As I said a few reviews back, when it comes to Captain Beefheart, I’ve not been looking forward to the likes of this album and its follow-up – I’ve always had problems enjoying them, and as a colleague said, “no-one goes home, puts their feet up and plays ‘Trout Mask Replica’”.
That said, this one was a surprise actually, not quite the unlistenable dirge I was expecting. For the first side at least, you’ve got a pretty creative (if slightly avant-garde) blues album, with tracks like “Sure ‘Nuff Yes, I Do”, “Dropout Boogie” and “Electricity” pushing the boat out a bit, but not crazily, more than happy to channel Howlin’ Wolf and just be a bit visceral. Ry Cooder’s sumptuous slide guitar is key here, and damn it, he sounds good on here even when the pace mellows for doo-wop excursions like the gorgeous “I’m Glad”.
Side B is where it gets a bit more experimental, with the less accessible but still fun “Yellow Brick Road” and “Abba Zabba”, and by the time it ends with the weighty “Autumn’s Child” you’re kind of worn out by it all. Still, this combination of the Captain’s wild freeform sound and the constraints of a radio-friendly studio culture works quite nicely – like a muzzled panther it’s safe to approach but demands respectful caution just the same.