A look at the November 2022 Record Store Day release of a double vinyl set to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Clear Spot album.
Sides 1 and 2 as to be expected are the same as the original release.
- Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man (Early Mix)
- Clear Spot (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Crazy Little Thing (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Dirty Blue Gene (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Big Eyed Beans From Venus (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Kiss Where I K’aint
- Sun Zoom Spark (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Little Scratch
- Low Yo Yo Stuff (Rough Mix) [Instrumental]
- Dirty Blue Gene (Alternate Version 3)
- Circumstances (Alternate Version 2)
Publicity blurb from Rhino / Warner:
50th anniversary deluxe edition of the classic 1972 album from Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. This limited edition 2LP crystal clear vinyl set features the original album recut from the original master tapes at Bernie Grundman Mastering plus an additional LP of rare studio outtakes, alternate versions and previously unreleased instrumental rough mixes from the Clear Spot sessions.
Review by Steve Froy
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) Clear Spot is one of Don’s best albums, in many ways due to the production by Ted Templeman and is a great introduction the band if you need to convert a non-believer. This review is not about the original album but about this particular package released as part of the 2022 Record Store Day catalogue.
This Record Store Day release is limited to 4500 copies (this may be the number for the US only or may include the 1000 for the UK, or not, the publicity is not clear). At the time of writing there has been no indication whether CD or download versions will be available.
The album packaging is a good solid gatefold sleeve with the album title embossed on the front top centre. No clear plastic sleeve as per the original release though. However, as a nod to Don’s original concept both of the discs have been pressed on clear vinyl – and pretty good they look too. No additional information is included apart from the recording dates for the extra tracks on the second disc. Inside the gatefold are reproductions of photographs taken of the band in Amigo Studios during the recording of the album (see lower down the page). These are great and are easier to see here than when they were included in the Sun Zoom Spark booklet.
The real ripple of excitement for fans this release caused was the news of the inclusion of an additional disc of outtakes. We know there are plenty of tracks from this period in the archives so hopes were high.
Well, those hopes have taken a bit of a battering because Rhino/Warner have only managed to include seven tracks which have been previously unreleased, the other five were on the outtakes disc issued as part of the Sun Zoom Spark boxset. This is pathetic to say the least! Again, a major label shows that they do not really consider the fans. Yes, it’s great to have these additional tracks finally legitimately available but there could so easily have been more – what about the nine minute slow version of ‘Circumstances’ for instance (even if it was recorded during the Spotlight Kid sessions)!
The unreleased tracks are:
- Clear Spot (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Crazy Little Thing (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Dirty Blue Gene (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Big Eyed Beans From Venus (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Sun Zoom Spark (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Nowadays A Woman … (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
- Low Yo Yo Stuff (Rough Mix/Instrumental)
As you see they’re all instrumental versions, so no new Don vocals to enjoy, but you can wallow in the cool playing of this really tight band, especially on the tour de force that is Big Eyed Beans From Venus!
So, what does this new version sound like? I listened to one side and then listened to my original 1971 copy for comparison – using headphones for both. For me, my original was the more comfortable listening experience. This new one was louder (seems to be the case with all “remasters” these days), there was a harshness to the sound that isn’t there on the 1971 vinyl and the bass seemed to be lacking somewhat. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thought of the sound. (Note: I also listened to the Sun Zoom Spark vinyl version and, again this new one sounded harsher and with less bass although they’re from the same source).
Has anyone done a sound spectrum analysis of the original album and this new release and compared them?
Overall, this release, for me, is a bit of disappointment. A nice collectors’ item, yes, that looks really good but expensive for what it is when fans know it could have been better and could have included other outtakes that haven’t been officially released yet.
As demanded of beefheart.com, an honest take. The flippers will run one 41.00 USD at the low end. I will not pay that for 5 “rough mixes.” What was it selling for in the stores?
I mean SIX (!) rough mixes…
The cost of this package seems to vary. I’m not sure what the in store price was although 40GBP has been mentioned. To get it online it’ll cost 60 – 70 GBP with postage costs! It ain’t the bargain of the year that’s for sure.
Thank you. Now I see there is SEVEN unreleased. I shouldn’t count before coffee.
I picked this newest version of Clear Spot up on RSD and I really enjoy it, I think the sound is great, very clear and punchy. I don’t have the Sun Zoom Spark boxset so all the extra tracks are new to me. I do own an original Clear Spot promo so I did do a sound comparison and overall I’m excited to have this reissue in my collection and I think it sounds great.
Sounds like a disappointment to me. Glad I didn’t run down to my local record store on Friday morning and pay $50 for 7 instrumentals (though I do love the ones I have from Decals). I am a completist, but the preliminary info. on this release was accurate. I have the Sun Zoom Spark 4 CD set, and Clear Spot vinyl, so I’ll listen to them. I’ve always thought highly of Rhino, but they’ve dropped a notch in my estimation. I’ve often found remasters to be troubling, probably because I’ve listened to the original release so often, and I notice the differences which I’m not used to.
Digital remix to vinyl, I am very disappointed by the sound of this release, screaming treble (digital’s worst side) and a midrange buried in the mix and the bass almost completely non-existent, I had high hopes but they were not fulfilled.
Do yourself a favor, get a copy of the original edition of CS (first pressing if possible) and enjoy analog reality in its most balanced and beautiful form, this RSD edition is pretty much unnecessary to get when the original can still be had for a normal amount of money (the extra material is also totally uninteresting to my ears)
Note: I wrote this yesterday before I read Steve’s review – so there’re some similarities – but I post it here as I wrote it, anyway:
This is a interesting release – the sound is good, the pressing is excellent and the cover re-design as a fold-open is great.
BUT: The unreleased tracks on the second LP are all “rough mix/instrumental” – which means there’s no unreleased Beefheart-vocal on this double-LP. Those instrumentals may be thrilling for every hard-core Beefheart fan but may not be the unreleased treasures some people might have envisioned.
AND: There’s (still) no “Funeral Hill”.
When I first heard about this project I thought: “Ahh, that’s why the left ‘Funeral Hill’ off of the ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ set – they had this enhanced ‘Clear Spot’ in mind and it’s gonna be on that one.” But it’s not.
In my opinion this could mean two things:
a) The master tape is missing in the Warner archives, therefore there is no good-quality-source left for a high-end release.
b) Someone is in fact trying to reconstruct the abandoned “Brown Star” album, as “Funeral Hill” is
one of the tracks that actually had been recorded for that album project.
“Funeral Hill”, “Little Scratch” (the fully realized vocal-version with the marimba playing unisono with the lead guitar), “Dirty Blue Gene” (fast band version), “Harry Irene” and a version of “Sun Zoom Spark” have been circulating as being from “The Brown-Star-session”, recorded in “summer 1972”, possibly at Amigo Studios.
If you analyze the structure of the Beefheart albums from the early 70’s (and think about the mentioned tracks from a musician’s point of view) they could be key tracks to an album’s concept – “Little Scratch” as an opener of side one, “Funeral Hill” as the climax of side one, “Harry Irene” as the “relaxing song” after the climax, “Dirty Blue Gene” as the opener of side two and “Sun Zoom Spark” as the climax of side two.
Some years ago I thought a lot about “Brown Star” and tried to gather together info on the project – with the help of some “’Spotlight Kid’ out-takes” I imagined “Brown Star” like this:
Suzy Murder Wrist
Dual And Abdul
Best Batch Yet
Dirty Blue Gene
U Bean So Cinquo
Kiss Me My Love
Semi Multicolored Caucasian
Sun Zoom Spark
Seam Crooked Sam
Try it yourself – in my opinion it works perfectly as an album – which would also mean that “Brown Star” didn’t simply become “Clear Spot” but has to be considered as an abandoned project (a theory that is also strengthened by the fact that none of the “Brown-Star-session” versions were used for “Clear Spot” – the version of “Little Scratch” released here could be a sped-up re-mix, though).
As “Funeral Hill” is still missing from the official releases it would be sensational if someone would really be working on a reconstruction of “Brown Star”…
An interesting idea. It would be nice to think that Rhino/Warner would be willing to put the effort into doing this but somehow I doubt it.
It was expensive wholesale…the highest this year, I think 🤔 . Embossed , gatefold, clear vinyl all add up, but definitely still too high…
Found for under 32 US Bucks delivered so I went for it. I didn’t expect to find so low. Looking forward to playing it.
Am i the only with a warped copy of the bonus tracks? Really disappointed.
Bruce, I don’t think you were the only one – talking to someone who works at the record shop near me (in the UK fwiw) a couple of weeks after Record Store Day, and apparently they had complaints and quite a few returns.
My copy of ‘Clear Spot’ was ok so I can’t grumble – well, except about the price – but it sounds like there were significant quality control issues.