Saturday, May 1, 2021

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (UPGRADE)

 

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – 

It Comes To You In a Plain Brown Wrapper

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

MAY 2021 UPGRADE


Disc 1 – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Side A:
1. Safe as Milk
2. Big Black Baby Shoes
3. Moody Liz
4. Trust Us

Side B:
5. On Tomorrow
6. Dirty Blue Gene
7. Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones
8. Gimme Dat Harp Boy
9. Kandy Korn


Disc 2 – The Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers
Side A:
1. Mirror Man
2. 25th Century Quakers

Side B:
3. Korn Ring Finger
4. Tarotplane


Happy May Day! To celebrate, here’s a long-overdue upgrade to one of my favorite albums that never were. This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1968 double-album It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. Originally scrapped with half of the material re-recorded and infamously “psychedelicized” for the album Strictly Personal with the other half released as 1972’s Mirror Man, this reconstruction attempts to cull all the originally intended material for the double album that was supposed to be their sophomore release, more successfully bridging the gap between 1967’s Safe As Milk and 1969’s Trout Mask Replica. This upgraded version attempts to follow drummer John “Drumbo” French’s recollections of what Captain Beefheart actually intended with the album, organizing the composed material on Disc One and the improvised material on Disc Two. I have created unique edits of the improvised material in order to fit on a theoretical vinyl record, and have edited the composed songs in Disc One as per French’s notes on how they should have ended. Additionally, I have synced the isolated vocal from the Strictly Personal version of “On Tomorrow” with the instrumental Plain Brown Wrapper version, creating a 'finished' recording.

After a prominent rise of notoriety upon the release of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s psychedelic-blues debut Safe As Milk in 1967, the group stood at a crossroads of how to proceed: continue being a cutting edge cult act or expanding their horizons? After a disastrous warm-up performance for their scheduled 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, it seemed that breakthrough success would elude the riotous bunch. To make matters worse, Don Van Vliet’s band had been damaged by lineup changes due to members who had had enough of The Captain’s drug hallucinations, erratic behavior and alleged emotional abuse. Prodigal guitarist Ry Cooder vacated to be replaced briefly by Gerry McGee, who was in turn replaced by Jeff Cotton.

Despite the troubled waters, Vliet reunited with a Magic Band that consisted of Cotton, Alex St. Clair Snouffer, Jerry Handley and John French in the November of 1967 to record their follow-up to Safe As Milk at TTG Studios in Los Angels. The band had spent months writing and rehearsing new material, which they tackled in the studio: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy”, “Kandy Korn”, “Big Black Baby Shoes”, “Flower Pot”, “Dirty Blue Gene” and “Moody Liz”. The new material was more intricate and abstract as compared to the Blues-based Safe as Milk, yet often retaining a melodic sensibility for the possibility of mainstream airplay; “Trust Us” was specifically earmarked for the lead single for the new record.

But expectations were even higher than this impressive collection of songs, as Vliet intended their sophomore album to be a conceptual double-record: The first disc would contain the aforementioned “composed” works, and be credited to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band; a second disc of improvisational jams would constitute the second disc, credited to their alter-egos the Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers, who were essentially “opening” for Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. The album was to be called It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper, in reference to an ambiguous parcel containing either narcotics, drug paraphernalia or possibly pornography. The cover art was to feature exactly that as well, a plain brown wrapper marked ‘strictly personal’, with both records addressed from one band to the other. There was even a photo shoot with the band dressed as Quakers!

Producer Robert Krasnow ran tape as the Captain and His Magic Band soldered through a number of live improvisations-- “Taroplane”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Mirror Man” and “Korn Ring Finger” – which Drumbo French thought were disorganized due to Vliet being unable to conduct the unprepared band properly, as he was contained in a vocal booth. After tracking more than a double album’s worth of material in total, the sessions were paused for a European tour, leaving only six of the ten composed songs with vocals. The band never returned to the TTG Session recordings, forever leaving these tracks unfinished. No reason was ever given for the session’s halt, but it has been suggested that their label Buddha Records had pulled the plug out of disinterest. Interestingly enough, due to Buddha Records misfiling of the band’s contract, Captain Beefheart and company were free to sign to a different label by the Spring of 1968. The very next day, Krasnow and the band entered Sunset Sound Studios to rerecord a single-LP version of the album on Krasnow’s own Blue Thump label.

Recorded in April and May of 1968, Don & his crew recut the more ”commercial” tracks from the November 1967 sessions at a much more abbreviated length: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “Mirror Man” (cut from the original 15 minutes down to 5!), “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones ‘n; Smokin’ Stones, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, as well as a new improvisation called "Ah Feel Like Ahcid." In a move that angered Beefheart fans for ages, Krasnow allegedly took the liberty himself to overdub numerous faux-psychedelic effects onto the newly-recorded album, even completely burying the mixes under unlistenable phasing. The resulting released album—Strictly Personal—was a commercial disaster and The Captain disowned the album, claiming the effects were added without his permission. Some speculate that was untrue and Vliet had given his approval only to later turn on the album after its failure. Either way, this folly of questionable truth is just simply a part of the Captain Beefheart mythos-- as was everything else!

After the critical success of the seminal experimental and Frank Zappa-produced rock album Trout Mask Replica (not to mention its respectable follow-up Lick My Decals Off Baby), Buddha Records wished to capitalize on Captain Beefheart’s renewed cult status and artistic credibility. Going back to the original November 1967 Plain Brown Wrapper tapes, they compiled a single-disc of material, primarily focusing on the extended live improvisations. 1971’s Mirror Man included “Tarotplane”, “Kandy Korn”, “25th Century Quaker” and “Mirror Man” and showed the world (or at least the few who were listening) what Strictly Personal was supposed to sound like, to some extent. But wasn't without its own short comings: not only was it merely half of the original Plain Brown Wrapper album, but it featured anachronistic cover art, improper musician credits and Buddha falsely claimed the album was recorded in one night in 1965!

Beyond the Mirror Man LP, the TTG Sessions remained unheard, although “Big Black Baby Shoes” was rerecorded as “Ice Rose” for 1978’s Shiny Beast and “Dirty Blue Gene” was rerecorded for Doc At The Radar Station in 1980. Years passed before fans were able to piece together the actual Plain Brown Wrapper album, beginning with questionably-legal British import I May Be Hungry But I Ain’t Weird in 1992. Suffering from the same fate as other early Captain Beefheart CD reissues of poor mastering and use of inferior mastertapes, it wasn’t until 1999 when Buddha Records released The Mirror Man Sessions, essentially a properly-mastered Mirror Man with five outtakes from the Plain Brown Wrapper sessions included as bonus tracks; seven more TTG outtakes were included as bonus tracks on the 1999 remaster of Safe As Milk. Finally, Sundazed Records collected all the non-Mirror Man outtakes and one more additional track in their own vinyl-only 2008 reconstruction of It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (which made no attempt to literally reconstruct the lost album).

While all the pieces are now available to recreate It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper, we still have the task to wrap it all up as one. While my previous reconstruction featured a mix of the composed and improvised selections evenly spread across the four theoretical LP sides, here we will follow what drummer John French has said he believed the album would have been structured, according to conversations he’d had with The Captain himself! This will include making my own unique edits of the four improvisational pieces (“Mirror Man”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Korn Ring Finger” and “Tarotplane”) so that they will fit on a 40-minute vinyl record. The remaining songs will be sequenced as French suggested (beginning with “Safe as Milk" and ending with “Kandy Korn”), using the songs’ officially-released versions as a template of when the tracks should end (as most of the TTG Sessions simply did not have proper endings), as well as French’s own comments about when songs should have ended. Finally, Side B will be structured to emulate the Side B of Strictly Personal, just for fun!

For the Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band disc, side A begins with Take 5 of “Safe as Milk”, a bonus track found on the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, faded out just before the 4-minute mark; French had said he believed Vliet wanted to begin the album with “Safe as Milk”, to make a sort of continuity from the previous album. Following is “Big Black Baby Shoes” from the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, edited to match the Shiny Beast rerecording. Next is “Moody Liz” from The Mirror Man Sessions, with the side closing with Take 9 of “Trust Us” from the Safe as Milk reissue, but faded out after the drum crescendo, as suggested by French. Side B attempts to replicate a non-psychedelicized Strictly Personal, as it opens with “On Tomorrow” but with the isolated vocals from the Strictly Personal recording synced to the TTG version from the Safe as Milk remaster. Next is “Dirty Blue Gene” again from the Safe as Milk reissue, followed by “Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, all taken from The Mirror Man Sessions.

For the Twenty-Fifth Century Quaker disc, Side C begins with “Mirror Man” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 15:46 to an even 13:00. This is followed by “25th Century Quaker” also from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 9:50 to 7:36. Side D opens with the hypnotic “Korn Ring Finger”, presented in it’s full 6:47 length as heard on the Safe as Milk remaster. The album closes with the epic “Tarotplane” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 19:08 to a reasonable 14:04.

 
Sources used:
The Mirror Man Sessions (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Safe as Milk (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Strictly Personal (1994 Liberty Records CD remaster)



flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included






40 comments:

  1. Empty3
    https://mega.nz/file/DlRynZjb#46axIA-C-4n-g9mM8TbFsjbDBqK4rPIlOrqGYcvAitI

    Listless flack
    https://mega.nz/file/O8Iy0bJI#hWuImE7t5mCXk3_LdWPE-DGR-v-GA3DdNjzN7vA9KuE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really appreciate all the work you've done on this!
      Thank you!

      Delete
  2. Thank you! I remember that 1993 Safe As Milk reissue on One Way as really stoking my interest in these sessions. Looking forward to hearing how you put it all together this time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Superb! Thanks for this and fascinating notes as ever and I am particularly glad it's based upon John French's notes. He is really the Captain's historian of the group by now. I have posted links across from my little blog as usual and for what its worth it was searching for Captain Beefheart material that made me find you first all those years ago now. Your care and hard work is always appreciated

    ReplyDelete
  4. As an early Beefheart fan I'm really looking forward to your re-imaging of thei unrealeased album. Keep up the good work as always look forward to your projects.

    So much music and not enough years to listen to it all. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello,
    Many thanks for sharing and congratulations for the job done. As always very documented. I like it.
    Best regards,
    drogos

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brilliant work... thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Another excellent re-imagining sir!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent stuff! Thanks! I might have been reluctant to trim Tarotplane but your edit is cool and maybe 19.08 is kinda unreasonable! Your thoughtful work is appreciated, thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Note that the reason I edited them is because Drumbo specifically said the second disc would be the jams, but edited because they were too long and wouldn't fit on one disc.

      But thanks. Tried to include all the cool parts.

      Delete
  9. Thanks for this treat. Listening now!

    ReplyDelete
  10. CANNOT FIND ANYWHERE TO DOWNLOAD ANY MORE ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mega.nz links in the 1st comment, 2nd is FLAC (1st is mp3 I imagine)...

      Delete
  11. Great work.
    You deserve a medal for your long nights burning the candle.
    Many thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gee! This sure is swell!

    (Alternative cover: https://imgur.com/a/VoF4dHH)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another alternate cover should one be in need:
      https://64.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lwkqtyakmN1r8t92vo1_500.jpg

      Delete
  13. Thanks so much - this is brilliant

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very good, another in a long line excellent reconstructions. Not just good listening, very informative and fascinating pieces of music history. It's always a joy to find something new and interesting on your page.

    I especially like this because I am a big fan of early Beefheart/magis Band; while I understand why people love the later stuff its this period that I truly engage with. Same with Bowie really, I'm a bigger fan of his early Anthony Newley period than any of the much later more lauded material.

    ReplyDelete
  15. How about a reconstruction of Can's Prepared to Meet Thy Pnoom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh man, I've actually tried reconstructing that one, but it's very tricky... Common knowledge is that it was released at Delay 1968 (as sydfloyd replied below), but that is not entirely accurate. Apparently, earlier versions of "Father Cannot Yell" and "Outside My Door" were on the Pnoom album, which were later re-recorded for Monster Movie at the castle.

      Thus Delay 1968 *couldn't* have been the Pnoom album, since it lacks those two tracks. Delay 1968 isn't literally Pnoom, but a selection of tracks from that pre-Monster Movie/Inner Space era of the band.

      So that begs the question: what was actually on Pnoom? that's what I have been trying to piece together for a few years now. I have some theories, but nothing conclusive.

      Delete
    2. Interesting, but the version of 'Father Cannot Yell' on 'Monster Movie' is apparently the very same 'first take' version Mooney improvised over one of Can's existing backing tracks, so you could definitely use that. You're probably also aware that an early version of 'Outside My Door' from 1968 is in circulation. I can only guess that the content of 'Delay 68' was compiled from material which had been in contention for 'Pnoom' and they simply chose to avoid any tracks which had ended up on 'Monster Movie'.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, that's what it seems to be.

      The info I've gathered so far...

      Butterfly - October 1969
      Pnoom - July 1968
      Nineteenth Century Man - Spring 1969
      Thief - Fall 1969
      Man Named Joe - November 1968
      Uphill - ???
      Little Star of Bethlehem - Spring 1969

      So off the bat, Butterfly and Thief weren't recorded till after Monster Movie anyways.

      Delete
  16. What an awesome record this would have been! I love your On Tomorrow, just what I've been wanting to hear all these years. Thank you for your hard work.

    ReplyDelete
  17. It was released as 'Delay 68'.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Will we be seeing your Last Dance by Neil Young anytime soon? Great work as usual!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem is all we have on Last Dance is that blurb in Uncut. I'd really like more information on it.

      Delete
  19. Dear Sonic: Sincere thanks for this and all the great music you've posted.

    ReplyDelete
  20. OMG I've waited so long for the mixed version of On Tomorrow, thank You very much!!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hey! How are you Soni? I don't know how much time you have in your hands right now and since I saw you did a Frances the Mute reconstruction I wanted to know if you were interested in make a reimagination of a seventh mars volta album (following the style of the first four post hardcore prog albums) using Omar's solo material.

    I know that the guy has like 70 albums and it would be a task too big to pick what songs work better, but I do have listened them all and I have made a guide in each one of his albums, https://rateyourmusic.com/list/Bowsette/a-guide-to-omar-rodriguez-lopez-discography/ so I could help you pick which tracks and albums would work better, and which ones we can discard, I would like to help you because the guy has so much output and it would be a fun challenge, what do you say?

    ReplyDelete
  22. It'd be awesome if we could get a take on Add Some Music, Reverberation, and/or Toots/Hubba Hubba once this new Feel Flows box set comes out. Granted, the first two are already pretty similar to Landlocked. But you know how fanatics are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, will be upgrading Landlocked, with Add Some Music and Reverberation as bonus discs, after the boxset comes out.

      Delete
    2. Excellent news my friend! I am so stoked for this box.

      Delete
  23. Do you think you'd be able to reconstruct Lip$ha, the cancelled collaboration between The Flaming Lips and Ke$ha. This could get you started: https://youtu.be/quRoLRV5IxU. Then, you could possibly mix in some Ke$ha songs from the era and some of the vast array of the Flaming Lips' 2011 material. I'd give it a try, but I'm not prepared to delve into Ke$ha's music.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Many thanks for the upgrade! Stellar work as always!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thankyou - both fascinating and awesome reconstruction - it works! That's beautiful work there

    Also thanks to Farquar and Chance - both alternate covers are cool

    ReplyDelete
  26. Looking forward to some more sonic love noise releases. Maybe something Lennon esque? Perhaps a Neil Young archive based project. Lots of material from Pink Floyd recently especially the high resolution remastered series. Perhaps a touch of Petty...Have you ever listened to Ian McNabb's Head Like A Rock, or North West Coast where he collaborated with Crazy Horse...now that's an album that needs construction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was intending to upload literally one of the projects you just mentioned today! But I did not finish the write-up in time, so it might have to be tomorrow.

      Delete
  27. There's a piece on Strictly Personal you may enjoy here:

    https://falsememoryfoam.blogspot.com/

    (SLN gets a namecheck)

    ReplyDelete