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July/August 2005

Fast 'n' Bulbous
Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind
Cuneiform Records

With one-time Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas in tow, this instrumental salute to Captain Beefheart comes off like a Frank Zappa-directed jazz excursion, minus the tyrannical control-freak element. These tunes fly much like the wounded birds they were on the original Beefheart and Magic Band recordings, never hinting at which way the madness will turn.

Zappa produced Trout Mask Replica, the Beefheart album most represented on this wildly fun and well-executed disc, with the horn-heavy septet giving energetic performances of Captain classics like "Dali's Car" and "Pachuco Cadaver." Turns out Beefheart's music sounds just as strange without his bizarro-blues croon spewing hallucinogenic-informed nonsense.

Alto saxophonist Phillip Johnston reveals an admirable amount of patience in arranging the angular riffs and arresting chord changes of songs like "Suction Prints" and "When Big Joan Sets Up." Perhaps in part because he isn't playing a brass instrument, it's Lucas who rises as the album's star, cutting through the din at every right moment with a lean and spiky nonmelody to refocus the ears and reset the mind for the ensemble's next dip into wonderful wackiness.

Originally published in July/August 2005
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