Song: Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do (1/12)
Album: Safe As Milk (1967)
Artist: Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
The first album, Safe As Milk (Buddha) was released in 1967.
The occult personality of the leader communicates a Dadaist touch and a hallucinogenic joy that from time to time reminds one of a bluesy Zappa, or alternately, a blues-rock version of the Holy Modal Rounders. Perhaps the most hilarious piece is the supersonic blues Sure Nuff' n Yes I Do, another shouted song where the traditional riff of Rollin' And Tumblin' sustains a breath-taking cadence. Another apparently comical piece, Electricity, is in fact one of the most reckless harmonic experiments in the career of Van Vliet. As Electricity spins and spits its perverse nursery rhyme, two teetering, grinding blues guitars (Cooder and Alex St. Clair) tear it to pieces, while a languid and grotesque theremin mews in the background, and the rhythm section picks out a hobbling quadrille. French's rhythm, syncopated and muted, is a masterpiece within a masterpiece. The work is structured according to a supernatural order, but leaves the impression of chaotic witticism. That which the Magic Band crushes is not the harmony, but the classic concept of song.
The comic element is indeed the epicenter of the obsessive rhythm and blues Dropout Boogie, where the threatening energy of a sinister syncopated riff couples together a demonic growl and a vaudeville xylophone, and Zig Zag Wanderer, where the blues shouter's heritage is more obvious, backed by a soul chorus. More faithful to tradition are the doo-wop vocalizations in I' m Glads, and the melodramatic sentimentality of Autumn Child. Free paraphrases of rhythm and blues, as well as massive doses of Delta blues are evident in Plastic Factory, and in the biting syncopations of Grown So Ugly.
Some styles and attitudes are more abusively mocked than others. A relentless drive powers Beefheart's vocal histrionics, as he changes personality from one cut to the next, as he shifts from caricature to caricature. The trasformation ends in the lycanthropic tap dance Yellow Brick Road, with xylophone and Broadway-style chorus, and in Abba Zaba,a tropical sabbath, with African tribal dance rhythms, a jazz solo for bass, and Hawaiian slide guitar.