Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band The Dust Blows Forward

Although the Grow Fins collection of previously unavailable Captain Beefheart material released earlier this year is a must for completists, The Dust Blows Forward double-CD career-spanning anthology is a perfect acquisition for those wanting to increase their awareness of the mutant blues power of Don Van Vliet. Along with the chronologically presented tracks ranging from his earliest 1966 single to his musical farewell in 1982, it includes a detailed 60-page booklet full of photos, album art and gig posters along with an informative history of his evolution in both music and visual art. Vliet’s isolated and introverted childhood, along with a friendship with Frank Zappa, an early collaboration with an 18-year old Ry Cooder and a fascination with Howlin’ Wolf shaped an artistic vision that was truly unique. Like any genuinely challenging artist, Beefheart’s musical failures were just as interesting as many of his successes but The Dust Blows Forward brings together some of the strongest and most accessible material along with a couple non-album tracks like the great “Little Scratch” outtake from 1972’s Clear Spot and the theme song to the 1978 film Blue Collar. This packs a wallop of intensity as familiar themes twist into complex arrangements and confounding melodic twists with Beefheart’s coarse vocals full of vivid and absurdist imagery. As a cross-genre fusionist, Beefheart borrowed sounds and ideas from many cultures and idioms to concoct his own gumbo. But regardless of how outside his music travelled from the norm, it was always jam packed full of flesh and blood and guts and the impact was as visceral as it was intellectual. (Rhino)