The World of Captain Beefheart is a comprehensive overview of the man also known as Don van Vliet’s towering legacy, re-imagined and infused with new blood by vocalist extraordinaire Nona Hendryx and avant-guitar legend Gary Lucas; this pair starred in a symphonic Beefheart Tribute with Amsterdam’s famed 65-piece Metropole Orchestra at the Paradiso a few years ago. The album was co-produced by Gary and Jess Krakow, recorded at Eastside Sound in NYC. The World of Captain Beefheart is being released by Knitting Factory Records on November 10.
The World of Captain Beefheart strikes a fine balance between the more bluesy and groove-accessible songs in the good Captain’s oeuvre and the more extreme, darker and weirder side.
The former is well represented by “Sun Zoom Spark” and “Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles” from Beefheart’s 1973 Clear Spot album, “Too Much Time” and “When It Blows Its Stacks” from 1972’s The Spotlight Kid, “Sure ’Nuff ’n Yes I Do” and “I’m Glad" from Safe as Milk, and “Tropical Hot Dog Night” from 1977’s Shiny Beast. The latter is explored via “When Big Joan Sets Up” and “Sugar ’n Spikes” from 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, and “The Smithsonian Institute Blues” from 1970’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby.
Nona Hendryx is a longtime fierce admirer of Don Van Vliet's music, and possesses the huge voice and the commanding stage presence necessary to do full justice to repertoire that originally featured Beefheart’s unforgettable multi-octave voice. All though she’s best known as a funk/soul great thanks to her long tenure with international hitmakers Labelle (as well as the group’s antecedent, Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles) as well as her own excellent R&B-rooted solo outing but is no stranger to experimental, rock territory having been featured as guest vocalist with cutting-edge ensembles including Talking Heads, Bil Laswell’s Material, and Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods.
Gary Lucas first made his mark as an incendiary, visionary guitar player on the final last two Beefheart albums, Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982). A world-renowned instrumentalist and Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer, Gary has released over 30 acclaimed albums in a variety of genres—including last year’s tribute to the soundtracks to Max Fleischer’s cartoons: “Gary Lucas’ FLEISCHEREI”— which was chosen as one of the Best Albums of the Year by DownBeat.
Ably supporting these two are expert practitioners of Beefheartian derring-do Jesse Krakow on bass and Richard Dworkin on drums--both veterans of Fast ’N Bulbous, Lucas’ free-jazz instrumental outfit that specializes in repertoire from the Van Vliet canon. Completing the is keyboardist Jordan Shapiro, who’s played with Gary in his long-running avant-rock crew, Gods and Monsters.
Don Van Vliet a/k/a Captain Beefheart has been provoking and enchanting music lovers since 1966, emerging full-blown out of the High Mojave Desert with a rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” which earned him an appearance cavorting in surf on ABC’s “Where the Action Is” and an on-air interview via phone with Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” while the kids dutifully boogied to this intense blues-rock blast.
In the years that followed, Captain Beefheart achieved worldwide notoriety as one of the most singular voices and uncompromising composers in relatively popular music, a trail-blazing maverick genius who single-handedly changed the face of music as we know it via a series of ground-breaking albums with a series of Magic Band line-ups starting with 1967’s “Safe as Milk” and finishing with 1982’s “Ice Cream for Crow.” His music combined Delta blues, free-jazz, and proto-punk rock with surrealist imagery, ecological obsession, and the highest and airiest of wit. It was a unique and unforgettable sound which proved highly influential on the first wave of punk and new-wave pioneers including John “Rotten” Lydon, Joe Strummer of the Clash , and Talking Heads’ David Byrne as well as seminal artists such as David Lynch, Laurie Anderson, Ed Ruscha, Woody Allen, Julian Schnabel, and Matt Groening. On stage and on record, Don Van Vliet explored musical and lyrical territory never before charted in the confines of a traditional electric band line-up.
He retired after releasing 13 astonishing albums to concentrate on painting. Van Vliet's tragic passing in 2010 (from complications of MS) saw him eulogized the New York Times editorial pages.
Yet, to this day, Don Van Vliet remains a cult hero, relatively unknown in mainstream circles. If any album is able to change that it’s The World of Captain Beefheart.
Fri 4 May Liverpool - The Philharmonic
Sat 5 May Newcastle - The Cluny
Sun 6 May Glasgow - Saint Luke's
Tue 8 May Egremont - Florence Arts Centre
Thu 10 May Wrexham - FOCUS Wales 2018
Fri 11 May Ramsgate - Ramsgate Music Hall
Sun 13 May Colchester - Colchester Arts Centre
Mon 14 May London - Bush Hall
Tue 15 May Exeter - Exeter Phoenix
Thu 17 May Newbury - Arlington Arts Centre
Sat 19 May Corsham - The Pound Arts Centre
Sun 20 May Bristol - The Fleece