Not many people had high expectations for this record. On paper, the project sounded like a horrible idea.
For Captain Beefheart fans, the thought of him working with Ted Templeman and Donn Landee, the team best known for producing the Doobie Brothers, sounded like treason. For people who appreciated The Doobie Brothers, there was no way they could wrap their heads around a freak like Beefheart. This was clear example of putting insects on your ice cream, and everybody predicted toxic results.
Beefheart’s previous release, “The Spotlight Kid,” more or less betrayed its title, as it plainly showed Beefheart abandoning the wildly eclectic nature of “Trout Mask Replica,” sounding instead like somebody who longed to be accepted by the masses, to become ‘The Spotlight Kid’. It was pretty awful. On the heels of an album that screamed ‘sell-out’, it’s understandable that nobody, except for the principals, had any expectations at all for “Clear Spot,” – commercial or artistic - and it sold even worse than its predecessor.
That is really too bad, if not criminal. Don Van Vliet (Beefheart) sounds positively inspired throughout this record, with clever songs and genuinely thoughtful lyrics. Songs veer from clever and amusing (“Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man”, “Long Neck Bottles”) to clever and moving (“My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains”, “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles”), and the Magic Band is stunningly perfect throughout, even while playing ‘conventional’ music.
This could be heard as proof that the guys really were brilliant players – a fact that alluded unimaginative listeners on “Trout Mask Replica’. That album deliberately went against the grain and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, while attracting a cult fanbase. “Clear Spot” followed the grain and even buffed the rough edges to a delicate sheen. It is an artistically brilliant record, but a horrible move from a commercial perspective, as all parties shunned it.
It wasn’t until a decade or so later that the core fans began to catch on to the brilliance contained here. Somewhere along the line, a few people began to recognize that Beefheart did not have to abrasive in order to be appreciated. The brilliance of this album is that it features weird titles like “Sun Zoom Spark” and “Big Eyed Beans from Venus,” yet makes them sound more than just palatable. “Clear Spot” is still grossly underrated, as it cannot even be purchased digitally except as a ‘two-fer’, attached like an appendage to its predecessor. That’s a shame, but at least it’s available, and if you give it an honest chance, you might discover that it grows on you, too.
Low Yo Yo Stuff
Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man
Too Much Time
My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains
Sun Zoom Spark
Crazy Little Thing
Long Neck Bottles
Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles
Big Eyed Beans From Venus
October 1972 - Billboard Charted #191
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