Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - The Grow Fins Box Set
Grow Fins is an impeccably assembled, lavishly produced, epic fanboy love poem to one of popular music's least popular and most influential geniuses, Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart. Packaged in a hardcover accordion folio that recalls the 78-rpm era, five CDs of demos, acetates, concert recordings, video footage, and radio broadcasts are packaged alongside 112 densely annotated, highly illuminating pages of previously unpublished text and photos that leap from trainspotting minutiae to insider revelation. The sound has been cleaned up considerably, but the set is essentially the world's coolest bootleg. The upshot is that if you love Beefheart's music, you're likely to have already one-clicked it, but if you are looking for an introduction to his idiosyncratic and totally addictive music, you should hear Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and Safe as Milk first. This set traces the various permutations and exhilarating development of the Magic Band, from bluesy garage punks to otherworldly, thoroughly orchestrated avant-Delta/skronk/rock avatars of the Trout Mask sessions to the rejuvenated new-wave-era group. Insights into the Magic Band's working method abound, notably with the earliest recordings of Trout, in which they're rougher sounding and mostly instrumental, although their exacting precision disproves the legend that the music was banged out in a free-form free-for-all; clearly, it was a laborious effort. The video footage from Cannes Beach, France, in 1968 and the Detroit "Tubeworks" show in 1971 is priceless. The radio appearances on disc 5 are also thrilling; Beefheart plays solo harp and sings relaxed, spine-tingling a cappella songs. After beginning John Lee Hooker's "Black Snake Moan," which shows off Beefheart's infamous, multi-octave range, he stops in the middle, informing a Boston radio host, "I just can't get it through this microphone--it's too little."