Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, 'Safe as Milk'
This debut album could have been Captain Beefheart's ticket to ride, the bellowing singer and dada-blues lyricist's 1967 breakthrough. Co-produced with offbeat, commercial nuance by Richard Perry (his first big job on the way to Number Ones for Ringo Starr and Carly Simon) and featuring a young Ry Cooder on lead guitar, Safe as Milk was a thrilling whiplash of cheerfully craggy electric blues and twisted-pop ambition. But Safe as Milk never charted, inaugurating Beefheart's life sentence as a cult hero. The writing and ruckus here were steeped in the Delta blues and raw R&B that Beefheart and Frank Zappa obsessively studied as teenage pals, and the former's otherworldly scalded–Howlin' Wolf voice is a fully formed phenomenon. But the jubilantly twisted roots and futurism in "Sure 'Nuff N' Yes I Do," "Abba Zaba" and "Electricity" are also clear, feral steps to the impending, iconoclastic legend of 1969's Trout Mask Replica and 1980's Doc at the Radar Station.