Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24: Captain Beyond, "Captain Beyond"

Artist: Captain Beyond
Album: Captain Beyond
Year: 1972
Label: Capricorn

During the early 1970's, most of the experimentation within rock generally revolved around the music either becoming far more aggressive (punk) or fusing together rock with psychedelia. Even with these massive trends, there were of course, bands who were pushing boundaries in other directions. Easily one of the most original and progressive bands was the relatively unknown quartet called Captain Beyond. The band combined elements of jazz, metal, blues-rock, and, well, the "spacey" element that was perfected by groups like Moody Blues. Though each member of the band came from the ranks of other bands for which they are far better known, in every case, it is their work with Captain Beyond that stands as their crowning musical achievement. Though the band was never very commercially successful, their 1972 self-titled debut is absolutely incredible and still stands as one of the most original and sensational albums ever recorded.

From their sound to the way in which the album progresses, everything about Captain Beyond was simultaneously innovative and spectacular. Even the album cover itself for Captain Beyond stands out, as it is a wonderfully "old school," psychedelic, lenticularly printed 3-D image. Though they were not the first to do this to their album cover (the Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesties Request" comes to mind), they were, in fact, one of the last, and the method has obviously become a lost art in the "CD age." Captain Beyond take a note from the Moody Blues' style of music, as the songs all flow directly into the next, so the album only appears to have five individual songs. Tracks one thru three, six thru eight, and nine thru thirteen all segue directly into one another, and tracks four and five stand on their own. The structure of the songs is also notable, as the tempos constantly shift within the individual songs, and it enables the songs to further sound as if they are meandering single tracks comprised of the groups listed above. The perfection to which Captain Beyond carries out this idea, and the fact that the album, at no point, becomes dull or less interesting, is a testament to just how phenomenal a band they were.

The music on Captain Beyond runs from straightforward rock songs to beautiful, more mellow compositions, and both styles are perfectly displayed on the song, "As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)." Each song is equally superb, and it is very much due to how perfectly the bands plays along with one another. The chemistry between the musicians is undeniable, and after hearing Captain Beyond, it is clear that the band is easily one of the tightest groups to ever record together. The original lineup for Captain Beyond very much appears to be an all-star grouping of amazing musicians of the day. After working with Iron Butterfly, guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt founded Captain Beyond with original Iron Butterfly bassist, Lee Dorman. Reinhardt's guitar work, both electric and acoustic, is simply phenomenal throughout, and there are countless brilliant solos and fantastic riffs all over Captain Beyond. The bass-work of Dorman is equally as impressive, and he shines on each and every song. His true prowess as a bass player becomes clear with his stunning playing on the song, ""As the Moon Speaks (Return)." Having honed his chops playing on some of the best albums from Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer, drummer Bobby Caldwell is nothing short of phenomenal on Captain Beyond. While the musicians are rather diverse in their musical styles, they truly "click" as a group, and the resulting album stands as one of the best rock albums ever recorded.

The final piece of the puzzle that makes Captain Beyond so phenomenal is singer Rod Evans. Evans, who may be more well known as the founder and frontman for Deep Purple (he was the vocalist before Ian Gillan), simply has the perfect voice and delivery style for the sound of Captain Beyond. Evans is able to sing in a quiet, beautiful manner, as well as get more aggressive and help to drive the more "metal" based passages. Regardless of the manner in which he is singing, the songs very much come across as "journeys," and both musically and lyrically, the listener truly feels as if the record is "taking" them to another planet. Lyrically, Captain Beyond is far from a "standard" rock record, as the album explores more complex and deeper themes than the usual "wine, women, and song" topics of most bands of the time. Throughout the album, the group explores ideas concerning the meaning of human existence, digging deep into the question, often referencing other-worldly bodies like the moon, sun, ocean, etc. This more "meaningful" content within the lyrics is yet another way in which Captain Beyond completely outshines and stands superior to an overwhelming majority of other records of the era.

The tragedy of times of great musical explosions is that often times, the most amazing bands and records simply get left in the dust of the bands that, for whatever reason, have the most commercial success. Presenting some of the most extraordinary musical chemistry and innovative compositions, Captain Beyond proved to be well ahead of their time, and the music they created as influenced countless bands since its release. Bringing together members of Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, and Johnny Winter's band, the musicians all have stellar musical resum├ęs, yet the product they create as a group is far greater than the sum of its parts. Truth be told, it is almost shameful when one considers the lack of credit that this group has received over the decades, as their music is undoubtedly some of the finest to emerge from the decade. Though Captain Beyond's original lineup only recorded two albums, both are nothing short of stunning, and after hearing only one or two songs, it is clear that they should have been one of the biggest bands of their time. With an amazing, unique combination of jazz, metal, and psychedelia, Captain Beyond's self-titled 1972 debut remains one of the greatest records ever made, and it is a record that should be immediately purchased by those who have never experienced the astounding music contained within.

Standout tracks: "Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air)," "Raging River of Fear," and "As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)."

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