Captain Beefheart – Prime Quality Beef

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Prime Quality Beef
Ozit-Morpheus Records – June 20th 2005

Psychedelic. The summer of Love. Magical and monolithic statements that drove litho-cut waves across the land. Shaggy-haired impressions, from The 13th Floor Elevators to Cream, lay wrecked on the shores. During the loveless years that have followed, the psychedelic bag has grown to mythical proportions. And in it, according to the encyclopaedia Britannica, lays Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band; packed blue-raw and bleeding.

Flowers, sunshine superman powers, a penchant for lysergic visions; these are just a few of the favourite things to be associated with psychedelia. And 1967. The Captain did keep time, releasing his band’s debut album, Safe As Milk, around the summer of all conquering copulation. But the blue-veined grooves flowing through Prime Quality Beef owe very little to any pre-formed, nostalgic conceptions of psychedelic proportions.

Prime Quality Beef mixes studio recordings and live takes of the Captain and his Magic Band, recorded throughout the seventies. Moody Liz opens the proceedings, gin-swaggering through a blue, modal mountain range of chopped rhythms and melodic discordance. Psychedelic? I really couldn’t say.

It’s hard to talk when you’re immersed in a vat of bubbling blues riffs, cooked by the rasping tongue of Baron Samedi’s demon lover. Captain Don Van Vliet employed an expansive crew on his very singular voyage through music, briefly including Ry Cooder. There are no notes to explain who played on Prime Quality Beef. The label says, “The Magic Band,” and that’s all that seems to matter. The album dances with the Electric Ladyland on Be Your Dog and This Is The Day, and be-bops with Sweet Georgia Brown before departing, through the rolling, mystical hills of Abba Zabba.

Prime Quality Beef is cut closer to the traditional blues bone than the band’s earlier albums. But Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band have always appeared alert to what lies behind the shadows and explored, like many bands. Explorers of psychedelic proportions? Perhaps psychoactive drug experimenter, Humphry Osmond, had a point when he came up with the rhyme: “To fathom hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.


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