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Captain Beefheart, RIP

As everyone but me in the blogosphere has reported, Don Van Vliet, AKA Captain Beefheart died from complications of multiple sclerosis on December 17th.

I was first exposed to Captain Beefheart when I was a young teen and a big fan of Frank Zappa. I'd heard The Blimp and Old Fart At Play on a sampler album from Zappa's Bizarre label, and his vocals on Zappa's  Willie The Pimp.

I was intrigued enough to go out and buy his famous Trout Mask Replica album. I thought I was into some really weird music until I put this on my turntable. I hated it at first and wondered what the hell I'd spent two weeks allowance on. It sounded like noise.

But like I said, I spent two weeks allowance so I tried to make the best of it. A few listenings revealed some choice musical tidbits, such as the drums on Ant Man Bee and the guitar at the end of Veteran's Day Poppy.

TMR is considered a love-it-or-hate-it album but after listening to it many times  I find myself somewhere in between. My final verdict is that it's a double album with a single disks worth of really good music.

I like the Captain's more accessible stuff. I know a lot of people think that's like saying I like Shakespeare except when the characters talk funny, but I disagree. For one thing, almost all of his albums, even the last few whose adventurous nature earned the wild praise of critics are more accessible than Trout Mask Replica. Also, I don't think the Captain ever made music so accessible it was pedestrian or dull. A lot of his albums, such as Safe As Milk and Spotlight Kid, struck a nice balance between edgy and listenable, and I enjoy them immensely.

He was truly an American original, and will be missed.
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