Musical Monday – Captain Beyond

Captain Beyond’s eponymous debut album featured a 3-D design

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’.”

Or not.

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Musical Monday – Bands you never heard of: Dust

In the early 1970s, the hard rock scene was dominated by British bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, and Uriah Heep. But America wasn’t devoid of it’s entries. One such American hard rock band was Dust.

The band consisted of bassist Kenny Aaronson, drummer Marc Bell, and guitarist Richie Wise. The producers were Kenny Kerner, who also wrote the lyrics, and Richie Wise.

Honestly, they only put out two albums before moving on to other projects. Aaronson went to play in the band Stories. He also toured with Edgar Winter, Joan Jett, and Billy Idol. Bell went on to join Richard Hell and the Voidoids before becoming Marky Romone. Kerner and Wise went onto produce the first two albums for Kiss. Obviously, lessons learned with Dust helped them launch Kiss to stardom.

Dust Hard Attack

Dust’s main claim to fame had little to do with their music, but the fact that their second album, Hard Attack, sported a cover done by the great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, making it somewhat of a collector’s item for Frazetta geeks. In fact, to tell the truth about it, I snatched the album up solely based on that cover when I saw it on the rack back in 1972.

That isn’t to say the music was bad. Give a listen to a few songs from their second album.

Pull Away/So Many Times

Walk in the Soft Rain

Suicide

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short sampling of a band that, although unknown, influenced such diverse bands as Kiss and The Ramones.

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Musical Monday: The Lighter Side of Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath formed in the 1960s, in 1969 to be precise, the same year Woodstock was celebrating peace, love, and all the other hippy, Age of Aquarius values. Whereas other bands of the day were making upbeat, optimistic music, Black Sabbath hit the scene like a ton of bricks with their dirge-like metalized blues containing lyrics about death, doom, and pessimism. In 1970, Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album was a shock to the system. They were the godfathers of heavy metal, both traditional and doom metal, and probably influenced everyone who ever detuned their guitar several steps.

But there is also a lighter side to Black Sabbath. It began with their second album, Paranoid, which was released a mere seven months after their debut album. Amidst all the heavy riffs, growling bass, and pounding drum beats, there was one song that stood out because of it’s total lack of those qualities.

“Planet Caravan” was a strange tune with soft bongos, Ozzy’s vocals distorted with some odd effect, and Tony Iommi playing a very haunting melody on acoustic guitar. The song is rather spooky and unlike anything else Black Sabbath did.

Their next album, released 10 months later, was Master of Reality and it followed Paranoid with a similar sound and songs that might have been written in the same session. This time out, there were two short instrumentals, “Embryo,” a 28 second interlude to “Children of the Grave,” and “Orchid,” presented here, was another instrumental, that is a short, but beautiful guitar piece, which was an interlude to “Lord of This World.”

Also on Master of Reality was “Solitude,” another piece reminiscent of “Planet Caravan” if only because it was so much softer than the rest of their repertoire. Again, Ozzy’s standard scratchy screech has been softened to almost a soft croon. It was rumored that Bill Ward, the drummer did the singing for this song, but that belief is unfounded. This song too has an eerie sound unlike their normal fare.

Fourteen months later, Black Sabbath was hitting their heavy metal stride with Vol. 4 and it too has some slow pieces. In fact, one song, “Changes,” was a complete departure for even Black Sabbath’s soft side. There were no guitars, no drums, instead, the song featured Ozzy on vocals and Iommi on piano and melotron.

Also on Vol. 4 Tony provided us with more acoustic guitar magic. This is “Laguna Sunrise,” a hypnotic multi-tracked melody.

Released in 1973 (the band had put out 5 incredible albums in 3 years) Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath rounds out what many consider the essential Black Sabbath catalog. This one had a different sound from their previous efforts with some fuzz effects on the guitars and an increased use of synthesizers (Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman even lent a hand because they were recording in the next studio). Their soft side is again show in an acoustic piece, “Fluff,” which has a Bach-like feel to it. Maybe the melody is borrowed, but Tony puts his own stamp on it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the softer side of Black Sabbath. Next time someone turns up their nose at the name Black Sabbath because it’s too heavy for them, turn them on to a few of these.

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Musical Monday – Bands People Thought Were the Beatles

After the Beatles broke up, there seemed to be this musical vacuum that the public was willing to fill with any and all bands that sort of resembled the Beatles sound. There were many, and still are many, of these Beatlesque bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, XTC, the Smiths, the Smithereens, and the Gin Blossoms, for example. Sure, many of these bands were heavily influenced by the Beatles, but there were at least two bands that were believed to BE the Beatles.

These bands were:

Badfinger
The rumors over this band were hot and heavy that it was The Beatles and a lot of that was fueled by the fact that they came out on the Beatles’ own label, Apple.

They weren’t the Beatles, but they were awfully good, releasing a string of great singles, including “Come and Get It,” “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue.” Yet despite having the musical talent and the songwriting abilities to match, and backing it all up with international tours, the band came to a tragic end embroiled in financial problems and the suicides of two of its members.

Still, they left behind a wonderful musical legacy. Here’s “Come and Get It.”

And here’s “Day After Day.”

Klaatu
In 1977, shortly after the release of their self-titled debut album, an article written for the Providence Journal in Rhode Island, entitled “Could Klaatu Be the Beatles? Mystery is a Magical Tour” started this rumor. The writer, Steve Smith, speculated that Klaatu was either a few members of the Beatles, or the Beatles themselves. This fueled other articles throughout the music community on the subject and record sales soared. However, when it was finally learned that the band was not, in fact, the Beatles, or even talented, record sales soured and the band disappeared from the face of the earth.

Despite that, here’s one of their more famous songs “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.”

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Classic Rock You Should Own, But Probably Don’t, Part 4

In the first three parts of this series I discussed two hard rock albums, Captain Beyond and Uriah Heep’s Look at Yourself. Part 3 was devoted to the British blues album Savoy Browns’s “Looking In.”

This time out I’m returning to hard rock, in fact, it’s a precursor to stoner rock, what we called Space Rock or Acid Rock, and it has some metal overtones. I’ll be talking about the British cult rock band, Hawkwind.

Hawkwind. Space Ritual. 1973. Genre: Progressive Hard Rock.

With Syd Barrett’s drug-induced insanity and subsequent departure, Pink Floyd left a gaping hole in the space rock void as they moved in a more pop direction. That was quickly filled admirably by Hawkwind. Poor engineering and production values made Hawkwind’s studio efforts weak and anemic sounding. It was this live set, “Space Ritual,” that showed the metal power of this band allowing Lemmy (now of Motorhead fame) to create a sonic foundation upon which the rest of the band could soar and solo. Worth noting is their collaboration with sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock, helping them achieve cult status among us “Elric of Melnibone” geeks. He’d even tour with them on occasion, and wrote some of their material.

Hawkwind’s performance on this live set is tight and polished. The music often takes flight with spacey jams and beatnik coffee house poetry.

Here are some examples from that album.

This is “Black Corridor,” a song written by Michael Moorcock. It shows the spacey poetry side of the band and includes whole quotes from his novel of the same name.
Listen Here.

This is “Sonic Attack,” another song that Moorcock wrote. It’s a futuristic Public Service Announcement.
Listen Here.

Here is “Orgone Accumulate.”
Listen Here.

And finally, a song that epitomizes the Hawkwind sound, “Master of the Universe.”
Listen Here.

I hope you enjoyed these cuts from “Space Ritual,” and I hope it spurs you on to listen to more of the band.

If you’re interested in learning more about Hawkwind, BBC had a documentary on them, which is available on youtube in 9 parts. I posted it here.
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