Captain BEEFHEART & His Magic Band – Unconditionally Guaranteed 1974

Captain BEEFHEART & His Magic Band – Unconditionally Guaranteed  1974
1987 Issue.

Blues

A different kettle of fish to Trout Mask Replica’s avant-glory days, Unconditionally Guaranteed, (1974) alienated many die-hard fans with its unashamedly commercial overtones. Nevertheless “On The My-O- My” and “Full Moon, Hot Sun” retain the expected grit and gravel beloved of the Beefheart thrum.

Following the mass defection of his regular band, Beefheart toured with a hastily convened pick-up group. Previously unreleased, Live In Drury Lane ’74, shows Don and his so-called Tragic Band were actually anything but. With “Bluejeans And Moonbeams” (also 1974), Van Vliet’s voice has never been recorded as sympathetically, revealing him to be a consummate balladeer. Don’t believe the received wisdom; it’s isn’t half as bad as they reckon.

Lacking the extraneous filler that mars the later recordings, the strangulated Yosemite-Sam-on-helium vocals of 1980’s Zappa-infected Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), is a joyful collision of odd-metered out-thereness. Though the wordplay might be more inclined to arch than acerbic, combined with the high-flying marimba, trombone and rattling slide guitar combo, it’s still more than capable of putting hairs on your chest and probably represents his last truly great moment as a recording artist.

Notwithstanding momentary flashes of agitated brilliance, Doc At The Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream For Crow (1982) stumble alarmingly into self-parody. Past his best, they vindicate Van Vliet’s instinct to become a full-time painter.

This admirable reissue series, with its crisp sound and Mike Barnes’ excellent fact-packed sleevenotes decoding the Beefheart mythos, is only let down by its cursory design and packaging.
By Sid Smith.
**
The most reviled album of Captain Beefheart’s entire career, 1974’s ironically titled Unconditionally Guaranteed unfortunately largely deserves its negative reputation. Recorded in the U.K. as the first album of Captain Beefheart’s contract with Virgin Records, it’s also the last album that features any members of the Trout Mask Replica-era band, notably guitarists Zoot Horn Rollo and Alex St. Clair, plus former Mothers of Invention percussionist Art Tripp. Rather like Van Morrison’s later album, A Period of Transition, Unconditionally Guaranteed is clearly a deliberate attempt by the Captain to restrain his more peculiar tendencies in search of a wider audience. As might be expected, the wider audience didn’t show up, and his longtime fans were put off by the album’s more commercial facets. It’s not an entirely useless album, as the tunes do have some of the blues-rock punch that’s at the root of Beefheart’s work, and the lyrics, mostly declarations of love for his wife, Jan Van Vliet, who receives co-writing credit with producer Andy DiMartino on all ten tracks, seem heartfelt enough. The problem is that DiMartino’s production and arrangements are flaccid and dull, and Beefheart (purposely) sings as if he’s half asleep throughout. Even Captain Beefheart himself disowns this record.
**
After a two-year break from recording, Captain Beefheart signed with Mercury Records and released UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED in 1974. After the gradual shine that was brought to his music, culminating with the superbly produced CLEAR SPOT, this follow-up came as a bit of a surprise to the Captain’s following. The album eschewed a good deal of the jagged and gritty qualities that had been a musical cornerstone of his work. Though the Magic Band (most of whom had been with Beefheart since TROUT MASK REPLICA) lend their musicianship to this project, they disbanded shortly after completing these recordings.

While this work occupies a very different sonic world than some of its landmark predecessors, it’s by no means a weak album. Still far from sounding like a Top Forty contender, it is a fairly straightforward set of blues-tinged pop songs filtered through the good Captain’s inimitable style.
**
Don “Captain Beefheart” Van Vliet- (Vocals, Harmonica);
Zoot Horn Rollo- (Guitar, Slide Guitar);
Alex Saint Claire- (Guitar);
Mark Marcellino- (Keyboards);
Rockette Morton- (Bass);
Art Tripp- (Drums, Percussion).
**
01. Upon the My-O-My   2:40
02. Sugar Bowl   2:11
03. New Electric Ride   3:00
04. Magic Be   2:55
05. Happy Love Song   3:54
06. Full Moon, Hot Sun   2:19
07. I Got Love on My Mind   3:07
08. This Is the Day   4:48
09. Lazy Music   2:49
10. Peaches   3:20
**


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