captain Beefheart parisCaptain Beefheart - and the night that people danced to "Floppy Boot Stomp" and got rowdy during a composition about dust...

 Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band Live From Paris 1977
Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
Gonzo Multimedia
CD 1: 13 tracks / 43:33 CD2: 13 tracks / 45:50

It's been four years since the Captain took his final journey but Beefheart fans still hope for musical rarities to emerge from time to time. This time it's Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band Live From Paris 1977. Although the sound quality might give you flash-backs to those days when you'd sit in the audience with that microphone hidden in a Styrofoam cup while you taped the show, it's still a fairly complete experience, and the set-list is wonderful.

Performing songs spanning almost all of his career (but bypassing the strange pop experiments of the Mercury label albums), this version of the Magic Band faithfully renders everything from the bluesy "China Pig" to the hard core avant-punk of "Bat Chain Puller," and everything in between. The Captain himself (a.k.a. Don Van Vliet) is in good form and in a fairly amiable mood. It can be argued, or at least speculated upon, about how much of his persona was genuine and how much was the artist just playing his audience, but there's no denying that the man was uniquely gifted at the art of mesmerizing a crowd with his mix of blues, free jazz, rock and avant garde theater. On this particular night, Beefheart (who I sometimes think of as the David Lynch of rock) was in a good mood and at the top of his form.

Audiophiles might want to run away from this decidedly low-fi, crudely-edited audience recording, but those scrambling for any Beefheart they can get will revel in a live show that contains such gems (The Captain always refers to them as 'compositions') as "Dali's Car," "Abba Zabba," "My Human Gets Me Blues," "Pachuco Cadaver," "Veteran's Day Poppy," "Big Eyed Beans From Venus," and more. Reaching back to a spoken-word piece from Trout Mask Replica, Beefheart performs "The Dust Blows Forward and The Dust Blows Back," to the increasingly more vocal audience – whether the crowd volume was due to enthusiasm or confusion isn't quite clear but does sound a bit frightening...

Eric Drew Feldman played bass guitar, keys and synthesizer, Denny Walley and Jeff Morris Tepper played guitars, and Robert Williams handled drums and percussion while Captain Beefheart played Chinese gongs, sax, and contributed strange and wonderful vocals. This version of The Magic Band had just come off recording Bat Chain Puller, and Beefheart seemed genuinely pleased with the show. According to an interview in Zigzag, he said, "I'm real happy now, I mean real happy. I played Paris and the people were dancing and everything to our music. It's amazing, people dancing to avant garde music, or whatever they call it now."

So here's a chunk of Beefheart history for you – the band was good and The Captain was in rare form. Like that well-guarded but tattered and torn ticket stub that you keep tucked away, you might just want to get your hands on this somewhat tattered, rough audio recording of the night that people danced to "Floppy Boot Stomp" and got rowdy during a composition about dust...

-Bert Saraco