Record of the Day: Captain Beefheart, "Trout Mask Replica"

Record of the Day: Captain Beefheart, “Trout Mask Replica”

Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
Trout Mask Replica (Cd Reprise B005JA8)

Painter, poet, singer, author, writer, performer: Don Van Vliet, nicknamed Captain Beefheart by his friend Frank
Zappa, it's all this and more. One of the most singular and creative figures on the music scene, Beefheart is known to the general public for his participation in historic Zappa albums such as “Hot Rats” and “Bongo Fury”, but his solo production has
immediately reached a number of fans willing to follow the Captain in any stylistic direction, however strange it may be.

His very powerful and rough voice mainly pays homage to the style of bluesmen such as Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson, but the context in which Van Vliet places these stylistic references is absolutely original and personal. Surreal poetic pieces recited such as “The Dust Blows Forward 'n The Dust Blows Back” alternate with pages such as “Dachau Blues”, “China Pig”, “Pachuco Cadaver”, mixed with electric flashes and distortion, where one has the opportunity to appreciate the singular skill of the band that accompanies Beefheart in these pieces.

The totally unconventional guitars of Zoot Horn Rollo and Antennae Jimmy Semens and the crazy rhythm section of Rockette
Morton (bass) and the Mascara Snake/Drumbo (drums) are the ideal support for Beefheart's delirious vocal explorations, full of verbal games and oblique poetic references often hinged on the phonic value of the words as well as on their meaning, as in the very strange ” Neon Meat Dream of an Octafish” and “Hair Pie”.
His version of “Moonlight in Vermont” is also completely absurd, twisted beyond limits, but always with that singular sense of humor that runs through the entire album and allows Beefheart to observe reality with a caustic and at the same time passionate gaze.

Zappa himself produced the album by recording it at his home and recounted in numerous anecdotes the difficulties he encountered in accommodating Don's bizarre character, from the request to cover the drum cymbals with pieces of cardboard to the request for over 30 rattles to use in the studio.
There are many quality records made by this artist subsequently, but “Trout Mask Replica”, from 1969, remains his masterpiece, indispensable for understanding his artistic personality.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.