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Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band:The Mirror Man Sessions (Buddha)

Way, way back - way back in the stone age, almost - I wrote one of my very first ever music reviews for the original vinyl of “Mirror Man”...and, at the time (1980), that set was almost completely dismissed/misunderstood - and, also (falsely) labelled as recorded in 1966. Admittedly...back then, I knew no better than to accept said date but, I was sure - as sure could be - that this was some kinda masterpiece...

In the early 90s, Castle issued a brilliant (and also largely unacclaimed) additional set from the same sessions - “I May Be Hungry, But I Sure Ain’t Weird” - and, yet again (several years later) I wrote a review...somehow, methinks, this was getting to be a pattern. Thankfully, however, now that the (belatedly) good folks at Buddha have decided to make all this stuff permanently available via their reissues of “Safe as Milk” and this one, perhaps it’s time for mine final take. the time - post “Safe is Milk” - Buddha passed on the Captain’s preferred next, a double lp set (one live-in-studio/one studio), to be called “It Comes to you in a Plain Brown Wrapper”... (And, by the way, please beware of the current 2lp set going under that name...the sound is inferior and, nothing there is new.) And, now...this set attempts to reconstruct said followup, w/the overflow/alternates making up the extras on Buddha’s current reissue of “Safe as Milk” - definitely recommended, by the way! So...finally, what’s my take on the result?

Well...I’ve never needed to revise my original response to the live-in-the-studio “Mirror Man” set....‘cause thee Magic Band’s lengthy free-form delta workouts - complete w/the Captain’s avant-vocalese (some via guitar pickups!) - are still, to be quite blunt, the very, very best free-rock attack on archaic delta/deep-southern blues of the period...not to mention, perhaps, of all time. And...then, there’s the finale - “Kandy Korn”...which, still remains, methinks, a completely fresh, brilliant (and never followed-up from) approach to psychedelica... As to the studio sides -, you can hear the original takes on material later re-recorded (and butchered) on “Strictly Personal”...and, so, therefore, you can now (actually) hear the John French (“Drumbo”)-led latter-day Magic Band at their veritable formative peak. Get this - together w/the aforementioned cd of “Safe as Milk” & the Revenant label set + the five track A&M sessions - and you’ll have all the discovery-era Magic Band(s)...and, take my word for it - you need it!

Because, it almost doesn’t matter what you think of “classic-era” Beefheart - or, in fact, of the delta blues, itself - the (earlier) formative era of the Magic Band remains - and, will always remain - a completely unanticipated/essential/not to mention compulsively-listenable element in modern music history. And this set, by the way, is (methinks) the best place to first encounter that very particular/peculiar beast...

John Henry Calvinist