Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Safe As Milk (1967), 7/10

Beefheart's Howlin’ Wolf inspired vocals are elevated perfectly with psych rock and this sixties’ trademark thumping sound. Outside of Safe as Milk I am not really the biggest psych or blues rock fan, but this early iteration of The Magic Band backed with and supplemented by Ry Cooder’s arranging experience makes for a much more interesting listening experience than the typical releases of the era that rely on the genre’s typical tropes to carry the weight of the music. The band takes these themes and contorts them to their pleasing, particularly furthered by Ry Cooder’s direction and late influence of writing and arrangement in conjunction with Beefheart and Bermann’s inspired songwriting. Straight away, "Sure 'Nuff 'n' Yes, I Do" is a perfect opener to get the pulse and energy flowing, continued by "Zig Zag Wanderer" with its adrenalizing percussion and matching bassline. We get a nice pallet cleansing, dramatic ballad in "I'm Glad" that acts as a perfect tone shift shortly before the second half takes a new direction in sound and spirit. "Abba Zabba" is one of the more fun and entertaining tracks from this early band before things swing down in energy and momentum with the final three tracks, the last being the strongest in this late stretch. Safe as Milk is a very strong debut from a band and frontman that would take on many new directions and types of musical projects, yet it reflects a singular artistic product that has its own unique and individual identity, never to be successfully replicated. Some of its themes and writing styles were extended into Strictly Personal, but with less success and a less effective approach to sound including its recording. Because it shares so little commonality with other projects of the time and the band’s later more courageous work, it has earned its status as a blues rock relic, deserving praise for its undeniably provocative sound and as a steppingstone for one of the greatest bands to forge experimental rock music.