“The Spotlight Kid” by Captain Beefheart - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1972Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Straight away with “The Spotlight Kid” something different was going on. Check that front cover! Rhinstone crooner alert? And no Magic Band billing? Smells like marketing PR to me. And who could blame them for extending an olive branch to the mainstream? The group had made virtually no money during the previous three years – at the time of recording, the band members were subsisting on welfare food handouts and remittances from their parents. Van Vliet later stated that he “got tired of scaring people with what I was doing… I realized that I had to give them something to hang their hat on, so I started working more of a beat into the music.” The subsequent results veered from occasional session-jam boredom to outright career-zenith monsterdom. As a whole, the LP is commercial to a certain extent, but still weird and unique in the Beefheart way.

For my sensiblities, “Spotlight” is dominated by three killer tracks. “When It Blows Its Stacks” is a classic, veering from a menacing brand sludge-rock to a light-hearted marimba-boogie in the space of the same song. “Grow Fins” is completely perfect – it’s steeped in delta blues of the deepest variety, with some awesome harmonica action from the main man himself, as good any exponent anywhere from Mississippi to Chicago. The improbable story involves the good Cap’n as some sort of half-man half-fish character. His “land-lubbin’ woman” is giving him the blues. If she doesn’t “get it back together” he’s “gonna grow fins ‘n go back in the water again” ultimately to “take up with ah mermaid, n’ leave you land-lubbin’ women alone.” Hilarious! With the same slung-low blues inflections, “There Ain’t No Santa Claus” immediately maintains the greatness, and the message is clear: this Rock n Roll biz ain’t no fairytale. Colman Andrews, writing in Phonograph Record Magazine, described the album as evidence that Van Vliet was “the greatest white blues singer in America today.” I don’t think there’s the slightest bit of doubt about that.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:33] 5.4.png Captain Beefheart - I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A2 [02:55] 7.2.png Captain Beefheart - White Jam (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A3 [02:46] 5.9.png Captain Beefheart - Blabber ‘n Smoke (Don Van Vliet, Jan Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A4 [03:40] 9.3.png Captain Beefheart - When It Blows Its Stacks (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A5 [03:54] 5.0.png Captain Beefheart - Alice In Blunderland (Don Van Vliet) Rock
B1 [03:21] 5.4.png Captain Beefheart - The Spotlight Kid (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B2 [03:30] 6.8.png Captain Beefheart - Click Clack (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
B3 [03:30] 10.0.png Captain Beefheart - Grows Fins (Don Van Vliet) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
B4 [03:11] 9.5.png Captain Beefheart - There Ain’t No Santa Claus On The Evenin’ Stage (Don Van Vliet) Blues / Rhythm n Blues
B5 [04:34] 6.2.png Captain Beefheart - Glider (Don Van Vliet) Blues Rock / Soul Rock

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