Captain Beefheart Unconditionally Guaranteed, Bluejeans And Moonbeams, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), Doc At The Radar Station, Ice Cream For Crow, Live In Drury Lane '74 Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

A different kettle of fish to Trout Mask Replica's avant-glory days...

Sid Smith 2002

A different kettle of fish to Trout Mask Replica's avant-glory days, Unconditionally Guaranteed, (1974) alienated many die-hard fans with its unashamedly commercial overtones. Nevertheless "On The My-O- My" and "Full Moon, Hot Sun" retain the expected grit and gravel beloved of the Beefheart thrum.

Following the mass defection of his regular band, Beefheart toured with a hastily convened pick-up group. Previously unreleased, Live In Drury Lane '74, shows Don and his so-called Tragic Band were actually anything but. With "Bluejeans And Moonbeams" (also 1974), Van Vliet's voice has never been recorded as sympathetically, revealing him to be a consummate balladeer. Don't believe the received wisdom; it's isn't half as bad as they reckon.

Lacking the extraneous filler that mars the later recordings, the strangulated Yosemite-Sam-on-helium vocals of 1980's Zappa-infected Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), is a joyful collision of odd-metered out-thereness. Though the wordplay might be more inclined to arch than acerbic, combined with the high-flying marimba, trombone and rattling slide guitar combo, it's still more than capable of putting hairs on your chest and probably represents his last truly great moment as a recording artist.

Notwithstanding momentary flashes of agitated brilliance, Doc At The Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream For Crow (1982) stumble alarmingly into self-parody. Past his best, they vindicate Van Vliet's instinct to become a full-time painter.

This admirable reissue series, with its crisp sound and Mike Barnes' excellent fact-packed sleevenotes decoding the Beefheart mythos, is only let down by its cursory design and packaging.

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