Captain Beyond has often been referred to as a supergroup because it’s members came from three great classic rock bands, Deep Purple (vocalist Rod Evans), Iron Butterfly (guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt, bassist Lee Dorman), and the Edgar Winter Group (drummer Bobby Caldwell, who later appeared on Rick Derringer’s All America Boy).
The thing is however, that Rhino never appeared in the “classic” Iron Butterfly lineup that came out with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Dorman did) and Deep Purple fired Evans very early on (because guitarist Richie Blackmore was a dick).
These details don’t alter the fact that Captain Beyond was a very good, often overlooked, hard rock outfit. There are several reasons they didn’t achieve the same degree of success as many of their contemporaries, like the aforementioned Deep Purple, or Free, Hawkwind, Foghat, Thin Lizzy, Mountain, Judas Priest, et al.
One reason is they signed with the wrong record label. Rhino was good friends with Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers and upon Duane’s recommendation, Capricorn Records signed Captain Beyond.
It quickly became apparent that Capricorn, a southern rock record label, had no idea how to market Captain Beyond’s brand of space rock and ended up pretty much ignoring it.
Another issue was Captain Beyond’s eponymous debut album, released in 1972, was not radio friendly. The songs aren’t broken down into neat little 3 or 5-minute units. In fact, there is essentially only one real break and that’s to enable the vinyl record to be flipped. Otherwise, one song morphs into the next and melodies reprise, fade out, and return creating essentially one extended cohesive composition.
Without much radio play or a hit single, the band struggled to make a name for themselves.
Captain Beyond, their first album however, is still an excellent album, sounding as fresh today as it did back in 1972, with tightly written songs and great guitar riffs.
Rhino was one of rock’s true guitar wizards (he passed away on January 2, 2012 at the far too young age of 63). Rhino had a great tone and his solos were very precise. Depite his talent, his career was spent in relative obscurity.
Captain Beyond released their second album, Sufficiently Breathless, in 1973. Despite breaking this album up into more radio-friendly fare and getting some radio play, success still eluded them.
Bobby Caldwell had left the group to be replaced by Brian Glascock on drums and Guille Garcia on congas, timbales, and percussion. The producer didn’t like Glascock, and he was replaced by Marty Rodriguez on Garcia’s recommendation.
They also added a keyboardist, Reese Wynans, to the lineup that produced their second album (he quit after one show).
Despite the fact that Dorman, Rhino, and Evans wrote the material, the songs on Sufficiently Breathless are jazzier and smoother, having lost much of the hard edge that defined Captain Beyond’s sound.
This YouTube video contains both Captain Beyond’s first two albums:
The band broke up at the end of 1973, but reformed in 1976. Caldwell returned, but because they couldn’t contact Rod Evans (he had essentially retired), vocalist Jason Cahune took over, but was soon replaced by Willy Daffern.
It is said that among those to try out for the band was one Steve Perry, who went on to fame and fortune as Journey’s vocalist. One can’t help but wonder if the addition of Perry might have turned Captain Beyond’s fortunes around.
In 1977, Captain Beyond released their final album, Dawn Explosion on the Warner Brothers label. Unfortunately, the switch to Warner Brothers couldn’t save this lackluster effort, though it was still better than a lot of music that came out then.
The band broke up again. The band attempted to reunite in the late 1990s, putting out a four track EP, Night Train Coming, but the band broke up again in 2003.
In 1999, a tribute album to Captain Beyond called Thousand Days of Yesterdays was released on the Swedish label Record Haven.
In 2017, a compilation album of alternative recordings to previously released tracks and one never heard before song was put out titled, Lost & Found 1972-1973 by Purple Pyramid records.
Here is that previously unreleased track, “Uranus Expressway.”
It’s sad that a band with so much potential disappeared so quickly because of poor marketing, but at least we have their three studio albums, as well as some bootleg live albums, to listen to while we ponder what might have been.
Maybe Captain Beyond would have been remembered for songs such as, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Lights,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”