As we all know, Chicago is renowned for having its roots firmly planted in the blues. That, of course, makes it fertile territory for Captain Beefheart who unmistakingly got his start with the idiom (listen to his Budda LP SAFE AS MILK or an obscure A&M single from the mid-sixties Fryin’ Pan). No matter how far from its standards he journeyed in his avant garde jazz – verbal, imagery period well expressed on TROUT MASK REPLICA and LICK MY DECALS OFF BABY, he never really lost touch with it, he just used it as a launching pad for widely unexplored musical regions. Now, he’s returned to his original foundation, albeit more freely and loosely structured than the norm, thanks to the wildly imaginative rhythms concocted by Drumbo.
Drumbo’s incredible technique shatters the boundaries of predictability abetted by the highly individualistic polyrhythmic bass and steel appendage guitar, put together as one instrument, played by the invincible Rockette Morton. The unique sounds that emanate from the glass finger slide guitar of virtuoso Zoot Horn Rollo along with the marvelous bass runs of newcomer ex-Mother Roy Estrada rounded out the current roster of the always brilliant Magic Band.
The Captain no longer blows a frenzied sax or clarinet, concentrating instead on harmonica and his Grandmamyish singing voice. He and the Magic men performed the title track from CLEAR SPOT, as well as what’s sure to become a new dance craze, The Yo Yo. Also the surreal Big Eyed Beans From Venus and several other new things never done before. Unaccompanied save by harp, he impressed with John Lee hooker’s Black Snake Blues. Zoot was allowed to exhibit his melodic charm on the only cut still done live from DECALS, the exquisite One Red Rose That I Mean. The band minus the Captain demonstrated their commensurate ability on Alice in Blunderland.
Unfortunately, the rare appearance of probably the most underrated band in the states was cut short by Zoot seriously cutting his slide propelling finger. But Don Van Vliet promised they’d be back so until next time there’ll be plenty to remember.