Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band-It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper (1972/2008)

"The high-def vinyl, 2-LP set that is It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper was, in its original form, the blues-on-blues followup to Don Van Vliet and his mangy merrie men’s Safe as Milk debut. What it wound up as, in 1968, was the gutted-not-gutbucket Strictly Personal – a much despised item that got noodled and re-edited by Blue Thumb (Beef’s then label) to include cutesy psychedelic sound FX and other clichéd oddities.

Don’t get me wrong. As it stands, Strictly Personal is downright creepy. Not Trout Mask Replica odd/majestic; filled with mean gnarly blues and fragrant angled instrumentation (to say nothing of Beefheart’s Dada lyricism and crusty howl) it’s almost what the Captain ordered.

But what Beefheart really wanted as his second album was what fills the inside of this Sundazed package, featuring stunning cover art from Zappa/Straight Records house painter/collage maven Cal Schenkel. Here is the unadorned by echo-phase-outs and pop-psychedelic panning raw powered purity (if being swampy and skuzzy has that essence) of “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and the menacing free “Beatle Bones ’n’ Smokin' Stones Pt. 1 & 2.” While the rangier of versions of “Safe as Milk” here outshine the Magic Band’s first crack at lyrics like “Yesterday’s paper headlines approach rain gutter teasing rusty cat sneezing/ Soppin wet hammer dusty and wheezing,” hearing Beefheart tear holes into the lustful “Big Black Baby Shoes” and a frightening “Trust Us” is worth the new price of admission."

If "Strictly Personal" sounds a little too tinny and flanged out to you, this is your calling. Fat and bluesy, it's everything I love about early Beefheart. And that harmonica playing! Goddamn. This serves as a pretty good introduction if you're uninitiated but it's not his best. But that doesn't really matter. I mean, it's Beefheart.Those of who who gobble this stuff up should know what to do.

Trust us


* * e d o * * said...

Holy shit! this version of the album rules...thanks much!!

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

I agree with Edo. It's pretty darned phenomenal!