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18 November 2009

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band - 'Easy Teeth' (Impossible Recordworks)

A bootleg! The first of the Underbite I think - filed here, before Doc, because it dates from 18 February 1978, where these 4 shoddy-sounding sides were recorded in Huntington Beach, CA. Yep, the Shiny Beast tour. Now the fidelity really blows here, which makes me realise how conservative I've gotten in my 'old' age -- I don't really give a shit about bootlegs anymore. I guess there's enough "proper" music to listen to and I just don't get much of a thrill about hearing a Walkman-quality recitation of songs I've heard a million times. There's exceptions galore, but I figure all of the truly great bootlegs cross over - the Walls Have Ears and Stray Slacks;; I guess the original Basement Tapes is the greatest bootleg ever, in rock-writer terms (which I just can't seem to shake!). But anyway, I'm satisfied to sit and wait for the few crossovers to reach the 'regular' market. Easy Teeth certainly doesn't belong in that category - this is a Beefheart bootleg for diehard fans only. There are a few depressing moments, such as DVV's voice as he tries to growl out 'Eeeeee-leeeehhhh-triiiiiih-cehhhhh-teeeee' like it's still ten years earlier. This band isn't the most shit-hot of his career either, though with 'Bat Chain Puller' they get the stomp going. On the Shiny Beast tracks, there's glimmers of the raw power that was sucked out of the album through its glossy production, etc. There's another point on side 1, I think, where Beefheart recites the classic 'squid eating dough' line and the audience cheers - talk about going through the motions! There's some other banter throughout the 4 sides of this set, including a story abot going to eat ribs with Roland Kirk in the middle of the night. Oh, California. I don't want to jump ahead but I think the reason Doc at the Radar Station is my favorite of late Beefheart is because John French re-enters the picture, even if he's not on drums. Not to diss Robert Williams, who is quite competent here, but French gives the band something they're lacking. There's some obligatory Trout Mask hits on here like 'Pachuco Cadaver', an extended, somewhat extemporaneous 'China Pig', and a crunchy, brief 'Dali's Car' -- though this band is at its best when performing their own material. 'Owed T'Alex' has a great undertow that survives the murky heat of the audience-made recording. I have two other bootlegs on this "label", which hails from the mysterious place of 'LĂ©gerdemain, USA'. Closes out with a weird 'Golden Birdies' as a final set or encore? Who knows when the bootleggers decided to splice (and how they choose to sequence).

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