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Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band: Somewhere Over Paris

This issue’s badly-recorded-but-great Beefheart performance is...

Since the Captain piloted off towards the great Radar Station in the sky, there’s been no apparent hand on the quality control tiller.

Some releases, like Grow Fins, the frequently low fidelity yet often sublime rarities collection, have offered a glimpse behind the trout mask, while others should really have been left to the tape swappers. This live recording of a show at the Paris Hippodrome in 1977 – organised by the French Trotskyist party and long available as a bootleg – belongs in the latter camp. It sounds like a very decent performance: The Magic Band are on form, Don’s in fine voice and high spirits, and the setlist is stuffed with classics, from Click Clack to Electricity. Beefheart on form, playing at a Communist party just as punk broke? Great on paper. A shame, then, that in reality it sounds as if it were recorded from a toilet cubicle adjacent to the main hall. The sound is thin and harsh, and listening to both discs in one sitting is more of an endurance test than a pleasure. The highlight comes towards the close, as the band are enthusiastically introduced during Veteran’s Day Poppy before launching into a thrillingly demented version of The Blimp.