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Album Review: Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 [Box Set] by Captain Beefheart
Fantastic, Based on 5 Critics
Record Collector - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Sporting a front-sleeve painting by Don Van Vliet himself, this four-disc set is a delight. It brings together newly remastered versions of 1972’s The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot with 1970’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby – the last of these unavailable on CD since the hastily withdrawn 1989 edition. The fourth disc will generate the greatest excitement, comprising 14 previously unreleased outtakes from the 1971/72 sessions; all but two – Kiss Where I Kain’t and Two Rips In A Haystack – have surfaced before, but often in radically different form.
When we talk about Don Van Vliet, the man behind the Captain Beefheart persona, we tend to talk about what’s not there. We talk about him the way we often talk about genius we don’t (or don’t want to) understand, as if it sprung up, mysterious and ex nihilo, fully formed. To talk about Trout Mask Replica, the Beefheart’s thorny classic, we talk about what it’s missing: a sense of order, a sense of calm, in some cases definable structure, in others definable songs.
Then and now, confrontation with Captain Beefheart’s music produces polarized and extreme reactions. Take two Rolling Stone reviews from the era, both of which mention 1969's Trout Mask Replica : one reaction was akin to Montezuma’s Revenge—“I about puked…what is this shit?”—while in another, Lester Bangs crowned the album “a total success, a brilliant, stunning enlargement and clarification of his art…the most unusual and challenging musical experience you’ll have this year. ” Decades have done little to mitigate such responses, and Trout remains as barbed as a blowfish.
Finally! As of 2014, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid, and Clear Spot had needed a proper remastering treatment for quite some time when Rhino came to the rescue, remastering all three in one fell swoop as Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972. As if that weren't enough for fans, they added an entire bonus disc of outtakes and alternates as well. The albums themselves are fairly different from each other.
Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (Rhino) Much of the Magic Band's legacy has been unfortunately cloistered. Considering the fiery, rubbery blues of 1967 debut Safe as Milk and the sprawling, transcendent Trout Mask Replica, it's hard to say why that is. People forget that Captain Beefheart's recording career stretched far beyond the Sixties.