On November 11, Rhino Records will celebrate the music of avant-garde iconoclast Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, with a new four-CD box set. SUN ZOOM SPARK: 1970 to1972 focuses on the period following the release of his career-defining 1969 album Trout Mask Replica. During that creatively fertile patch, Beefheart released three albums that have long lingered in the shadow of Trout Mask and even of Beefheart’s Richard Perry-produced debut Safe as Milk. SUN ZOOM SPARK revisits these three albums - Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid, and Clear Spot- in freshly remastered editions, and adds a fourth disc containing fourteen previously unreleased outtakes and alternates from Beefheart and his Magic Band cohorts. The limited edition box set will be available in CD, vinyl and digital formats.
Recorded in summer 1970 for frequent Beefheart collaborator and sparring partner Frank Zappa’s Straight label in summer 1970, Lick My Decals Off, Baby was released later that year. Regarded as one of the good Captain’s personal favorites of his recordings, the title referred to his desire to see objects for their merits rather than according to labels (or “decals”) placed upon them. Beefheart was joined by Bill Harkleroad on guitar, Mark Boston on bass, Art Tripp on percussion, and John French on drums. Decals continued on Beefheart’s experimental path fusing psychedelia, blues, rock and jazz-style freeform improvisation.
Decals was followed by The Spotlight Kid, which was recorded at Los Angeles’ Record Plant during the summer of 1971 and issued in early 1972 on Reprise. The only album credited solely to Captain Beefheart rather than with his Magic Band, it features Harkleroad, Boston, French and Tripp, plus Elliot Ingber on guitar and drummer Rhys Clark (on one track). Produced again by Van Vliet, this time in collaboration with Phil Schier, the album featured slower, simpler compositions, perhaps in pursuit of a (slightly) more commercial blues-rock sound.
The third album in this collection, Clear Spot, was recorded in summer 1972 and released that autumn. Produced by Van Vliet with Ted Templeman (Harpers Bizarre, The Doobie Brothers), Clear Spot might have been his most accessible album yet with succinct and even somewhat conventional tracks including love songs (to a fashion), soulful ballads and driving rock and roll. Harkleroad, Boston and Tripp all played on the album along with onetime Mother of Invention and Little Feat founding member Roy Estrada.
The fourth and final disc in SUN ZOOM SPARK premieres 14 previously unreleased tracks drawn from the sessions for The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. It traces the evolution of the recordings, with the press release noting among the highlights a sung version of "I Can't Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam," which became a spoken-word performance on 1978’s Bat Chain Puller; an early version of "Dirty Blue Gene" that pointed the way to the final version on 1980’s Doc at the Radar Station; and an embryonic instrumental rehearsal of "The Witch Doctor Life,” completed for 1982's Ice Cream For Crow.
After the jump, check out pre-order links and the complete track listing for all of the magic you’ll find on SUN ZOOM SPARK!
CD 1: Lick My Decals Off, Baby (Straight, 1970)
- "Lick My Decals Off, Baby"
- "Doctor Dark"
- "I Love You, You Big Dummy"
- "Bellerin' Plain"
- "Japan in a Dishpan"
- "I Wanna Find a Woman That'll Hold My Big Toe Till I Have To Go"
- "Petrified Forest"
- "One Red Rose That I Mean"
- "The Buggy Boogie Woogie"
- "The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)"
- "Space-Age Couple"
- "The Clouds Are Full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye)"
- "Flash Gordon's Ape"
CD 2: The Spotlight Kid (Reprise, 1972)
- "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby"
- "White Jam"
- "Blabber 'n Smoke"
- "When It Blows Its Stacks"
- "Alice in Blunderland"
- "The Spotlight Kid"
- "Click Clack"
- "Grow Fins"
- "There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evenin' Stage"
CD 3: Clear Spot (Reprise, 1972)
- "Low Yo Yo Stuff"
- "Nowadays a Woman's Gotta Hit a Man"
- "Too Much Time"
- "My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains"
- "SUN ZOOM SPARK"
- "Clear Spot"
- "Crazy Little Thing"
- "Long Neck Bottles"
- "Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles"
- "Big Eyed Beans from Venus"
- "Golden Birdies"
CD 4: Out-Takes (previously unreleased)
- "Alice in Blunderland" - Alternate Version
- "Harry Irene"
- "I Can't Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam"
- "Pompadour Swamp/Suction Prints"
- "The Witch Doctor Life" - Instrumental Take
- "Two Rips in a Haystack/Kiss Me My Love"
- "Best Batch Yet" - (Track) Version 1
- "Your Love Brought Me To Life" - Instrumental
- "Dirty Blue Gene" - Alternate Version 1
- "Nowadays a Woman's Gotta Hit a Man" - Early Mix
- "Kiss Where I Kain't"
- "Circumstances" - Alternate Version 2
- "Little Scratch"
- "Dirty Blue Gene" - Alternate Version 3