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Captain Beefheart

Read Captain Beefheart's biography

Captain Beefheart - The Spotlight Kid [Reprise R1-2050] (January 1972)

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Captain Beefheart


The Spotlight Kid

Released: January 1972
Label: Reprise
Catalog: R1-2050
Genre: Rock, Blues Rock, Avantgarde
Note: Reissue date 22 April 2016

T R A C K L I S T:
01 I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby
02 White Jam
03 Blabber 'N Smoke
04 When It Blows Its Stacks
05 Alice In Blunderland
06 The Spotlight Kid
07 Click Clack
08 Grow Fins
09 There Ain't No Santa Claus On The Evenin' Stage
10 Glider
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Album Review

Ned Raggett []

On The Spotlight Kid, Captain Beefheart took over full production duties. Rather than returning to the artistic aggro of Trout Mask/Decals days, Spotlight takes things lower and looser, with a lot of typical Beefheart fun crawling around in weird, strange ways. Consider the ominous opening cut ''I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby'' -- it isn't just the title and Beefheart's breathy growl, but Rockette Morton's purring bass, Zoot Horn Rollo's snarling guitar, Ed Marimba's brisk fade on the cymbals again and again, and more. The overall atmosphere is definitely relaxed and fun, maybe one step up from a jam. Marimba's vibes and other percussion work -- including, of course, the marimba itself -- stand out quite a bit here as a result, perhaps, brought out from behind the drums and the more straightforward work on Clear Spot. Consider ''When It Blows Its Stacks,'' with its unexpected breaks into more playful parts, or ''Alice in Blunderland'''s admittedly more aimless approach, but vibing along well nonetheless. Sometimes things do sound maybe just a little too blase, but Beefheart at his worst still has something more than most groups at their best. Spotlight does have one stone-cold Beefheart classic -- ''Grow Fins,'' an understated number with fine harmonica and a brilliant lyric about getting so tired of his woman that the best option is to take to the sea and fall in love with a mermaid. Another song, though, does have an all-time great title -- ''There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evenin' Stage.'' Definite fun touch -- the cover photo of Beefheart looking great in a classic Nudie suit, outlined in yellow light to boot.

Captain Beefheart's Biography

Jason Ankeny []

Born Don Vliet, Captain Beefheart was one of modern music's true innovators. The owner of a remarkable four-and-a-half-octave vocal range, he employed idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics, and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, latter-day classical music, and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivaled in its daring and fluid creativity. While he never came even remotely close to mainstream success, Beefheart's impact was incalculable, and his fingerprints were all over punk, new wave, and post-rock.

Don Vliet was born January 15, 1941 in Glendale, CA (he changed his name to Van Vliet in the early '60s). At the age of four, his artwork brought him to the attention of Portuguese sculptor Augustinio Rodriguez, and Vliet was declared a child prodigy. In 1954, he was offered a scholarship to study in Europe; his parents declined the proposal, however, and the family instead moved to the Mojave Desert, where the teen was befriended by a young Frank Zappa. In time Vliet taught himself saxophone and harmonica, and joined a pair of local R&B groups, the Omens and the Blackouts.

After a semester at college, he and Zappa moved to Cucamonga, CA, where they planned to shoot a film, Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People. As the project remained in limbo, Zappa finally moved to Los Angeles, where he founded the Mothers of Invention; Van Vliet later returned to the Mojave area, adopted the Beefheart name and formed the first lineup of his backing group the Magic Band with guitarists Alex St. Clair and Doug Moon, bassist Jerry Handley, and drummer Paul Blakely in 1964.

In their original incarnation, the Magic Band were a blues-rock outfit who became staples of the teen dance circuit; they quickly signed to A&M Records, where the success of the single ''Diddy Wah Diddy'' earned them the opportunity to record a full-length album. Comprised of Van Vliet compositions like ''Frying Pan,'' ''Electricity,'' and ''Zig Zag Wanderer,'' label president Jerry Moss rejected the completed record as ''too negative,'' and a crushed Beefheart went into seclusion. After replacing Moon and Blakely with guitarist Antennae Jimmy Semens (born Jeff Cotton) and drummer John ''Drumbo'' French, the group (fleshed out by guitarist Ry Cooder) recut the songs in 1967 as Safe as Milk. After producer Bob Krasnow radically remixed 1968's hallucinatory Strictly Personal without Beefheart's approval, he again retired.

At the same time, however, Zappa formed his own label, Straight Records, and he soon approached Van Vliet with the promise of complete creative control. A deal was struck, and after writing 28 songs in a nine-hour frenzy, Beefheart formed the definitive lineup of the Magic Band -- made up of Semens, Drumbo, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo (born Bill Harkleroad), bassist Rockette Morton (Mark Boston), and bass clarinetist the Mascara Snake (Victor Fleming) -- to record the seminal 1969 double album Trout Mask Replica.

Following 1970's similarly outre Lick My Decals Off, Baby, Beefheart adopted an almost commercial sound for the 1972 releases The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. Shortly thereafter, the Magic Band broke off to form Mallard, and Beefheart was dropped by his label, Reprise. After a two-year layoff, he released a pair of pop-blues albums, Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams, with a new, short-lived Magic Band; following another fallow period, 1978's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) marked a return to the eccentricities of his finest work.

Crow After 1982's Ice Cream for Crow, Van Vliet again retired from music, this time for good; he returned to the desert, took up residence in a trailer, and focused on painting. In 1985, he mounted the first major exhibit of his work, done in an abstract, primitive style reminiscent of Francis Bacon. Like his music, his art won wide acclaim, and some of his paintings sold for as much as $25,000. In the 1990s Van Vliet dropped completely from sight when he fell prey to multiple sclerosis; however, releases like 1999's five-disc Grow Fins box set and the two-disc anthology The Dust Blows Forward maintained his prominence. Van Vliet died of complications from multiple sclerosis on December 17, 2010 in California; he was 69 years old.
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