For the last 25 years of his life, Don Glen Vliet, 1941-2010, was a noted expressionist painter and sculptor whose works are now highly collectable and very valuable. From 1964-1982 he was known as Captain Beefheart and was one of the more avant-garde musicians to ever grace rock music.
He formed his Magic band in 1964 and their 1969 album, Trout Mask Replica, was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Albums Of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. His music was almost free form in style, combining elements of rock & roll, jazz, classical, and blues. It all added up to a form of music that explored the outer edges of rock and of music itself. Today he is recognized as an innovator who influenced punk, new wave, and many types of experimental rock. His problem at the time was his music was well outside the mainstream and had little commercial viability. Due to his over bearing nature and the lack of success, his whole band quit during the mid-1970’s.
When he arrived at Le Nouvel Hippodrome at the Paris Sorbonne University, November 19, 1977, he had formed a brand new Magic Band consisting of bassist/keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman, guitarist Denny Walley, guitarist Jeff Morris Tepper, and drummer Robert Williams. Beefheart provides the vocals, saxophone, and Chinese gongs.
The Captain Beefheart sound in concert is somewhat different from their studio albums. There are no layering or studio tricks. The music moves toward the mainstream and the use of two guitars provides a rock foundation. Vliet’s vocals are always an adventure and they remain inside and outside accepted norms.
The performance is presented complete and extends over two discs. The songs are drawn from many of his studio albums are well-known, at least to Captain Beefheart fans. “A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond,” “China Pig,” “Bat Chain Puller,” “The Dust Blows Forward And The Dust Blows Back,” and the immortal “Big Eyed Beans From Venus” all emerge with new textures and interpretations.
The music of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, whether in the studio or alive on stage, is always an adventure and is not for the unadventurous soul.
Somewhere Over Paris 1977 is a good look at the second incarnation of the Magic Band. It will not appeal to many music fans because of its eclectic nature but for followers of “The Captain,” it is a welcome addition to his musical legacy.