Monday, January 14, 2008

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, THE MIRROR MAN SESSIONS

Buddha, 1971; available and expanded

9 tracks, 76:25

The story behind this one is long. In essence, this was originally released four years after it was recorded. Three of the tracks were long avant-blues jams ("Tarotplane", "25th Century Quaker", and "Mirror Man") recorded live in the studio; the fourth, "Kandy Korn", was an extended and more warped version of a track that later ended up on STRICTLY PERSONAL. All four tracks were originally intended for a scrapped double album called IT COMES TO YOU IN A PLAIN BROWN WRAPPER. Now, Buddha has rectified the situation by adding an additional five tracks to MIRROR MAN, bringing the set closer to its intended form. The bonus tracks are mostly alternate takes of songs found on other albums, but it's intriguing to hear them stripped of the psychedelic effects later applied to them. As for the album proper, these are blues jams unlike any blues you've ever heard. "Tarotplane" features the good Captain quoting various blues songs, "25th Century Quaker" brings to mind Can interpreting the Delta, and and "Mirror Man" consists of fun ramblings and strange guitar effects. "Kandy Korn" is the shortest of the lot (at just over eight minutes!) and the most grounded in rock. It's a shambling psychedelic jam bringing to mind Pink Floyd's early space rock as filtered through an American weirdo's thought processes. The added tracks can be a bit much following the massive MIRROR MAN proper (which is over fifty minutes by itself); however, they're an important part of the package, as they allow a glimpse at the Magic Band's power in shorter settings. Consider this a midway point between Beefheart's early warped blues and the full-on insanity of TROUT MASK REPLICA. It takes patience to sit through, but the experience is both refreshing and rewarding.

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