Stoning beyond our galaxy
Consider the musical universe of the 70's. If HAWKWIND was the stoner captain in our Milky Way, CAPTAIN BEYOND was another one, however clearly navigating through a different galaxy. Where do those space corsairs comes from? This obscure band is in fact a supergroup composed of former members of well-known prestigious formations: ex-DEEP PURPLE's vocalist Rod Evans, ex-IRON BUTTERFLY's guitarist Larry Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman and ex-Johnny WINTER's drummer Bobby Caldwell. So is this another hard-blues formation? A pale copy of the aforementioned bands? Not at all.
CAPTAIN BEYOND's eponymous debut really is an unique mixture of hard/heavy riffs with space/psychedelic/acid rock elements. Is it progressive? Yes, in a sense that this album is more a patchwork than a collection of songs. The music is unpredictable, evolving, moving, as if the CAPTAIN was constantly re-adapting the trajectory of his ship through the unexpected turbulences of the cosmic void. Furthermore, the record is catchy, accessible and avoids being repetitive or messy. The tracks are full of unusual changes and breaks, years before RUSH's proto-prog-metal. This is no touristic stationary cruising, prepare to be surprised. There are signs that do not lie: the original cover art was in 3D. Fasten your seatbelts, an epic journey through undiscovered stellar systems awaits you...
Rather than 13 tracks, the disc should been rather seen as composed of 3 mini-epics plus 2 songs. The first 3 tracks form the first mini-epic, lasting 9 minutes. The take-off is immediate with the heavy "Dancing Madly Backwards", its acceleration and solo will send you directly beyond our galaxy through a wormhole to an unknown destination. Mindblowing! The floating syncoped "Armworth" symbolizes the arrival, introducing the calm and ambient "Myopic Void". You can now rest and admire the stars. Don't relax too much though, the ship re-accelerates to speed of light for a boosted-up reprise of "Armworth"'s theme. The finale is a genuine sonic deflagration. Simply great! One of the best space heavy rocks from the 70's! The aggressive "Mesmerization Eclipse" is a very nice hard rock with many rhythm changes, while "Raging River Of Fear" sounds like DEEP PURPLE on serious acids. It even includes a small jazz-rock interlude.
The next 3 tracks are the second 9 minutes long mini-epic. Don't rely on the acoustic introduction "Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Intro)", "Frozen Over" is a evolving black hole that gets as thrilling as RUSH's "Cygnus X-1", years ahead! The surprising reprise is terrific! "Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Time since come and gone)" concludes on a lighter SANTANA-like tone. The last 5 tracks from the third 10 minutes suite. Starting as a cool hard rock, "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 1)" turns out to be pretty ferocious, until "As The Moon Speaks (To The Waves Of The Sea)" arrives as a welcomed pause when you can peacefully admire star systems at the window... However, the journey is not over yet. The (very) short raging "Astral Lady" unveils a beautiful solo on "As The Moon Speaks (Return)" and prepares the reprise "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 2)". As you may now expect, the finale is once again worthy of its predecessors. Blimey!
What a pretty impressive journey beyond the stars! "Captain Beyond" is a little spatial treasure containing lots of gems. The quality is constant and the interest maintained intact through the many unexpected changes and the surprise factor is always there, even after several listens. Gorgeous riffs, spacey moments, Rod Evans' rock'n'roll crooner accents and Bobby Caldwell's original rhythms bring the final touches making this album quite special.
CAPTAIN BEYOND's self-titled debut is typically what astrophysicists call a singularity: unique and uncategorizeable. A sonic meteorite or a comet only visible once per century, carrying the listener among several musical stellar systems. The band already exposes innovative ideas and their own identity here. An essential trip for 70's hard/heavy/stoner/space rock lovers! Don't miss the spaceship!
The singularity notion also has its drawbacks: the next albums will unfortunately not be as inspired and breathtaking, the musicians themselves looking like they've lost the coordinates of this extraterrestrial music...