Trout Mask Replica

Captain Beefheart

Straight Label, 1969

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, passed away last month at the age of 69 from of complications from multiple sclerosis.

His passing propelled me to pull my old vinyl copy of his Trout Mask Replica from its resting place in my record room and give it a spin. I made sure that my wife was out of the house and that the grandchildren were protected from harm.

Trout Mask Replica was his third release and is considered his masterpiece, for want of a better word. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it number 58 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. It is one of the few albums on the list not to chart in the United States.

It certainly pushed the limits of what was accepted as music at the time of its release and continues to do so today. It is either genius or trash depending upon your inclinations or state of mind. I know it makes Thelonious Monk seem absolutely melodic and Frank Zappa completely sane.

It is a combination of styles, from free form jazz to blues, abstract poetry to rhythms that come together to defy description. It all adds up to expressionist art made into sound. It can be a difficult listen, especially when you consider the fact it was originally a two-disc, 28 song affair. Repeated listens close together will only confuse the matter.

In some ways, he was trying to reinvent music from his own perspective as has been done with jazz on a number of occasions. Songs such as “Ella Guru,” “My Human Gets The Blues,” “China Pig,” “Moonlight In Vermont,” and “Veteran’s Day Poppy” are repetitive, not danceable, or even hummable for that matter. They will stay with you, however, be it for better or worse.

Trout Mask Replica brings the sanity issue of Captain Beefheart into question, and of anyone who gives the album repeated listens. I find it fascinating, similar to slowing down to view an accident on the highway.  The music of Captain Beefheart and Trout Mask Replica is what it is. (One of my regrets is that I never saw him live.)

It all adds up to an acquired taste, which admittedly some will never acquire. Whether a person thinks the album is genius or madness is up to the individual listener. Wherever the old Captain is right now, he no doubt is doing his own thing, and probably doesn’t care what music fans think. One last tip of the hat to the Captain Beefheart and Trout Mask Replica!

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


Only one review of this facinating man? That's pathetic!

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