A premeditated Captain Beefheart album might seems a tad anachronistic to admirers of Cap’s staunch spontaneity and much of his new album is indeed of less-than-recent material. But the Beefheart bozos will be as relieved as I was when they slap this plentitude of typical warmth and depth onto their turntables. Yes, it is a masterpiece just as I predicted it would be and no, it matters not when Beef first composed these tunes. Even the ones dating back to the early seventies sound totally contemporary and would stand up in the best of company.
There are only a few mysteries left in the universe and Captain Beefheart is one of them. He continues to astound his legions of fans world-wide as both a musical and philosophical deity. His unearthings are hailed as the New Order by a lot of us and it’s almost a feeling of security he gives us when it’s taken into account just how many years now he’s been working his mean-assed hoodoo. He’s the greatest white blues original ever, the 7th or 8th Son of Howlin’ Wolf within the parameters of influence and coincidence. The man has soul and he lets it spill like the Fountain of Youth for all those who dare wallow in the good spirits.
The title cut itself is both a fine example of the Captain’s wit and also his precise blues stirrings. It rocks with the outrage of Elmore James drunk on McNaughton’s, unable to move, reeling in place like some possessed howlin’ devil. “It’s hot / looks like you have three beaks crow!” yelps the Cap in one of the most structurally fundamental pieces he’s done since The Spotlight Kid. Later on side one, he wreaks havoc upon his vocal chords in “Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat.” As a vocalist, he is underrated, the perils of eccentricity in this biz.
Captain Beefheart’s never been one for over-indulging in ten minute exorcisms and Ice Cream For Crow is no exception. All of the cuts are concise and to the heart. Straight to the bar, as some might say, and if that’s where Beef’s spent two years since Doc At The Radar Station, he’s made good use of a binge. Or, as he sings, “When the witch doctor life / throws his silent bones / Some are crowned king…,” his magical prowess works on many people far and wide. It has for a long time, and this album should be filed with Lou Reed’s Blue Mask: they’re both albums that could teach people like the Who how to be forty and still know how to booglarize us all, baby.