Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band – The Legendary A&M Sessions

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Before Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) embarked on a career of mind altering avant-garde expressionism, he was singing blues and playing music that was practically about as straight forward as they come. This 11 minute EP showcases the singer, and multi-instrumentalist on the verge of something significant, even if he and The Magic Band failed to register on the commercial compass. His cover of Bo Diddley and Willie Dixon’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” proves that some white boys can sound black, and Van Vliet’s own interpretation is a pearler, an alligator infested swamp of a tune with strong echoes of Howlin’ Wolf. It’s a great song, and a classic slice of mid-60’s blues-rock.

“Who Do You Think You’re Fooling”, one of three Van Vliet originals, is a decent stab at pop-rock, and the b-side to “Diddy Wah Diddy”, while “Frying Pan” and “Here I Am I Always Am” are also quality artefacts of the time, with Beefheart sounding a whole lot older than he really was, however it is likely the David Gates (who also produced these sessions) written bluesy, somewhat psychedelic “Moon Child”, will attract the most attention by long time fans, as it is the only song on here which offers some insight into Van Vliet’s future direction.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band were one of the few blues-rock groups capable of competing with The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds in terms of sheer grit and authenticity in their playing. Van Vliet also had a voice that could easily have blown Mick Jagger right off the stage any day of the week. The only problem being that Beefheart was too weird, too experimental for the mainstream, which meant that despite what the critics were saying, the general public simply weren’t buying.