Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Live From Paris 1977
Nostalgia is an interesting thing. Passing the time remembering better days is something people naturally want to do, especially as we grow older. Aging classic rock musicians depend on it to keep their careers alive. Many of us seventies survivors can instantly be brought back to those wonderfully hazy, somewhat out of control, how-the-hell-did-I-make-it-through-that moments by hearing “that” song played by “that” group. We live for those memories. It’s why this site exists!
Then again, there are some aspects of the past that are simply better left unheard, like really bad recordings. Unfortunately, Live From Paris 1977 falls all too comfortably into this category.
I want to say from the outset that I really, really wanted to like this album. When this disc arrived I was genuinely excited. Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) is one of those somewhat obscure musicians I would hear once in a while and would always make me smile. I love musicians like this. They are the stuff of the seventies. They have a “don’t give a damn, I’m just gonna play what I feel” approach to music that makes people chuckle a bit and feel good. That is, provided you can actually hear what has been recorded.
Sadly, the sonic quality of Live From Paris 1977 is inexcusably bad if one is expecting this album to be purchased. The performance was in Paris but it sounds like the recording mics were in Marseille! Beefheart’s lyrics are entirely undecipherable through the muffling fog and hiss. It’s so poor I had to check to make sure my headphone jack was completely plugged in and then listened to the disc from another player to make sure I wasn’t hearing a messed up download on my computer. Talk about a huge disappointment!
Oddly, this album gets some good reviews on other sites. But honestly, I don’t hear it; literally! I understand the desire for listening to vintage recordings of great performances. As a lover of classical music I have a library of great symphonic pieces from the 50’s and 60’s that I enjoy far more than some recorded last year. But unless we’re talking about the Beatles playing in The Cavern Club or the earliest known Stones recording there is a limit to how poor the sound quality can be yet still be worth hearing. Unfortunately, Beefheart is not the Beatles; unless you are an absolute die-hard fan this album is not worth your time.
It sounds like the audience really enjoyed the performance. The quality of the music is potentially worth the investment in a cleaned up remix. I would truly love to hear it if the sound quality was brought up to a level where I can hear the lyrics without having to intensely concentrate to make them out. But in its current state this album will only bring back memories of your mom warning you about what would happen to your hearing if you kept playing your music so loud. I give this album a D- instead of an F because I know somewhere in there the content is worth hearing. But sadly, as Nader’s Corvair was unsafe at any speed, this album is unlistenable at any price.
By Roy Rahl
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