Music Over 40: Captain Beyond, the lost 70's supergroup.
A debut worth looking for
Captain Beyond. The name kind of jumps off the page at you, doesn't it? This was a "super group" (i.e. a group with members of other known groups) before the term was as liberally used as it is today. In 1972, when the heavier and progressive rock forms were still in their infancy, this was still a newer concept. Crosby, Stills Nash & Young (The Hollies, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield) and Humble Pie (The Small Faces and The Herd) were considered super groups of the time, but the proliferation of the these bands had not yet come.
Enter Captain Beyond. The band consisted of Rod Evans (who scored two top 40 hits as the singer of Deep Purple), Lee Dorman (who played bass with Iron Butterfly from its inception, including on the classic In-A-Godda-Da-Vida). Larry "Rhino" Rheinhardt (who played guitar with Iron Butterfly on their top 20 Metamorphosis album) and Bobby Caldwell (who played drums for Johnny Winter),
1972's debut, the self titled Captain Beyond, is a heavy progressive trip back to this special time period in rock music. Experimentation was in. Albums, not singles, were now in vogue. Remember, this was only five years removed from Sgt. Pepper's and with the rising power of FM album rock, albums were now considered a whole work, not just a collections of songs hoping to be singles.
The debut goes by fast. Clocking in at just over thirty five minutes, many of the songs run into one another, Four of the thirteen tracks here run under two minutes. These songs have a wonderful mix of progressive, almost jazzy, drumming and bass, combined with heavy riffs and the power full voice of Rod Evans. Both Lee Dorman and Bobby Caldwell add some subtle keyboards to the mix, but the album is dominated by Rhino's guitar.
The first three songs (Dancing Madly Backwards, Armworth, Myopic Void) set the template. Inventive, punchy drumming starts it off followed by some well placed guitar power chords. Rod Evans voice takes flight throughout and just when it seems to settle in, the tempo changes and takes you a different, yet familiar place. This formula proceeds throughout the album, like looking at a picture from different angles. Armworth, short though it is, has the best hook, which quickly seques into the mellower Myopic Void.
Mesmerization Eclipse follows with a fast paced riff, a cacophony of drums, cowbell and cymbals and a driving bass with a pained, desperate vocal by Evans. Before one has time to catch their breath, Raging River of Fear jumps in with another great riff, and some aggressive drumming before changing tempo and actually speeding up for the bridge before jumping back into meat of the song. The first appearance of layered, harmony vocals appears here
The light acoustic intro of Thousand Days of Yesterday (into) follows with some light vocals and keyboards then seques into Frozen Over which keeps building over a chugging guitar which climaxes into a funky breakdown. Thousand Days of Yesterday (time since come and gone) is the catchiest number on the record with the main rhythm formed by syncopated acoustic and electric guitars.
I Cant Feel Nothin (part one) follows much of the same successful formula as many of songs preceeding it. Rhino lays down a great riff as bedrock, adds some tasty guitar fills for texture, and Dorman's bass provides the propulsion. There is another tempo change here as the bridge of the song really takes off. The spacey As The Moon Speaks (to the waves of the sea) follows with a trippy, spoken word beginning before driving a spike into the proceedings in the second half of the song. The sixteen second sonic assault of Astral Lady bridges the preceeding track to As The Moon Speaks (return) which uses the same melody as the first part, but with a more atmospheric feel to it. A big bass riff with tribal drums signals the back end of the song as it climaxes into I Cant Feel Nothin' (part two) which drives the proceedings home with a bang.
The album goes by in a flash. All the while seeming familiar, but peculiar at the same time.
The playing and singing on it is top notch. They did release a follow-up, Sufficiently Breathless, but it did not hit as hard as the debut.
This album has enough tempo changes to keep you guessing, but has enough vocal hooks and killer guitar riffs to keep your foot tapping, Highly recommended