This 1980 set was the Captain's next-to-last before he left the music biz, and it's his final certifiable masterpiece — a harsh, hard flurry of fury and hope and everything in between. Working with a youngish band, including two guitarists who grew up on his music, Beefheart offers some of his most challenging songs ever — possibly even his "Best Batch Yet" (which happens to be the name of one). The band is more than up to his abruptly-changing rhythms, melodic sleight-of-hand, dabblings in mellotron, charged blasts of soprano sax, bass clarinet and harp, and vocals that are more wild-sounding, yet somehow also measured, than he'd been for years. They grind through the stunning lyric of "Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on My Back," capturing the feel of the classic Howlin' Wolf band better than anyone before or since, establish a freight-train momentum on "Hot Head," drive the Captain's pain home on "Ashtray Heart." Gary Lucas's tensile guitar solo "Flavor Bud Living" sounds impossible for one man to play alone, and yet there he is doing it. One for the ages.
By John Morthland on 02.09.15 in Features
John Morthland on his new box of reissues, 'Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972.'
By Andrew Parks on 11.08.14 in News
Since it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the features that flood social media feeds all week, we did some of the digging for you. Here’s a handful of stories that are worth a click this weekend: - Dr. Dre and...
By Andrew Perry on 05.24.12 in Lists
In 1977, at the height of the Sex Pistols' infamy, John Lydon hosted a legendary radio show on London's Capital Radio, in which he baffled punks with the unforeseen diversity of the music he aired. As well as a liberal s...
By Kevin Whitehead on 01.21.11 in Spotlights
In 1982, painter Don Van Vliet stopped performing as Captain Beefheart. The two sides of the artist had always been linked: his paintings and drawings graced several of his album covers, and a few paintings took titles f...