Captain Beyond were one of those "only in the '70s" bands, who sound something like the bastard child of The Stooges and The Grateful Dead. Although the sound quality is not the best, the newly released Live in Texas October 6, 1973 captures them in their prime on a wild night.
The four-piece band could be considered something of an early-seventies "supergroup," depending on one's definition of the term. Throughout their history, the lineup of Captain Beyond was fairly volatile. For this tour, the band featured two former members of Iron Butterfly: Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt (guitar), and Lee Dorman (bass); Bobby Caldwell (who drummed with Johnny Winter); and "Hush"-era Deep Purple vocalist Rod Evans. These guys brought everything they learned with their former employers and more to Captain Beyond. They even include that obligatory '70s concert staple, the drum solo. In listening to this show, one call almost smell the pungent, stinky-bud aroma at the University of Texas, Arlington on that warm October night.
What Captain Beyond did best was a sort of "space rock," minus the frills of a Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream. Like the Dead, or the Allman Brothers, Captain Beyond incorporated a lot of jazz into their music. This is rarely discussed when people talk about so-called "jam" bands, but that is the real origin of those lengthy solos. Done right, this can add a lot to the songs. Of course, the opposite is true also. In the case of Captain Beyond, they did it very well, which is the main reason they have always been so highly regarded. In terms of staying together, they were their own worst enemies though.
The band formed in 1971, and drew upon their two albums Captain Beyond (1972), and Sufficiently Breathless (1973) for this concert. They split, then reformed in 1977 for Dawn Explosion, but by then their momentum had been lost. They were definitely peaking in Arlington in '73. After an "Intro" designed to leave the listener sufficiently breathless, they launch into "Distant Sun," which is especially notable for Rhino's guitar solo. Their psychedelic blues-based rock continues with "Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea of Air)," "Armworth," "Myopic Void," and "Drifting in Air." Those titles sound "cosmic" enough, and there is some of that, but I cannot stress enough just how down and dirty these guys are as well.
When getting one's degree in Rock Criticism, one of the key lessons you are taught is how different The Stooges were from Grand Funk Railroad. Both were from Michigan, but that is where the similarities begin and end. Well, as a graduate, let me just say that this historical assertion is wrong. Neither band were technically awesome musicians. They both bashed it out, like teens in the basement. Despite all of the mystical trappings, this is what Captain Beyond do too. With a title like "Armworth," one is not supposed to think of a garage band. But it kind of is garage rock, and it's great.
Things really get trippy in the middle of the set, beginning with "Pandora's Box (It's War)," and including "Thousand Days of Yesterday," and "Frozen Over." This portion is just manic, and if something could be described as "Good Spinal Tap" - then this is it. We have the spoken-word intro, all kinds of bizarre effects, then a massive wall-of-sound freakout. By this point, you are either on the bus or off it - there is no turning back.
And yet, that is only the beginning. You want assurance that you are in the midst of a 1973 stoner's night out beyond compare? Check out the 6:32 "Guitar Solo," during which Rhino uses the famous "talk-box" guitar effect. Yup, the talk-box, whatever happened to that piece of equipment? Joe Perry used it in the opening of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," but it was Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like We Do?" that really made it famous. Well, Rhino uses it here, and it sounds awesome.
What could possibly follow a talk-box infused guitar solo besides a 13-minute drum solo? Caldwell does a fine job, in fact I was begging for mercy at around the seven-minute mark, but with all of these Iron Butterfly guys around, where is Ron Bushy? It's too bad Caldwell didn't quote a sample of Bushy's classic "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida solo for old time's sake. These solos are incorporated into a song called "Mesmerization Eclipse" and it all adds up to around 25 minutes of bong-loading fun. But wait, there's more! To close out the night, Captain Beyond salute Hendrix with a cover of "Stone Free."
The music of Captain Beyond is a ripe target for hipper-than-thou souls to make fun of, and I may have done a bit of that myself in this review. The big difference though is that I actually love this type of stuff. I grew up with it, and remember it well. Ok it was the '70s, so maybe I don't remember it all that well. How about fondly? In any case, this was what bands were doing, whether onstage at the University of Texas, or out in a field at a kegger. Our keg-bands were no Captain Beyond, but we had a fine time anyway. My point is, this is the type of music that was happening and cool back then. No amount of revisionist history is ever going to change that.
Live in Texas, October 6, 1973 is a great reminder of those days for me. I didn't really know about this band in 1973, but I sure knew the type. I have since become a big fan, and am very happy that the Cleopatra label decided to bring this out.
As I mentioned earlier, the sound quality of this recording is not the best, but it will do. Now quit bogarting that joint and enjoy the music.