Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band-The Mirror Man Sessions (1967/1971/1999)

"Originally, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band's second album was intended to be a double-album set called "It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper." Although 1968's Strictly Personal has the same artwork that was mooted for the double album, it's a single disc. As part of the same post-Trout Mask Replica closet-cleaning that led to Buddah (the parent company of Blue Thumb Records, which released Strictly Personal) reissuing Safe As Milk as Dropout Boogie in the U.K. in 1970, the label released Mirror Man, the second disc that was intended for the Plain Brown Wrapper release. Recorded in November 1967 (an odd misprint on the sleeve claims it was recorded in 1965, when the band barely existed), the four lengthy tracks on Mirror Man are even more simplistic and primal than those on Strictly Personal. All four are worthwhile, but the key tracks are "Tarotplane Blues," a free-form jam in which Beefheart jumbles together the lyrics of at least half a dozen blues standards into a stream-of-consciousness ramble (adding musette and harmonica for good measure) as the Magic Band vamps on a slide guitar-based, two-chord groove for over 19 minutes, and the similarly expansive "Mirror Man," one of the key tracks of Beefheart's entire career. Probably the catchiest tune Beefheart ever wrote, "Mirror Man" has an almost funky, hip-swaying groove, and there's a playful lightness to the way Beefheart chants the simplistic lyrics that prefigures the flights of fancy on Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals off, Baby. The remaining two tracks, "25th Century Quaker" and "Kandy Korn," are less essential but interesting enough. The revitalized and properly spelled Buddha Records reissued an expanded version of this album in 1999 as The Mirror Man Sessions, adding five alternate takes of songs that later appeared on Strictly Personal. "

Beefheart's output between his debut "Safe as Milk" (probably my favorite album and available HERE courtesy of Alex over at Glowing Raw-RECOMMENDED) and the landmark insanity of Trout Mask Replica causes mass confusion. When "It Comes to You in a Brown Paper Bag" was scrapped by the label, many of the tracks disappeared while some ended up on the subsequent album "Strictly Personal," which feature strange phaser effects that Beefheart did not want and were added without his knowledge. Which brings us back the Mirror Man sessions. Essentially, all tracks are the original "Brown Paper Bag" takes before some of the songs ended up on "Strictly Personal."And let me tell you, it's that fat blues production you would totally want it to have and not the thin weak-kneed phased out junk in comparison. All you need to know is that these are some grooving weirdo blues like only Captain Beefheart himself can deliver. His backing band is amazing. Great fucking record.

Mirror Man!

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