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Best Album
Captain Beyond8
 
Released: 1972

1)  Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea of Air)  2) Armworth  3) Myopic Void  4) Mesmerization Eclipse  5) Raging River of Fear  6) Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Intro)  7) Frozen Over  8) Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)  9) I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part I)  10) As The Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)  11) Astral Lady  12) As the Moon The Moon Speaks (Return)  13) I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part II) 

 

If there was ever an album that needed a hit single, this is it.  Few have heard this record, and few will continue to hear it, because there is absolutely no superficial reason to buy it.  No “Another Brick in The Wall Part 2,” no “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” not even a “Mississippi Queen.”  Despite the lack of a smash single, this album is truly one of the best rock albums of the 1970s, with artist merit, excellent playing, great singing, and, most importantly, really good songs.  Many have claimed it is hard to find, but you can get it at www.amazon.com with no trouble at all, and for those of us who don’t mind buying used, www.half.com usually has it as well.      

 

Captain Beyond is a supergroup of sorts, formed in Los Angeles, 1971.  The lineup features former Deep Purple singer, Rod Evans, Iron Butterfly alumni Larry Rheinhart on guitar and Lee Dorman on bass, and former Johnny Winter's Band drummer Bobby Caldwell.  Caldwell is the musical star here, with his steady drumming the catalyst behind the album’s sound (plus, he and Evans wrote every song on the album).  Having been in such prominent bands, Captain Beyond’s members already possessed experience on stage and in studio, and this insider’s know-how is what makes their debut album sound so professional and well crafted.  Each of the thirteen tunes flawlessly flow into each other, with no traditional pauses between songs.  Also, lyrical and musical passages are repeated throughout, which makes the entire album sound like one continuous tune, ala “Thick As A Brick.” 

 

Actually, one continuous tune is not really accurate, as each side of the original LP seems to be structured into two separate song suites.  Side A gets off to a rare, unusual start, with a drum fill beginning to the album’s opening song, “Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea of Air).”  This has that 70s hard rock feel…dirty, raunchy, and sublime.  What sets this apart from most other songs of the era though is its structure…never sounding like a bar standard or something easy to play, the tune really seems meticulously planned out and rehearsed (particularly the middle guitar solo).  Not that this is a bad thing, but it seems resonance and spontaneity aren’t what this album is about.

 

The under two minute “Armworth” begins with a riff very similar to the opening number.  This features excellent harmony and background singing, which lead directly into the album’s musical highlight, “Myopic Void.”  Marching drums form the backbeat of this little mood piece, which picks up steam at the end and flashes back to the melody and lyrics of “Dancing Madly Backwards.”  Mesmerization Eclipse” follows and again has that hard rock feel, not quite heavy metal, but closing the gap a little between the two.  The middle section (featuring a cowbell and harmony background singing) rules and Evans shines here with his deep bluesy voice.  Raging River of Fear” jumps in from the fadeout of “Mesmerization Eclipse” and sounds a little like Hendrix (always a good thing).  Unlike with Jimi however, there isn’t an element of danger here.  It is so well structured that you know where it is going to go before it gets there…nothing that just knocks you off your feet, you know?  This tune also steals its middle riff from “Hey Bulldog” by the Beatles.

 

Side B of the original LP begins with a new song suite and a completely different sound.  Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Intro)” is a very pretty acoustic intro: light, gentle, and tender.  This quickly turns into “Frozen Over,” a song that sounds a lot like Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”  The riff is relentless, but they lose the Zeppelin similarities in the middle, almost jazzy section, which turns a good tune to great.  Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)” should have been the hit single from the album—catchy acoustic fast paced strumming with a terrific melody and soaring electric guitar solo.  Why wasn’t this released as a single?  It could really have broke the band through…

 

The electric guitars return on “I Can’t Feel Nothin’ (Part 1)." This is a more bluesy song, but still has that head banging, pulsating tone that the album features.  Another good tune with an excellent instrument break in the middle.  The “Immigrant Song” riff crops back up at the end of this tune before it segues into “As the Moon Speaks (To the Waves of the Sea)."  The acoustic intro to this is absolutely killer and the song sounds like it is just about to take off when Evans speaks the lyrics…no singing…just talking.  WHY?!?!?!?!  This had such potential, but sounds cheesy beyond belief.  The lone lowlight, it still has a memorable melody and an angelic chorus singing “I Can’t Feel Nothin’” in the coda. 

 

The last three songs roll into one another with no way of telling when one starts and the other ends.  In there somewhere is a grooving half minute bass solo, that “Immigrant Song” riff brought back a few times, and a great section where Evans doesn’t sing words…he lets the music take over and just grunts and shouts, (the lone time on the album where it seems something wasn’t premeditated).                       

                                       

No doubt about it that this album is a lost classic and should be heralded much more than it is…it plays like an early heavy metal, rock opera and really is a one-of-a-kind record.  With that being said, it does feel a little too slick for me…almost emotionless.  But what this album lacks in impulsiveness, it makes up for with sheer professionalism and finely crafted songs.  If you are a fan of hard rock or progressive rock at all, you must hear this record.   

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