Captain Beyond

Captain Beyond (Capricorn '72) Rating: A
A so-called "supergroup" of sorts comprised of former Deep Purple singer Rod Evans, ex-Iron Butterfly bassist and guitarist Lee Doran and Larry "Rhino" Rheinhart, and Johnny Winter drummer Bobby Caldwell, the band's self-titled first album is an overlooked hard rock gem that is slowly being rediscovered in recent years. This is an album that can appeal to psychedelic/space rock fans, progressive rock fans (the album contains many a tricky time signature, surprising shifts within songs, ridiculous song titles, and multi-part song suites), and straightforward hard rock fans (there are times - like on “Raging River Of Fear” and “I Can’t Feel Nothing’ (Part 1)” - when these guys rock hard). The band reveals a surprising versatility as well on mellower tracks like "Myopic Void," "Thousand Days Of Yesterdays (Time Since Come And Gone)," and "As the Moon Speaks (Return)," and Evans sings more authoritatively than he did in Deep Purple, though he's still no Ian Gillan. Really, any complaints that I have about this great album are minor, such as the fact that I wish that some of the songs were longer and that they had ditched the regrettable "spoken word" section (some of the lyrics are a bit dopey as well). Still, there are many musical highlights, beginning with the hard charging psychedelicized opener "Dancing Madly Backwards (On a Sea of Air)," which surges impressively before segueing into the short dual guitar groover "Armworth," which itself segues into the excellent "Myopic Void," which has martial rhythms, a trippy ambiance, and an epic quality; the song then without warning reprises "Dancing Madly Backwards." You see, much like Tommy, Quadrophenia, or Thick As A Brick, this album repeats previous musical themes and lyrical ideas, and as such this is a true album that is best listened to as a whole rather than excerpted from. Given that, I'm really hesitant to say too much about other individual songs other than to note that Jimi Hendrix is definitely an influence on heavy songs such as "Mesmerization Eclipse" and "Frozen Over," and that the poppiest track, "Thousand Days of Yesterdays (Time Since Come and Gone)," might've actually had some commercial success with but a bit of luck. As with the first 3 songs and songs 6-8, tracks 9-13 segue together in impressive fashion, in particular "As the Moon Speaks (Return)," a melodic, almost Rascals-ish pop rocker that briefly turns into a Santana-like showcase (a foreshadowing of their good but definitely not as good second album Sufficiently Breathless) before "I Can't Feel Nothin' (Part 2)" provides an agreeably explosive finale. Anyway, what's impressive about this band is how each member shines but within the context of being part of an overall team, as clearly Captain Beyond were an ensemble who were greater than the sum of their individual parts. Alas, commercial success would prove to be elusive, and Captain Beyond never reached beyond a cult audience. Note: Reinhardt and Caldwell in particular were excellent players whose "fame" came from being replacements in prior bands; Caldwell got the Johnny Winter job in 1970 because Rick Derringer's brother Randy took a "trip" and never came back, while Reinhardt helped replace Eric Brann after their "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" heyday. Another notable Captain Beyond member who joined up for their second album was keyboardist Reese Wynans, who later supported Stevie Ray Vaughan in Double Trouble.

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