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Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Le Nouvel Hippodrome, Paris 1977 (2CD)

Genre: Pop/Rock
Release Date: 22nd September 2014

Label: Gonzo
Catalogue Number: GZO105CD
Price: £10.99
Available: Sorry - Not currently available

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Le Nouvel Hippodrome, Paris 1977

Don Van Vliet (born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter, artist and poet known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called the Magic Band (1965–1982), with whom he recorded 13 studio albums. Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments. His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition. Beefheart was also known for exercising an almost dictatorial control over his supporting musicians, and for often constructing myths about his life.

During his teen years in Lancaster, California, Van Vliet developed an eclectic musical taste and formed ‘a mutually useful but volatile’ friendship with Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated. He began performing with his Captain Beefheart persona in 1964 and joined the original Magic Band line-up, initiated by Alexis Snouffer, in 1965. The group drew attention with their cover of Bo Diddley's Diddy Wah Diddy, which became a regional hit. It was followed by their acclaimed debut album Safe as Milk, released in 1967 on Buddah Records. After being dropped by two consecutive record labels, they signed to Zappa's Straight Records. As producer, Zappa granted Beefheart unrestrained artistic freedom in making 1969's Trout Mask Replica, which ranked 58th in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1974, frustrated by lack of commercial success, he released two albums of more conventional rock music that were critically panned; this move, combined with not having been paid for a European tour, and years of enduring Beefheart's abusive behavior, led the entire band to quit. Beefheart eventually formed a new Magic Band with a group of younger musicians and regained contemporary approval through three final albums: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978), Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982).

Van Vliet has been described as ‘...one of modern music's true innovators’ with ‘...a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity.’ Although he achieved little commercial or mainstream critical success, he sustained a cult following as a ‘highly significant’ and ‘incalculable’ influence on an array of New Wave, punk, post-punk, experimental and alternative rock musicians. Known for his enigmatic personality and relationship with the public, Van Vliet made few public appearances after his retirement from music (and from his Beefheart persona) in 1982. He pursued a career in art, an interest that originated in his childhood talent for sculpture, and a venture that proved to be his most financially secure. His expressionist paintings and drawings command high prices, and have been exhibited in art galleries and museums across the world. Van Vliet died in 2010, having suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years.

This extraordinary record catches the Captain at his best; live on stage in 1977. A few days after the show he said:

“This band is so good - the best I have ever had! They play with a smile. They really breathe up there when they are playing. After all this time I have finally found the band I'm looking for. It's amazing! Playing with this group is like going for a walk: they are so happy when they play. People I meet from the audience have been coming up and telling me how pleased they are that I have finally found a band that I am content with - and they are right. 

The gig we played in Paris was monstrous. It was three days ago, but I haven't slept since - it was so good! And my voice, well, I can still feel that show in my voice. It hit me so hard I am down to three octaves .... I couldn't get over the way the audience was singing along with it, singing the words back at me in English - and I don't speak a word of French. 

This group, I tell you, I couldn't believe that there were such nice people still around on this earth. True, they are playing what I have written, but they really are playing. This band is moving so fast that very soon I won't have to tell them anything. I really must say: this band is the best .... “


Unmasked Don down in Sorbonne rocking his marbles off on the Trotskyists request.

Given the scarcity of Don Van Vliet’s official concert products, any legalized bootleg is bound to draw fans’ attention, but this one may actually cross over to a wider audience thanks to its fairly decent sound quality and the span. Here’s a nice cross-section of Captain’s recorded output – with no reference to Beefheart’s recent Mercury albums but with hopeful renditions from yet-to-be-unreleased “Bat Chain Puller” including its title chug of a track – delivered by his new ensemble. The quartet kick it all into gear by picking up the “Trout Mask Replica” theme of “Hair Pie: Bake III” and the groove of “Suction Prints” yet don’t bother much with further crunch, once their leader cuts into the “Low Yo Yo Stuff” chant, renders “Electricity” funereal or taps into the “Abba Zabba” brilliant mojo.

Whether the French crowd gets the sharpness of poetry recitals such as “The Dust Blows Forward And The Dust Blows Back” or Morris Tepper’s twang for “A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond” is debatable, but there’s no escaping the rare catchy blues of “Grow Fins” or the heavy funk of “Click Clack” before the drift gets duller, if humorous. As a result, “My Human Gets Me Blues” ups the idiosyncrasy of Beefheart’s performance and “The Blimp” rolls out a bout of hysteria, while “Owed T’Alex” – titled “Carson City” here – crawls so creepy it jars, as does “Pachuco Cadaver” on the upbeat terms. Still, “Big Eyed Beans From Venus” has a bastardly charming ring to it and reveals a genuine, often hidden from non-fans, greatness of the Captain. Warts and all, a nice snapshot of him in action.



01 Hair Pie: Bake III

02 Suction Prints

03 Low Yo Yo Stuff

04 Bat Chain Puller

05 I Wanna Find A Woman That 'll Hold MY Big Toe Till I have to go

06 Abba Zaba

07 Dali's Car

08 One Nest Rolls After Another

09 The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back

10 Nowadays a Woman's Got to hit a Man

11 Click Clack

12 Grow Fins

13 Golden Birdies

Disk II

14 Electricity

15 A Carrot is as close as a rabit gets to a diamond.

16 China Pig

17 Sun Zoom Spark

18 My Human Gets Me Blues

19 Floppy Boot Stomp

20 Moonlight on Vermont

21 Carson City

22 Old Black Snake

23 Pachuco Cadaver

24 Veteran's Day Poppy/Band Intro

25 The Blimp

26 Big Eyed Beans from Venus



Captain Beefheart

Somewhere Over Paris

Review by G. W. Hill
This double disc set has some great live performances from Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. The sound quality here is better than on some of the more recent releases. It still sounds a bit bootleg-like, but it’s better in terms of sound than that might convey. It has some smoking hot music, too.
Track by Track Review
Disc One
Bake III - Hair Pie
This instrumental jam is bass heavy, noisy and almost metal.
Suction Prints
Another instrumental, this is proggy, jazz like and a lot more. It works through several shifts and changes in a fast paced and dynamic arrangement.
Low Yo Yo Stuff
This noisy rocker is a bit raw, but has a lot of cool built into it, too. I love the almost funky vibe to this. It’s a lot of fun.
Bat Chain Puller
There is a lot of blues on the table here. Harmonica adds to that. This is a quirky little beast. That’s for sure.  Some things here even make me think of Hawkwind a bit. The weird jam at the end is quite cool. It’s part prog and part blues and all bizarre yet effective.
I Wanna Find A Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go
Crazed stuff that’s one part Frank Zappa and one part King Crimson opens this. It works to more of a straightforward song from there. Still, this is Captain Beefheart, so it’s only going to be so straightforward.
Abba Zaba
Jazz, progressive rock and more merge on this powerhouse rocker. It’s one of the coolest pieces of the set and has a killer instrumental section mid-track.
Dali's Car
A crazed guitar solo piece, this has a real free-form prog vibe. There are definitely nods to King Crimson and Robert Fripp. It’s a noisy one.
One Nest Rolls after Another
This is just a short poetry bit.
The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back
Part acapella song, part poetry reading, this is art rock for sure. Well, the rock part could be in question.
Nowadays a Woman's Got To Hit a Man
A bit of a soulful rock and roll vibe permeates this bouncy rocker. It’s still got enough weirdness to get into prog territory.
Click Clack
This high energy hard rocker is quite a cool tune. It’s one of my favorites of the set for sure.
Grow Fins
Here we’ve got more of a bluesy number. This is good stuff. I like the bass and the harmonica on this one.
Golden Birdies
Spoken bits punctuated by sections of seemingly freeform music is the concept here. This is art rock, for sure. It’s also oddly effective.
Disc Two
This song is really electrified. It’s a screaming hot tune with a lot of classy prog elements and more built into it.
A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets To a Diamond
This jam is definitely progressive rock. There is a lot of old world melody built into it. It’s a fairly short instrumental.
China Pig
A standard blues grind brings this thing into being. That mode holds the cut all the way through.
Sun Zoom Spark
This is a cool hard rocker. It’s pretty typical Beefheart – assuming there is such a thing.
My Human Gets Me Blues
Weaving this way and that, this is crazed and quite free form. It’s part jazz, part prog and all cool. 
Floppy Boot Stomp
Another dynamic cut, this has a lot in common with Zappa.
Moonlight on Vermont
This feels somewhat similar to the previous cut. It’s a screaming hot number that lands among the highlights here, though. It has quite a few shifts and turns. The closing section is particularly strong.
Carson City
This hard rocker is more mainstream. It’s an effective piece, too. It has some great bits of guitar throughout.
Old Black Snake
Just an acapella blues tune, this is short.
Pachuco Cadaver
There is a lot of blues in this. It has a lot of jazz in the mix, too. The drums really get to show off on this.
Band Intro - Veteran's Day Poppy
The band introductions happen during the jamming on this thing. It’s aa bit off kilter and quite a great combo between rock, jazz and more.
The Blimp
This jam is a fun one. It’s not a big surprise, but it’s good stuff.
Big Eyed Beans from Venus
This little rocker is not something unexpected, but it’s effective.


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