Posted: August 11, 2022 in MUSIC

It’s been two decades since bluesman Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart stopped making records — but that hasn’t left dedicated fans empty-handed. Although every effort is made to convince consumers that Dust Sucker is the authorized release of Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band’s “lost” version of Bat Chain Puller, it is not. Likewise, the remaining seven tracks can be traced from various spurious releases. The full story of Captain Beefheart’s ill-fated “Bat Chain Puller” – potentially his greatest musical statement after “Trout Mask Replica“.

Several excellent archival releases have filled the gap, including the recent live set “I’m Going to Do What I Wanna Do” and “Grow Fins, a huge five-CD box of unreleased fare.

Here’s another essential recording for the faithful from 2002 “Dust Sucker”, a set of long-lost studio tracks from 1975 and ’76. Originally recorded for release as “Bat Chain Puller“, these tapes ended up buried in a barrage of lawsuits, though similar-sounding new versions turned up on 1978’s aptly titled “Shiny Beast” (“Bat Chain Puller”) and later Beefheart albums.  This is The very Magic Band, running with inspiration as its fuel. By the time the legit “Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)” was issued some three years later and after several multi-million dollar lawsuits were settled, the songs had become notably tempered. “Dust Sucker” also includes the spoken word piece “Seam Crooked Sam,” which may have similar origins as “Sam with a Showing Scalp Flat-Top” — which surfaced around the same time and can be heard on the Frank Zappa collaboration “Bongo Fury“.

Finally hearing the original articles on this supposedly authorized (but bootleg-quality) release — augmented by a septet of live cuts from the same era is the equivalent of reading the first draft of a novel by one of your favourite writers: Technically, it may be a little rough around the edges at times, but the historical value and sheer creative energy on display more than make up for it. 

Dust Sucker” probabaly isn’t the place to start your Captain Beefheart collection, but it is an indispensable addition to the catalogue of one of rock’s true innovators.

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