.png Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Golden Birdies (Don Van Vliet) Avant-Garde




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