Captain Beefheart to Tour, Release Album!

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen….
Don Van Vliet has re-entered the building, with P.J. Harvey on his arm and Tom
Waits as his guest. New album due in July, to be followed by a full US
tour in August.

 

By Fred Mills

 

MOJAVE, CALIF., APRIL 1, 2009: It’s like déjà vu all over
again! The legendary Captain Beefheart, whose last foray into the music
industry was in 1982, has recorded a new album and will be reconvening his Magic Band to tour behind it.

 

The tour will have its official unveiling at All Tomorrow’s
Parties in England in May, followed by a high-profile appearance at Bonnaroo in
June, and then get in full gear starting early August and running into mid
September. The opening act is to be P.J.
Harvey & John Parish
– currently enjoying the media spotlight following
a well-received appearance at SXSW and via the release this week of A Man A Woman Walked By – and Parish
will also be pulling double-duty on guitar in the Magic Band due to Gary Lucas’
prior commitments with his own Gods And Monsters. The other players include
John “Drumbo” French and Michael Traylor on drums, Rockette Morton on bass, and
Denny Waller on guitar, plus an as-yet-unnamed keyboard player.

 

One very special guest: Tom
Waits
, who contributes “backing vocals” (term used loosely) on the tunes “Taiwan
in Tupperware” and “Ming the Merciless’ Chimpanzee.”

 

The eponymous album is described as “a mixture of folk, rock
and extemporaneous da-da boogie, along with at least one avant-garde Tex-Mex
medley, and a freewheeling cover of Robert Johnson’s country-blues classic “Me
and the Devil Blues.” Sessions were produced by Ry Cooder and featured the Magic Band augmented by some of the same
players who appear on Cooder’s acclaimed 2007 album My Name is Buddy (e.g. Jim Keltner, Mike Elizondo, Cooder’s son
Joachim and, on the aforementioned Tex-Mex number, accordionist Flaco Jimenez).
Captain Beefheart will be released by
Nonesuch (also Cooder’s current label) on July 6 in the UK and July 7 in the US.

 

Beefheart (a/k/a Don Van Vliet), in typically left-field
manner, didn’t make the announcement via the usual channels (his official
MySpace page
, Pitchfork.com, etc.) but at a news conference held at the Annual
Van Vliet Family picnic, located at a state park near his home in Mojave,
Calif. A small handful of reporters had been tipped off in advance by
Beefheart’s manager, Herb Cohen, who
in an official statement noted, “With my longtime friend Don’s re-emergence,
the musical world will finally get a firsthand taste of the quality rock ‘n’
roll that it has been sorely missing for the past quarter-century.”

 

Beefheart read Cohen’s statement aloud at the press
conference and, according to journalist Byron Coley who was on hand and filled
BLURT in on the event, the notoriously curmudgeonly performer snorted, ripped
the document in half, and said, “‘The higher you go, the rarer the vegetation.’
Salvador Dali said that, although I don’t know where he got it. I think I’ve
read it in a classic of one sort or another. Or
older classic. What do you think about that? Am I right or wrong? Although
there really is no right or wrong. The truth has no patterns.”

 

Beefheart subsequently filmed a video in which he discussed
the record, the tour and his artistry in general. It was posted in low-key
fashion to YouTube – you can view it below – although in typical Beefheart
fashion, his comments are maddeningly elliptical. He’s still got a bit of the
prankster to him too: the interview is interspersed with random archival clips
and earlier news reports, so you have to pay very careful attention to the
entire video.

 

For those not in the know of truth and its patterns,
Beefheart, born in 1941 in Glendale,
Calif., emerged in the early ‘60s
as a protégé of Frank Zappa. His
1969 album Trout Mask Replica regularly figures on Top 100 Albums of All Time lists, and he also exerted a
huge influence among the punk and new wave bands of the late ‘70s and early
‘80s, who embraced his final trifecta of albums-1978’s Shiny Beast, 1980’s Doc at
the Radar Station
and 1982’s Ice
Cream for Crow
as benchmarks of DIY bloody-minded artistic inventiveness.

 

 According to the
Wikipedia Beefheart entry, “Since the end of his musical career around 1982,
Van Vliet has made few public appearances, preferring a quiet life in his
California home where he has concentrated on a career in painting. His interest
in art dates back to a childhood talent for sculpting and his work-employing
what has been surmised as a ‘neo-primitive abstract-expressionist aesthetic,’
has received international recognition. Several of Van Vliet’s former band
members recently reformed as a group, and toured as The Magic Band from 2003 to
2006.”

 

Fun fact: in
recent years, P.J. Harvey and Beefheart somehow struck up a correspondence and
established a kind of confidante-mentor relationship. There’s no official word
from either artist’s camp whether or not this had anything to do with the good
Captain’s re-emergence, but certainly Harvey’s
encouragement and support didn’t hurt. Having her and Parish on the tour, then,
is a logical and laudable strategy. Kindred spirits, all.

 

Meanwhile, Precision Made, a newly-formed imprint of
Handmade, which itself is an imprint of Rhino Records, will be issuing a limited-to-5000-copies Beefheart box set,
provisionally titled Flight of the Blimp.
The five-disc collection will contain rarities, outtakes, and live material
culled from the artist’s Straight/Reprise/Warner Brothers years and reportedly
does not overlap with the Revenant label’s 1999 Grow Fins rarities box. It’s set for a late July or early August
release, full details tba.

 

 

Captain Beefheart
& the Magic Band 2009 Tour Dates:

 

 

05-16 Somerset,
UK – All Tomorrow’s
Parties (curated by Breeders)

06-13 Manchester TN – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival,
08-06 George, WA – The Gorge (Sasquatch! Festival)
08-07 Vancouver, British Columbia – Orpheum
08-08 Vancouver, British Columbia – Orpheum
08-10 Portland, OR – Keller Auditorium
08-12 Berkeley, CA – Greek Theatre
08-15 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-16 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-17 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-18 Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre
08-19 Phoenix, AZ – Dodge Theatre
08-22 Denver, CO – Red Rocks
08-23 Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theater
08-24 St. Louis, MO – Fabulous Fox Theater
08-26 Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theater
08-27 Minneapolis, MN – Orpheum Theater
08-29 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
08-30 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
08-31 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
09-08 Milwaukee, WI – Eagles Ballroom
09-09 Indianapolis, IN – Murat Theatre
09-10 Columbus, OH – Ohio Theatre
09-12 Cincinnati, OH – Music Hall
09-13 Louisville, KY – Palace Theatre
09-14 Cleveland, OH – Playhouse Square Center State Theatre
09-16 Toronto, Ontario – Molson Amphitheatre
09-19 Providence, RI – Performing Arts Center
09-20 Boston, MA – Opera House
09-21 Boston, MA – Opera House
09-24 New York, NY – Keyspan Park
09-27 Columbia, MO – Merriweather Post Pavilion
09-28 Atlantic City, NJ – House of Blue

 

 

[Photo Credit: A.P. Rilfool/RETNA Images]

 

 

 

 

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