A new Captain Beefheart box set will focus on three records the avant-garde blues singer put out after warping minds with his landmark 1969 LP Trout Mask Replica. The upcoming four-disc set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972, collects three remastered albums – 1970’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and his two 1972 releases, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot – as well as a disc of 14 previously unreleased outtakes recorded during sessions for the latter two albums. The limited-edition collection will be available on CD, LP and digital on November 11th.
Beefheart recorded Lick My Decals Off, Baby in Hollywood over the summer of 1970, and the record found him digging deeper into the jagged atonal rock as he juxtaposed clashing, busy rhythms with bluesy, expressionistic guitar and his signature wild-beast yowls. In addition to singing, Beefheart played bass clarinet, tenor and soprano sax and harmonica on the release, while two members played broom and percussionist Art Tripp (billed as Ed Marimba) played marimba. The album was reportedly one of the singer’s favorites.
Beefheart began work on The Spotlight Kid the following summer and found him taking a more markedly commercial, bluesy approach to the music (with marimba and jingle bells, of course). Members of Beefheart’s Magic Band have derided the release over the years for its simplicity, though they stuck with him to record Clear Spot, which also featured a more accessible musical approach, in the summer of the following year.
That record has proven to have more staying power than its predecessor, thanks to “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles” placement in The Big Lebowski and a cover of that song by the Black Keys. Nevertheless, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo quit after the release, and the rest of the group followed suit after its 1974 follow-up, Unconditionally Guaranteed. (Absent from the set is Beefheart’s 1971 release Mirror Man, likely because it was recorded in 1967.)
The fourth disc in Sun Zoom Spark highlights 14 outtakes and alternate versions of songs from the 1972 releases. It includes a sung version of “I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam,” which was later featured as the spoken-word poem “Seam Crooked Sam” on Bat Chain Puller, a more raucous take of “Dirty Blue Gene” (later released on Doc at the Radar Station) and a drastically different, instrumental rehearsal of “The Witch Doctor Life” that ultimately appeared on Beefheart’s swan song, Ice Cream for Crow.
Here are the outtakes featured on the fourth disc of Sun Zoom Spark:
1. “Alice in Blunderland” – Alternate Version
2. “Harry Irene”
3. “I Can’t Do This Unless I Can Do This/Seam Crooked Sam”
4. “Pompadour Swamp/Suction Prints”
5. “The Witch Doctor Life” – Instrumental Take
6. “Two Rips in a Haystack/Kiss Me My Love”
7. “Best Batch Yet” – (Track) Version 1
8. “Your Love Brought Me To Life” – Instrumental
9. “Dirty Blue Gene” – Alternate Version 1
10. “Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man” – Early Mix
11. “Kiss Where I Kain’t”
12. “Circumstances” – Alternate Version 2
13. “Little Scratch”
14. “Dirty Blue Gene” – Alternate Version 3