Captain Beefheart to Tour and Release Album
It’s like déjà vu all over again! The legendary Captain Beefheart, whose last foray into the music industry was in 1982, has recorded a new album and will be reconvening his Magic Band to tour behind it.
The tour will have its official unveiling at Bonnaroo in June, and then get in full gear starting early August and running into mid September. The opening act is to be P.J. Harvey & John Parish – whose “A Man A Woman Walked By” was issued last year – and Parish will also be pulling double-duty on guitar in the Magic Band due to Gary Lucas’ prior commitments with his own Gods And Monsters. The other players include John “Drumbo” French and Michael Traylor on drums, Rockette Morton on bass, and Denny Waller on guitar, plus an as-yet-unnamed keyboard player.
One very special guest: Tom Waits, who contributes “backing vocals” (term used loosely) on the tunes “Taiwan in Tupperware” and “Ming the Merciless’ Chimpanzee.”
The eponymous album is described as “a mixture of folk, rock and extemporaneous da-da boogie, along with at least one avant-garde Tex-Mex medley, and a freewheeling cover of Robert Johnson’s country-blues classic “Me and the Devil Blues.” Sessions were produced by Ry Cooder and featured the Magic Band augmented by some of the same players who appear on Cooder’s acclaimed 2007 album “My Name is Buddy” (e.g. Jim Keltner, Mike Elizondo, Cooder’s son Joachim and, on the aforementioned Tex-Mex number, accordionist Flaco Jimenez). Captain Beefheart will be released by Nonesuch Records (also Cooder’s current label) on July 5 in the UK and July 6 in the US.
Beefheart (a/k/a Don Van Vliet), in typically left-field manner, didn’t make the announcement via the usual channels (his official MySpace page, Pitchfork.com, etc.) but at a news conference held at the Annual Van Vliet Family picnic, located at a state park near his home in Mojave, Calif. A small handful of reporters had been tipped off in advance by Beefheart’s manager, Herb Cohen, who in an official statement noted, “With my longtime friend Don’s re-emergence, the musical world will finally get a firsthand taste of the quality rock ‘n’ roll that it has been sorely missing for the past quarter-century.” (Note: Cohen recently passed away, sadly.)
Beefheart read Cohen’s statement aloud at the press conference and, according to journalist Byron Coley who was on hand and filled BLURT in on the event, the notoriously curmudgeonly performer snorted, ripped the document in half, and said, “‘The higher you go, the rarer the vegetation.’ Salvador Dali said that, although I don’t know where he got it. I think I’ve read it in a classic of one sort or another. Or older classic. What do you think about that? Am I right or wrong? Although there really is no right or wrong. The truth has no patterns.”
Beefheart subsequently filmed a video in which he discussed the record, the tour and his artistry in general. It was posted in low-key fashion to YouTube – you can view it below – although in typical Beefheart fashion, his comments are maddeningly elliptical. He’s still got a bit of the prankster to him too: the interview is interspersed with random archival clips and earlier news reports, so you have to pay very careful attention to the entire video.
For those not in the know of truth and its patterns, Beefheart, born in 1941 in Glendale, Calif., emerged in the early ‘60s as a protégé of Frank Zappa. His 1969 album “Trout Mask Replica” regularly figures on Top 100 Albums of All Time lists, and he also exerted a huge influence among the punk and new wave bands of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, who embraced his final trifecta of albums-1978’s “Shiny Beast”, 1980’s “Doc at the Radar Station” and 1982’s “Ice Cream for Crow” as benchmarks of DIY bloody-minded artistic inventiveness.
According to the Wikipedia Beefheart entry, “Since the end of his musical career around 1982, Van Vliet has made few public appearances, preferring a quiet life in his California home where he has concentrated on a career in painting. His interest in art dates back to a childhood talent for sculpting and his work-employing what has been surmised as a ‘neo-primitive abstract-expressionist aesthetic,’ has received international recognition. Several of Van Vliet’s former band members recently reformed as a group, and toured as The Magic Band from 2003 to 2006.”
Fun fact: in recent years, P.J. Harvey and Beefheart somehow struck up a correspondence and established a kind of confidante-mentor relationship. There’s no official word from either artist’s camp whether or not this had anything to do with the good Captain’s re-emergence, but certainly Harvey’s encouragement and support didn’t hurt. Having her and Parish on the tour, then, is a logical and laudable strategy. Kindred spirits, all.
Meanwhile, Precision Made, a newly-formed imprint of Handmade, which itself is an imprint of Rhino Records, will be issuing a limited-to-5000-copies Beefheart box set, provisionally titled Flight of the Blimp. The five-disc collection will contain rarities, outtakes, and live material culled from the artist’s Straight/Reprise/Warner Brothers years and reportedly does not overlap with the Revenant label’s 1999 Grow Fins rarities box. It’s set for a late July or early August release, full details tba.
Story by Fred Mills/Courtesy of Blurt Magazine
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band 2010 Tour Dates:
06-10 Manchester TN – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
08-06 George, WA – The Gorge (Sasquatch! Festival)
08-07 Vancouver, British Columbia – Orpheum
08-08 Vancouver, British Columbia – Orpheum
08-10 Portland, OR – Keller Auditorium
08-12 Berkeley, CA – Greek Theatre
08-15 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-16 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-17 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-18 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-19 Phoenix, AZ – Dodge Theatre
08-22 Denver, CO – Red Rocks
08-23 Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theater
08-24 St. Louis, MO – Fabulous Fox Theater
08-26 Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theater
08-27 Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theater
08-29 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
08-30 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
08-31 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
09-08 Milwaukee, WI – Eagles Ballroom
09-09 Indianapolis, IN – Murat Theatre
09-10 Columbus, OH – Ohio Theatre
09-12 Cincinnati, OH – Music Hall
09-13 Louisville, KY – Palace Theatre
09-14 Cleveland, OH – Playhouse Square Center State Theatre
09-16 Toronto, Ontario – Molson Amphitheatre
09-19 Providence, RI – Performing Arts Center
09-20 Boston, MA – Opera House
09-21 Boston, MA – Opera House
09-24 New York, NY – Keyspan Park
09-27 Columbia, MO – Merriweather Post Pavilion
09-28 Atlantic City, NJ – House of Blue