Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band
The Dust Blows Forward: An Anthology
"IF EVERYTHING'S WRONG at the same time, it's right," sings Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, on "Tropical Hot Dog Night," a theory that neatly sums up the Beefheart oeuvre. Once dubbed "the Fellini of Rock" by a British paper, Van Vliet grew up in Sixties suburban SoCal listening to Howlin' Wolf and jamming with buddy Frank Zappa, all factors that can be viewed in retrospect as blocking any chance for young Don to turn out normal.
Before long, the onetime child prodigy (Van Vliet was a gifted sculptor) was writing and recording music unlike anything heard before or since, rasping like Wolf but in a four-octave vocal range. Beefheart's truly idiosyncratic music seemed to spring simultaneously from Delta blues, klezmer, Ornette Coleman, and beat poetry, following its own surreal dialogues, off-kilter pop riffs, and painstakingly orchestrated bits of free jazz. (Van Vliet was something of a musical tyrant with the Magic Band, it turns out.)
Now The Dust Blows Forward: An Anthology celebrates a career that inspired John Lydon as much as Tom Waits and gave gravel to countless unique voices in between. The set's mere 45 tracks (12 of them available domestically on disc for the first time) are culled from singles and albums recorded between 1966 and 1982, including rarities such as "Little Scratch," a previously unreleased outtake from the Clear Spot LP, and a lot more. Unfortunately, Van Vliet, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and hasn't given an interview in a decade, had no hand in putting the collection together, so there are no autobiographical liner notes to explain just what he was thinking when he made Trout Mask Replica. No matter, this set is meant for new fans anyway, and they'll never lick decals the same way ever again.