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Captain Beyond - Captain Beyond

Captain Beyond

Released 1972 on Capricorn
Reviewed by Brandon Tenold, 02/05/2008ce

Captain Beyond’s self-titled 1972 debut is something of an anomaly in the annals of overlooked 70’s hard rock albums. Whereas most obscure riff-head stoners of the era, your Fuzzy Ducks, your Leaf Hounds for example, feature trebly, virtually non-existent production and straight from the garage musicianship, “Captain Beyond” is the sound of a group of seasoned pros flexing their musical muscles, excited by the possibilities of their new group.

Formed in the early 70’s, Captain Beyond featured former Deep Purple vocalist Rod Evans, Iron Butterfly guitarist Larry “Rhino” Rheinhart, bassist Lee Dorman, also from Iron Butterfly and Drummer Bobby Caldwell who had played with Johnny Winter. Although none of these guys are household names, the talent of each member is vividly on display on this self-titled debut, a combination of post-Hendrix power riffage and progressive rock lyrics and time signatures. Although not a concept album per se, each song forms part of a whole, with each track bleeding into the next one and consisting of many suite-like sections.

The Album begins with Caldwell’s technically accomplished yet funky drumbeat kicking of “Dancing Madly Backwards” which also forms the first part of a suite with the next two songs, “Armworth” and “Myopic Void”. Evans sings about “dancing madly backwards, dancing on a sea” and how underneath his lover their “lies a sea of bliss”. Yes, the lyrics aren’t likely to blow any listeners away, but that’s not the good Captain’s strongpoint. Instead, concentrate on the music, which is propelled by Caldwell’s ultra-precise yet rockin’ drumming. His virtuosity makes the song-to-song and section-to-section transitions seem smooth and natural, and by the time the group gets to the trippy slide guitar and harmonized chants in “Myopic Void” the listener can’t help but bask in the acid-fried glory. A brief reprise of “Dancing Madly Backwards” brings everything to a nice close.

Up Next are two standalone rockers, “Mesmerization Eclipse” and “Raging River of fear”. These two songs are the most straightforward on the album, with a memorable riff forming the basis of both songs, but they still contain various twists and changes in tempo to make you remember that these cats are “progressive” in their musical ambition.

Were back in suite-land for the next part of the album, “Thousand Days of Yesterday/Frozen Over”, which is also the low point of the album in this reviewer’s opinion. It’s not unlistenable by any stretch, but some bubble-gum backing vocals mar certain parts, and as a whole, it never really catches fire the way the best parts of the album do. Also, Evens injects a few to many “mamas” in “Frozen Over”, as if he was singing about the juice running down his leg instead of…what ever it is he’s singing about. Oh well, it was the early 70’s and The Zep was already well on their way to world domination, perhaps the boys thought such lyrics were a requirement for record sales.

Finally, we get to the last part of the record, “I can’t feel nothin’/As the Moon Speaks”. Despite an ill advised spoken word part (NEVER a good idea in rock music) in “As the Moon Speaks”. The band brings the album to a frenzied finale, with power riffs and calculus professor time signatures galore, and it is arguably this track that shows the tightness of the musician’s best. What’s also remarkable is how concise the band is, fitting 13 tracks into less than 36 minutes. In an era when bands were starting to decide that a song about whales would need to take up and entire side of vinyl, the band’s restraint in downright commendable.

With the exception of a few of the vocals, “Captain Beyond” stands the test of time quite well, sounding fully produced but not slick, and displaying a near punk sense of economy. It’s also one of the best fusions of hard rock with a progressive nature, something few bands get right. Sadly the group would never sound this good again, producing two more albums that range from okay (their second) to crap (their third). Thankfully, they left this debut, which, although not as famous as their previous bands work, is the best example of their talent as musicians.

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