Whether you knew him for his artwork or his music, Don Van Vliet – beloved to many as Captain Beefheart – has been much mourned since his death in 2010 at the age of 69, but the man who once helmed The Magic Band has continued to maintain a dedicated following. While his music was generally well out of the mainstream, his seminal album, 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, made such an impact that it was added to the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010. For many, though, that particular album is the sum total of their Captain Beefheart collection, which is why we’re so excited about the opportunity to expand some people’s musical horizons with our new limited-edition four-disc boxed set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972.
Sometimes we write posts because we think you’ll enjoy reading them, other times we write posts simply because we think they’re important, but this is one which feels at least a little bit superfluous, if only because the people to whom this release would likely be the most important have probably already ordered it. Nonetheless, we have a duty to perform, and perform it we will, so here goes:
See what we mean? We know that you diehard Monkees fans already knew this day was coming, so it seems unlikely that you’d really need a reminder for a date that you’ve no doubt had circled on your calendar for quite some time.
If you never travel far without a little Big Star, then not only do you likely already know who Chris Bell is, but you probably already own the lone solo album by the late Mr. Bell, who played guitar and sang on Big Star’s boldly-titled debut album, #1 Record, before departing the band’s ranks for a solo career which ended abruptly when, at the age of 27, he was killed in a car crash. It was a sad, sudden end for a songwriter who’d already begun to earn respect from his peers, and it seems all the more tragic in retrospect, given how many artists have found inspiration in I Am the Cosmos since it finally received its belated release on Rykodisc in 1992.
In 2009, Rhino Handmade offered up a two-disc deluxe edition of I Am the Cosmos, pairing the album’s original 12 tracks on the first disc with a second disc featuring three tracks by Bell’s pre-Big Star bands (two by Icewater, one by Rock City), nine alternate and extended versions and mixes of songs from the album, collaborations with Keith Sykes (“Stay with Me”) and Nancy Bryan (“In My Darkest Hour”), and concluding with the instrumental “Clacton Rag.” Here’s the full track listing for your perusal:
This week’s Mono Monday release features a title track which has gone on to become known to quite a few classic-rock aficionados as a really great ZZ Top song, but if you’ve never heard the original, then get ready to thank us.
Sam Moore and Dave Prater had been a hot commodity in the world of rhythm and blues since Hold On, I’m Comin’, their 1966 debut album on Stax Records, which they took to the top of the Billboard R&B Charts, but it was their third studio effort, 1967’s Soul Men, that served as their full-fledged mainstream breakthrough, hitting #2 on the Billboard Top 200. As such, one might’ve expected I Thank You, which was the duo’s Atlantic Records debut, to build on that success, possibly even providing them Sam & Dave with their first chart-topper, but it was not to be: the album didn’t even crack the Billboard Top 200, and as it was, it only made it to #38 on the R&B chart.
But let’s get back to that title track, which was a hit, providing Sam & Dave with another top-10 success on the Billboard Hot 100 (#9) while also taking them to #3 on the R&B singles chart. And while we’ve already mentioned how ZZ Top brought the song to a whole new generation of listeners as well as into a new musical genre, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the similar success of the B-side, “Wrap It Up,” which – in addition to being on the I Thank You album as well – provided The Fabulous Thunderbirds with a minor hit (#50) in 1986.
This weekend, the world of music lost one of the great rock ‘n’ roll bassists of all time…and that’s not intended to dismiss his efforts in other musical genres – in particular, he really knew his way around jazz – but simply to underline that Cream was one of the best British bands of the ‘60s, and a lot of that had to do with the work of Jack Bruce.
Born on May 14, 1943 in Lanarkshire, Scotland, John Simon Asher Bruce – known to his mates and the music world at large as Jack – was born to musical parents, and their gifts were apparently passed on to their son, who actually won a scholarship to study cello and musical composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. One can only guess in what direction Bruce’s life might have gone if he’d actually managed to graduate from the Academy, but that never came to pass: to support himself while he was in school, he played in Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband, but as the Academy censured any students who dared to play jazz, he was given the ultimatum to stop playing it or leave the school, and…well, we all know how that story ends.