It took me a little while to get my head around how to review this new reissue of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s groundbreaking, trend-ignoring classic 1969 opus: Trout Mask Replica.
I mean there’s not much to say about the influence this record has had on the music world and it’s significance to the rock and avant garde communities. There’s also not much to say about the other-worldly, out-of-its-own time surreal good vibrations stirred by this music. And, there’s not much left to be said about the importance of the individual Magic Band members who brought this music to life from the good Captain’s head, heart and soul.
So what was I going to write about with regards to this new reissue of Trout Mask Replica from Third Man Records? I mean the album sounds good… real good! Is that enough to warrant a review? Perhaps…
From the Third Man Records website we learn more about why this release sounds so good: “Out of print on vinyl for nearly ten years, this remaster was helmed by industry legend Bob Ludwig and cut by the estimable Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering. Utilizing crystalline-quality safety masters kept in the Zappa family vault for decades by the trustworthy Joe Travers, the audio here is positively glorious.”
So in effect we are hearing a fresh copy of the album off a tape that hasn’t been used much, if at all, since 1969. No wonder it sounds like my original pressing! And that alone should be enough of the review to make it worthy for you, Dear Readers, to consider buying the new edition of Trout Mask Replica even if you already have a copy.
Purchased on Record Store Day this year, I compared my copy to a White Label Promo version that I own — these are about as early a copy of the recording as one can find apart from a test pressing. This new Third Man version sounds just about the same and that’s about as high a complement I can say except that this new version is actually quieter, pressed on thick, substantial dark black 180-gram vinyl.
The cover art looks as good if not better than the original, taken off of Cal Schenkel‘s original printing elements for the first time since 1969. So it looks like the original copy I have, actually a bit clearer, truth be told. It is packaged in a very high quality thick cardboard cover. This Trout Mask Replica is quite wonderful. It comes with a nice high quality reproduction of the tri-fold lyric sheet (with artwork by the good Captain on it) that is actually better than the flimsy originals. A nice touch!
So, this reissue looks terrific and sounds terrific. Actually it sounds like Trout Mask Replica should sound with a wide sonic palette, yet not overly bright. This is about as rock ‘n roll as an avant garde masterpiece can get.
Probably the only significant difference is that this new version doesn’t offer the period accurate Straight Records labels found on the originals, probably for legal reasons. Curiously, the logo of then-parent company Bizarre Records IS found on the back cover of this new edition (yet it is not on my original). Go figure.
That said, I will hold onto my original promo copy because its still a cool thing to have. But for now I think I can rely on this new reissue as my go to copy for regular play of Trout Mask Replica from here on out.
“The mother ship, the mother ship…”
This mother ship’s the one…