Song List

Disc 1 – Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970) [as original release]

Disc 2 – The Spotlight Kid (1971) [as original release]

Disc 3 – Clear Spot (1972) [as original release]

Disc 4 – Out-takes

1. Alice in Blunderland – Alternate Version
2. Harry Irene
3. I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam
4. Pompadour Swamp/Suction Prints
5. The Witch Doctor Life – Instrumental Take
6. Two Rips in a Haystack/Kiss Me My Love
7. Best Batch Yet – (Track) Version 1
8. Your Love Brought Me To Life – Instrumental
9. Dirty Blue Gene – Alternate Version 1
10. Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man – Early Mix
11. Kiss Where I Kain’t
12. Circumstances – Alternate Version 2
13. Little Scratch
14. Dirty Blue Gene – Alternate Version 3


Publicity Blurb

“This new four-disc collection revisits the albums Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) recorded with the Magic Band in the early Seventies — Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. It includes all three albums, which have been remastered for the first time, as well as a disc of unreleased material. “The fourth and final disc in SUN ZOOM SPARK includes 14 unreleased tracks and is a trove of alternate versions, rehearsals and outtakes from the sessions for The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. The disc reveals just how much some songs evolved before being released. Among the highlights are a sung-version of “I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam,” which became a spoken-word performance on Bat Chain Puller; a raucous, off-kilter version of “Dirty Blue Gene” that pointed the way to the final version on Doc at the Radar Station; and an instrumental rehearsal of “The Witch Doctor Life” that is nearly unrecognizable compared to the version heard on 1982’s Ice Cream For Crow.”


Radar Station Overview by Steve Froy

It’s great to see Beefheart get the full remastered box treatment especially when it’s three of his albums that seem to have been neglected over the years. None of them having a proper CD release. ‘Lick My Decals Off Baby‘ has been very difficult to find on CD due to the fallout from the Zappa/Herb Cohen legal wrangle. The short run issues on Enigma and Rhino still sell for top prices if they appear on the market. ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ and ‘Clear Spot‘ were released in 1990 as a poor two-on-one CD package but not in a remastered form.

What’s more this ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ package has the blessing of Jan Van Vliet which is good to hear. So this release carries a lot of expectations .. and that’s without mentioning the extra disc of outtakes.

However, along with those expectations I began to feel a few reservations. But first …

The Positives

So what do we have here ….. let’s look at the packaging first.

Stickers on the front say these sets are ‘limited’ but doesn’t say to what and the boxes are not numbered.

Both the CD and vinyl sets come in well made boxes illustrated with the 1970 painting ‘Bee Top’. The CD box hinges open to reveal the booklet, underneath which the four discs are nestled inside a depression with a red ribbon to pull them out. Each CD is packaged as a mini LP with the original artwork (as does the vinyl version) including the lyric sheet for ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ and the clear plastic cover for ‘Clear Spot‘ although this doesn’t have the embossed title on the flap. There is no lyric sheet for ‘Decals‘. They all have the tan Reprise label except for the outtakes album which has a black label. Also the vinyl outtakes album is the only one sealed with shrinkwrap. Its cover is based on another 1970 painting by Don called ‘Button Down Fashion Bow’. Overall a very handsome presentation.


The 20 page booklet contains lengthy notes by Rip Rense called “Captain Beefheart: The Sky Ran Down My Pencil”. In the first section he discusses Don’s creative processes with contributions from Elliot Ingber, Gary Lucas, Moris Tepper, Eric Drew Feldman and David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos). It’s well written, insightful and manages to avoid going over the same old cliches. The second part is a quick spin through the four discs putting them into context but in no great detail.

The booklet has some previously unseen photographs of Don and the band in the recording studio. Unfortunately they’re done as contact sheets and are quite small. A poem by Tom Waits about Don is also included.

But now to the meat of the matter.

It’s taken a while but at last we have three of Beefheart’s best loved albums, bright and shiny new from remastering … or at least they should be. Played next to my original vinyl copies I was disappointed as there is not a huge difference in sound. It’s certainly crisper and cleaner with more clarity in the top ranges and some deeper bass but does not have the opening up of the sound I’d expected. The biggest difference is with the CDs of ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ and ‘Clear Spot‘, compared to the weak sound of the 1990 two-on-one-disc version these are a revelation! Yes, you need these!

Update: Since writing this review I’ve listened to these discs further and realise I’ve been taken in by Rhino. My initial excitement over this release and wanting it to be good meant I was fooled by my first hearing and the comments I made about it are not justified. In fact, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot have only been minimally remastered if you can call making it louder ‘remastering’. Yes, it’s still a good set but the remastering claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.


And now we come to the fourth disc … a bunch of previously unreleased outtakes. Fans have known about these for years so it’s exciting to finally see (some of) them released here. These tracks are probably the main reason for many people buying this set. Let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer:

  • Alice in Blunderland – Alternate Version – not that different to the original released version although Elliot’s guitar seems to be mixed lower. Sadly it’s not the original very long jam that formed the basis of ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ track
  • Harry Irene – a finished track that narrowly missed getting released this is a lovely floating jazzy version that would be redone for ‘Bat Chain Puller‘ and ‘Shiny Beast‘. Showcases some of Don’s fine whistling
  • I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam – Don sings/recites against a basic backing of harmonica and John French tap-dancing, wonderfully simple
  • Pompadour Swamp/Suction Prints – this is a section from a 25 minute jam session that threw up a number of riffs that would resurface along the years as fully fledged songs. Known as ‘Pompadour Swamp’ in the early 1970s this was a show opener and would eventually morph into the full-tilt boogie of ‘Suction Prints’
  • The Witch Doctor Life – Instrumental Take – a bass, drums and guitar workout this was a survivor from the Brown Wrapper Sessions of 1967/68 and would finally emerge in a radically different form as the song on ‘Ice Cream For Crow
  • Two Rips in a Haystack/Kiss Me My Love – a slow love song with some nice marimba but overall, for me, it fails to really take-off
  • Best Batch Yet – (Track) Version 1 – a rough instrumental sketch of the formidable song that would eventually appear on 1980’s ‘Doc At The Radar Station
  • Your Love Brought Me To Life – Instrumental – another sketch which has some good guitar and marimba interplay with the drums moving in and out of the soundstage
  • Dirty Blue Gene – Alternate Version 1 – see comments on ‘Version 3’ below
  • Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man – Early Mix – a slightly different feel and a longer mix than the final cut on ‘Clear Spot’ with the horns given more prominence
  • Kiss Where I Kain’t – a tightly played backing track of what appears to be the old song ‘Frying Pan’ that could so easily be the 1965/66 Magic Band playing. A strange time warp sound compared to all the others on here
  • Circumstances – Alternate Version 2 – a slightly slower version that doesn’t quite have the same dynamics as the final cut but has a less produced feel (which I prefer) and a different ending
  • Little Scratch – a different version from that included on the 1999 anthology ‘The Dust Blows Forward‘. A jaunty little number that almost made it onto ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ and ‘Clear Spot‘. The tune would be recycled and used on the ‘Ice Cream For Crow‘ album as ‘The Past Sure Is Tense’.
  • Dirty Blue Gene – Alternate Version 3– this is another song that had its origins in the Brown Wrapper Sessions before being re-recorded a couple of times here (see also ‘Version 1’ above) before completely metamorphosing into the more familiar version with different lyrics on ‘Doc At The Radar Station‘. Both versions here clatter along at a helluva lick.

A fascinating collection of the new and almost familiar. It’s interesting to speculate how an album would have changed its character if some of these songs had been included while something we are very familiar with now had been left out.

For a comparison of these outtakes with the versions released on the bootleg 3CD Spotlight Kid Outtakes click here

Overall, four great albums, well presented. Quite simply this is a great package, and well worth getting. Or is it?

I could easily leave the review here … but there are a couple of issues that need to be addressed. So here are …

The Negatives

Why is there only one disc of outtakes?

Fourteen tracks lasting 46 minutes 41 seconds, enough for a well filled vinyl album. That seems rather paltry … and there were no extra tracks on the CD version. Why do I think it’s paltry? Well, as most fans will know there are at least five or six CDs worth of outtakes from this period that could have been used and that’s well over 70 odd tracks (if you include backing tracks)!

Where is the delightful ‘Well Well Well’ sung by Rockette Morton, the long slow version of ‘Circumstances’, the early instrumental of ‘Clear Spot’ and the fully-formed atmospheric ‘Funeral Hill’ to name a few? And, of course, the alternate versions of ‘Sun Zoom Spark’ … the box set has the same name after all!

Each of these three albums could have been released separately, each with a CD of outtakes, couldn’t they? Maybe the  other tracks are being held back for a another release later on. Let’s hope so!

Although the lengthy article in the booklet by Rip Rense is very good there is a gaping void at the heart of it. How come the musicians who played on these albums haven’t been interviewed? Fair enough that Elliot Ingber has contributed but what about Bill Harkleroad, Mark Boston, Art Tripp and John French? It doesn’t make sense not to have their input. They could have helped make sense of this particularly productive period and maybe thrown light on some of the outtakes. The Magic Band are also missing from the cover of the boxset and the outtakes album as both are credited just to ‘Captain Beefheart’.

I’m hoping their omission is not due to Jan continuing Don’s petty vendetta against these guys.

Some Beefheart fans have taken a rather militant stance against this release and are boycotting it. They say they will not buy it and recommend others boycott it too. This action is intended as an expression of solidarity and support for the Magic Band who have never been paid for their work on these albums and will see no money from this latest repackaging. I’m sure many would agree with the sentiment but Rhino are, of course, legally in the right. Their contracts will have been with Don (now his estate) and not with the guys in the band. Don wasn’t a great business man but he was canny enough to keep the band away from any contract that would give them money, and he also avoided giving them a writing or arranging credit even when it’s obvious that without them he’d have not been able to realise his musical visions.

Some people are quick to point out that without Don there would be no Magic Band so why should they get anything. That’s a fair point and perfectly true but those guys brought their musical chops to the table and made flesh the often strange ideas of the non-musician Don. Without the Magic Band there would only be the Tragic Band … and who would want a disc of those outtakes?

It’s a pity that Rhino haven’t gone down the same moral and ethical route taken by Revenant whose ‘Grow Fins‘ was a superb boxset and an example of how to present outtakes. Revenant were able to pay all the Magic Band members involved some money from the proceeds of the sales. But then they’re not a corporate business exploiting their assets for shareholder profit are they?

At least Jan will be getting monies from copies sold even if the band aren’t … and that’s a reason to be buying it, isn’t it?

Final Verdict

‘Sun Zoom Spark’ is what it is. An excellent package of three remastered albums with a great bonus disc of outtakes previously unheard in such good quality. But I can’t help thinking though, despite how good it is, that this has been a missed opportunity. It could so easily have been something more … something really special.


2014 4 CD – Rhino R2 541728 0349790555

2014 4 Vinyl – Rhino  8122795862


  1. Slight goof!


    Alice in Blunderland – Alternate Version – not that different to the original released version although Elliot’s guitar seems to be mixed lower. Sadly it’s not the original very long jam that formed the basis of the ‘Clear Spot‘ track

    1. Author

      Thanks for spotting that … I missed it … too many ‘spots’ before the eyes!

  2. who did the remastering and where?

    1. Author

      Remastered by Dan Hersch at D2 Mastering Los Angeles.

      ‘Outtakes’ was mixed by Brian Kehew at Timeless Studio, North Hollywood

  3. Excellent, well-balanced review, Steve. I gotta say, I think people are acting on the hysterical side about this release: who gets paid, minor quibbles, etcetera. One is talking about a Corporate Behemoth here, we should be thankful for anything. And that Jan was up for it.

  4. I do think there is something troubling about this release, but it took me a little while to understand why I felt a little queasy about it. I had read John French’s complaints about it and felt that, yes, although the ethical thing to do would have been to arrange for some sort of payment for the MB members, the contracts are what they are and that’s that. I absolutely understand where French is coming from. What is more troubling to me is that the box not only denies them payment – it tries hard to deny them credit.

    The mere fact that it is credited to “Captain Beefheart” as opposed to the credit that appears on two of the four CDs here tells you a little about the attitude on display here. I agree that Rense’s text does a good job of avoiding the usual cliches, but it also strikes me as terribly condescending to the people who worked and played on the enclosed albums.

    “All him” Rense writes, repeating a quote from David Hidalgo. Why is Hidalgo here as opposed to Harkleroad, Morton, French, et al? Because what they have to say would clash terribly with the religious hagiography Rense is eager to paint here. Any ugliness in the portrait is to be avoided. What we have here is an attempt to backtrack to the idea of Beefheart as the lone artist from whom everything flowed. Just in case you’d heard any of those stories from Harkleroad and French’s books, Rense wants you to know that “some of the endless ‘tall tales’ of working with Don are worthy of Rod Serling.” This strikes me as extraordinarily condescending to the musicians who worked so hard and undeniably suffered not so much for their art but for Don’s.

    It’s this idea that The Magic Band represented on these discs are merely appendages to Van Vliet’s muse (an idea I thought we’d long ago put to rest), the idea that they don’t even deserve a seat at the table where this box is concerned, that makes me upset. It’s a bit of a whitewash and why it’s been done isn’t for me to say. I just think it constitutes very shabby treatment and adds insult to the injuries some of these artists have already had to deal with.

    1. Author

      Yes, I quite agree with you. We’re almost back to the same attitude displayed when John French wasn’t even acknowledged as a band member on Trout Mask Replica.

  5. I won’t be buying it…. I wish Jan would have had
    input from The musicians on the Albums and added things she might have from that period ie rehearsal
    tapes poems etc…..These much more on youtube that
    is more interesting than these outakes……


  6. i really dont see how jan can be held responsible, if she stayed with him till the end she loved the man dearly and only ever saw his point of view (which we all know to be that he is the sole creator of magic band output) as previously stated this will boil down to contracts and credits from the initial recordings. as sad as this is thats just how the music industry goes and while i support french (solo, side projects, author…) i will still buy anything new* that is beefheart. with this set i get decals and a demo/outtake record and for that alone i am happy to own this release. i am sad however, that the contributing artists get no royalties (and very sad that i now own 3 copies of spotlight/clear spot).

    this is just the way that beefheart releases will be and as a fan who simply cant get enough, i just cant boycott something so desirable in a very quiet market.

  7. I think the mastering of this set is horrible and it smacks of ignorance to claim that it’s a “revelation” and an essential purchase. The source material is exactly the same as the old discs only they have heavily compressed the signal and brightened up the treble. They sound ugly and they have the life squeezed out of them. Dynamic range meters show that these discs are 5 points less dynamic than the originals. So no, they are not an essential purchase – far from it – unless you are a fan of the loudness wars. If the original discs are too “weak” for you, try turning up the volume.

  8. Though I understand both sides of the arguments discussed above and elsewhere, I’ll be buying this box-set regardless of the controversy…for a couple of decades now, I’ve been quietly and patiently waiting for a ‘legitimate’ version of ‘…Decals…’ to appear on CD (on CD!) that I can have in my home and call my own…

  9. “The biggest difference is with the CDs of ‘The Spotlight Kid‘ and ‘Clear Spot‘, compared to the weak sound of the 1990 two-on-one-disc version these are a revelation! Yes, you need these!”

    I’m not impressed with the sound. Yes, the new discs are louder than the old CDs. But when I listened side-by-side with the volume adjusted, the new discs weren’t “revelatory” to my ears. A dynamic range comparison seems to bear this out.

    ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ old:11 new:8
    ‘The Spotlight Kid’ old:11 new:9
    ‘Clear Spot’ old:13 new:10

    I also have the two-on-one-disc version.

  10. As far as the remastering of these 3 most requisite albums, if you don’t own them, the new CDs sound pleasant and have nice clarity. If you already own the originally released CDs, the question about purchasing this new set is murky at best.

    Like most modern remasters, the new discs are louder and compressed, with less dynamic range than the originals. Many folks believe the original Spotlight a bit muddy, and perceive the new disc to be more revealing. Others found the sound of the original Clear Spot to be a tad fragile. Maybe. But the sound of the original twofer is not shabby.

    The new Decals has a fine sound, but in no way should it motivate anyone lucky enough to own the original Enigma disc to “upgrade”. The original is a superb mix, with superior dynamics and balance. Of course, these are rather rare, and given that Decals has long been unavailable on digital disc, I wouldn’t hesitate to snag the new one if you don’t got it.

    This material is grade A Beefheart. Personally, I consider a couple of these albums to be his best. If you don’t got them, it’s a great set. But if you do got them already, don’t feel pressured.

  11. There’s nothing stopping people who would like the Magic Band members to receive some money from this release from giving some to them, is there? No doubt some of you bought the release quite a bit cheaper that the $51 that Amazon are charging, I see that some CD retailers are asking a mere $30 – how about contributing the difference to a Magic Band fund if this is something you feel very strongly about (as often people do about how others should distribute their wealth…)

  12. Bill ‘Zoot Horn Rollo’ Harkleroad wrote in ‘Lunar Notes’ about how disappointed he was with the mix of ‘Spotlight Kid’: he thought that the band had been set too far back and Don’s vocals and particularly his harmonica too far forward. Has this been changed in the new issue? Was Bill justified in his view?

    1. A lot of the albums are mixed that way. Beefheart neophytes have often commented to me: “That vocal is too loud!” At this point I’m fine with the mixes, but hope the new SPOTLIGHT has been mastered better. I’m awaiting the vinyl set as a birthday gift.

      1. Thanks, Dino. I wonder how much input Don had into ensuring that his vocal was well to the fore?

  13. Wonderful job Steve and thank you. I may consider lifting my boycott. Perhaps the powers that be should consult w/you before wrapping up further projects. As far as Jan goes, wasn’t she there the entire time, at least during the Trout Mask days? She should know what went down and what didn’t. I think it would be very interesting to hear her side.

  14. All in all I am happy with collection. I do wish it had more of the unreleased stuff. I have read most of what John French and other band members have written about working with Don but as a friend of mine said “They bitch and moan but would work for him and Zappa again and again” I know that the band members had great input for the wonderful music that was made but without the “Beefheart” myth a lot may not have ever been heard by us.

  15. In terms of making comparisons, I no longer have my old original vinyl (first UK presses of Spotlight & Clear, early German press of Decals) but the new Spotlight here just sounds clearer to my ears than the digital versions I’ve had. I don’t use waveform analysis to make up my mind, just my ears, and all of this sounds like an improvement to me. I understand the loudness argument, but if I turn up my previous versions to the same volume they still don’t sound the same as these. Not so much of a difference in Clear Spot, which always sounded pretty good to me, but Spotlight Kid sounds (as has been said) clearer. Not “louder” – clearer. So – better. I appreciate and enjoy this album more now than I ever did. The clarity helps to lighten what was always a bit of a dark and downer work.
    But Decals – this remains a mystery to me. My original vinyl had a punch that was totally lost on the Rhino CD (which I also had, and was grievously disappointed by). I’ve found various digital versions over the years, including lossless rips of the original US album, but none seems to have that impact I remember from my vinyl, so there are two possibilities – that German pressing was [i]les bolloques du chien[/i], or, I can’t remember a damn thing any more. This version of Decals is better than any other digital version I’ve heard, though.
    The rarities/ottakes disc is absolutely baffling. We all know (and probably own) the bootleg outtakes, so we know what’s there, and it’s not here. This is a very skinny and seemingly haphazard sample of the complete unissued sessions. Funeral Hill is just one very obvious missing song – a completed song, or as near as we know, and it ain’t here. And the version of Little Scratch on The Dust Blows is the one to have, Shirley? What there is, is nice, but this disc screams missed opportunity.

  16. Record companies often use the word “remastered” with out stating what the source was. My feeling about this set is that they simply were not remastered from the original mixdown tapes, and came from CD masters of some kind which were already EQ’d, compressed, or whatever. Furhter processing has then been applied and the ‘original’ signal further corrupted.
    We got duped again !

  17. A little early, but I must chime in. I got the vinyl set for Christmas. First, the platters are surprisingly crackly – more surface noise and tics than I expected. I played Spotlight first because I’ve never found a version that sounded clean to me: Side One had stronger bass and marimba, but still sounded way too muddy; not significantly cleaner than the original. Side Two was quite different – very clean and dynamic. I’m wondering if it’s because these songs are in general louder and more robust, while Side One is more laid back? (That doesn’t explain Alice, though.) Clear Spot has always sounded great to me, and so does this pressing. Loved hearing the “clean” outtakes disk, though I also bemoan the missing FUNERAL HILL and others. I have not played DECALS because I have a brilliant English pressing AND the Enigma CD, but I’m looking forward to it. Anybody else notice the noisy pressing? (I’ll get the CD set eventually.)

    1. Thanks, Dino. It does sound as if this edition of Spotlight Kid is at least in part an improvement on the original pressing.

      1. Playing the vinyl DECALS right now. Much cleaner pressing than the others. Gotta say, it sounds GREAT! Perhaps just a PINCH more clarity overall, but I’d be totally happy to own this version exclusively. I can’t speak to the CD because nowadays vinyl is how I roll. What an amazing album! And honestly, I can’t detect ANY Loudness Wars jiggery pokery.

  18. For me, I’m afraid I cannot comment on remasters vs original discs, as quite simply, I own nothing whatsoever by Captain Beefheart! Is this release the best place to start?

    1. You’re probably better going with “The Dust Blows Forward” boxed-set as a newbie to The Cap’n and his works. There’s more of a cross section of his entire history.

    2. That’s a tough one. TROUT MASK REPLICA is a pretty good litmus test – it takes a while to “get it” but once there, you never go back. Others think CLEAR SPOT is a better starting point, but those people tend to avoid the difficult masterworks once they get used to “Accessible Captain”. DUST makes for a nice career arc and would get you into the wilder stuff a little at a time, but I personally think artists should be experienced in album form first, the way they intended to be heard. One final idea is SAFE AS MILK, which alternates between accessible and difficult but is a record most people really enjoy, and also has the benefit of being Album 1 of the Canon.

  19. Musically I think it’s a great set. Nice to get an ‘official’ CD of Decals (my previous one was transposed from the LP) and also nice to get the outtakes. I’m not as picky as some of you on the sound front as I was delighted with the overall quality.
    What I’m surprised about is that (unless I’ve missed it) no-one’s mentioned value for money. At under £25 from Amazon it’s a reasonable price per disc – especially if you don’t already have Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid.
    Personally, I’d have preferred the box to be standard CD dimensions. It’s a pretty package but like many people with large collections, space is at a premium.
    Oh, and thanks for the in-depth review, Steve.

  20. I bought my set from Amazon using a gift certificate given to me by my daughter for my 56th birthday (January 3rd). It arrived on January 15th, Don’s 74th birthday. Nice!! I love the box, it’s a handsomely done item and well appointed. The CDs look great too. I did notice the cardboard was starting to come apart a bit at the top of the “Lick” CD when I attempted to pull the CD out of the cover. Note to self (and all of you as well): Don’t stick your fingers into the opening of the CD covers. It’s insanely easy to split the glued seam at the top. Instead, hold it at the top and bottom and shake the disc out. Works for me! Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the sound quality of the discs, as my hearing has deteriorated over the years due to Menieres disease. I can still hear the music OK, but it’s nowhere close to clear and any nuances that may be present are lost to me. All I can tell you is I love owning this box set and have enjoyed listening to the outtakes disc a LOT. I’ve read about all the other outtakes available from this period, some 6 discs worth, but have never heard them. Guess I’ll have to start poking around to find them so I can hear them before I can’t anymore. Maybe a boxed set will materialize at some point containing those outtakes. I truly hope so. At any rate, my opinion is that any self-respecting fan of Captain Beefheart ought to own this set, if only for the outtakes. That in itself it worth the price of admission.

  21. I just purchased this set in vinyl format and think it is wonderful. Full disclaimer: I’m no audiophile and the gear I’m listening on is nearly as old as the actual music. But it sounds great to me. “Decals” sounds a tad muted to me. compared with the others, but then I hadn’t listened to that album for forty years.

    On the subject of credit to the band members, I do wish they had been mentioned on the materials included but I suspect there was a “good” reason for not doing so. Adding their names to the package might have opened up the producers of this set to legal claims.

    As far as Magic Band members deserving some sort of financial remuneration for this product, I’m afraid I find the argument specious, if not naive. And the argument comes about 40 years too late. It would have been nice, and, fair, to be sure. But I believe the owner(s) of this material have no legal obligation to the band members. Do I wish they would have somehow been included here? Yes.

    It occurred to me, in a somewhat cynical moment; do you suppose van Vliet referred to the band members on the album covers only by the creative pseudonyms he applied to them so that they would never be able to lay any claim, creative or financial, to his work?
    Probably not, but it’s interesting to contemplate.

    1. Not sure how deliberately the change of names was done to deny credit to John French, Jeff Cotton, Bill Harkleroad, Mark Boston, Art Tripp, Elliott Ingber and all the others, but I think the motivation was to make it appear that Don Vliet was the genius puppet-master and the musicians were merely dancing to his ‘compositions’ – which he repeatedly claimed he wrote unaided in unbelievably short periods of time.

    2. Bill’s guitar on DECALS does have a somewhat “muted” quality – very unusual, and a sound I’ve never been able to replicate. When I got to meet Elliott Ingber, and I asked him if he knew how Bill did it, he replied that Bill was using a Silvertone amp; but John French said the Silvertone was only used for rehearsals. However he did it, I think it’s an amazing sound – kind of growly and roiling, not sharp like shattered glass (the two guitar instrumentals have much more high-end, however.)

  22. I should add, in case of misunderstanding, that in a fair world, wouldn’t if have been good if Mrs. Van Vliet had told those in charge of this production ” Let’s have any proceeds this set might generate benefit the guys who helped my husband realize his music. I can get by on the other royalties as well as sales of his art works.”

    In a fair world…..

  23. I’m a fan of Captain Beefheart from Spain and, sadly, finding any of his works on record stores is nothing but a miracle (although I did manage to find ‘Trout Mask Replica’ somehow by pure luck).

    My question is: Is this boxset worth buying? I would love to get these albums, but the thought of the Magic Band not getting any money from it bothers me a lot. Besides, the import costs are not really helping to my decision.


    1. Flakes, buy it if you haven’t already. You need this. I have the CD version. I may buy the Lp version now. It’s fabulous!

  24. To me the Decalls vinyl sounds better then the latest vinyl re-issues (with the straight label), these ones have the reprise labels printed. And sound clearer then the (awfully) mudded straight re-releases, so i’m quite happy.
    The trout mask rerelease (red and black vinyl), also have the mudded sound. Until i recently found a ’77 USA pressing of Trout which sounds amazing!

  25. I discovered this set online last week. It arrived yesterday via Amazon. I got it along with Shiny Beast and Bongo Fury. I wish I could post a picture here. Amazon has its own delivery service and the delivery person takes a photo of the package when left on the doorstep and it is then posted to the order status page online as proof of delivery. The shadow of the dude who delivered it made it into the photo and it looked just like Beefheart on the Bongo Fury album cover, wacky hat and everything! I couldn’t believe it. I am now suspicious Don faked his death and is delivering packages of his music for Amazon. Anyhow, I’ve been on a serious Cap’n kick for the past month or so. First got into Beefheart around 20 years ago with Dust Blows Forward and Trout Mask. Now it’s time to get all the stuff I was missing. Also picked up the Grow Fins box. I haven’t delved into it very much yet. I just ordered the two “clunkers” from 1974, which should be arriving soon. I will probably like some of that stuff. I do like a less discombobulated Cap’n. But I especially enjoy it when the songs are creepy and strange. Ashtray Heart is my #1. I love watching the two Saturday Night Live performances and playing them for people who don’t know the Cap’n. They stare flabbergasted at the screen in a most entertaining way. When I watch, I can’t help but dwell on the fact that in just two weeks, John Lennon would be murdered. If you are able to (link below), watch the Weekend Update from that very Beefheart SNL episode (11/22/80). Malcolm McDowell, who was the host that night, actually plays John Lennon in a skit. He said he felt terrible about it after John’s death until hearing from people that John & Yoko watched and enjoyed the sketch.—john-lennon-and-yoko-ono/n8692

    1. Author

      It’s a good set to buy if you’re just starting out collecting Beefheart albums. Ah, the joys of hearing new Beefheart music for the first time!!

  26. I got the set for the outtakes, too. A real treat to finally hear some of these fantastic recordings properly mixed in such high quality! Nice job indeed. But yeah, “Funeral Hill” is inexcusably missing, among others…

    It’s interesting that no one here seems to have compared the “Out-Takes” disc to the “Spotlight Kid Outtakes” set to see how much completely new stuff actually is on here. So I just did it.

    Of course, these are all new mixes, with much better sound quality and different instrument placement/emphasis, and mostly much less reverb than on SKO. I just wanted to know which of these recordings are the same basic performances that were previously available. If I’m wrong on any of these, feel free to correct me! So here it goes:

    01. Alice In Blunderland (Alternate Version)
    Same as SKO 3-14, the but guitar solo is audible here.

    02. Harry Irene
    NOT same as SKO 1-07, but a completely different take! Neat!

    03. I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This / Seam Crooked Sam
    Same as SKO 1-02, but beginning and ending are shortened here.

    04. Pompadour Swamp / Suction Prints
    Starts out with the beginning of take 1 (SKO 2-01), but has MANY edits throughout the session tape (0:08-0:58, 1:41-…) thus creating a new, more “compact” version.

    05. The Witch Doctor Life (Instrumental Take)
    Same as SKO 3-03, but with intro and well over a minute longer at the end!

    06. Two Rips In A Haystack / Kiss Me My Love
    Same as SKO 1-05, some new chat at the beginning.

    07. Best Batch Yet (Track – Version 1)
    Same as SKO 3-16.

    08. Your Love Brought Me To Life (Instrumental)
    Same as SKO 3-09, but the breakdown between the two takes has been edited out (2:17-3:26), thus creating one complete continuous version. Plus some additional chat at the beginning.

    09. Dirty Blue Gene (Alternate Version 1)
    Same basic guitar track as SKO 1-03, but a completely different vocal/harmonica track.

    10. Nowadays A Woman’s Gotta Hit A Man (Early Mix)
    Previously unreleased.

    11. Kiss Where I Kain’t
    Previously unreleased.

    12. Circumstances (Alternate Version 2)
    Previously unreleased. (NOT the same as SKO 1-13)

    13. Little Scratch
    Same as SKO 1-17.

    14. Dirty Blue Gene (Alternate Version 3)
    Same as SKO 3-17.

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