Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
Out of the basement and under the tree!
Reviewed by Luke Winkie, Fri., Dec. 12, 2014
Captain Beefheart & the Magic BandSun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (Rhino)
Much of the Magic Band's legacy has been unfortunately cloistered. Considering the fiery, rubbery blues of 1967 debut Safe as Milk and the sprawling, transcendent Trout Mask Replica, it's hard to say why that is. People forget that Captain Beefheart's recording career stretched far beyond the Sixties. The 2010 passing of Don Van Vliet guaranteed revisionism of his cult vanguard, and that's Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972. Available in both 4-CD and 4-LP formats, the box gathers the bandleader's memorable, but somewhat forgotten three-album run: Lick My Decals Off, Baby; The Spotlight Kid; and Clear Spot, as well as a handful of die-hard-only outtakes and instrumentals. Decals is a close relative of Trout Mask Replica, arriving only a year after that albatross. Some of the sharper, more anti-social vibes are sanded down, but the raw, out-of-step harmonica of "I Love You, You Big Dummy" still needles. The Spotlight Kid, on the other hand, might be the least weird Beefheart album of all time. From the first few bars of "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby," the album roots itself in a comprehensible, approachable blues tradition. Ditto for Clear Spot, released the same year. Check its warbling, sublime guitar shamble on "Big Eyed Beans From Venus." Three albums isn't especially encompassing, but if you're invested in deciphering the legend of Captain Beefheart, Sun Zoom Spark boxes up more vitals.