Reissued Beginnings

Jul 7, 1999 at 12:00 am

It’s now safe to shelve your copies of Music in Sea Minor, Abba Zaba, Dropout Boogie, That’s Original and The Beefheart File, as the "New Buddha" has now provided a defining moment for the Beefheart albums Safe As Milk and Mirror Man. With decent sound and design, these new, bonus track-laden reissues are the last editions of these oft-poorly repackaged records that you’ll ever have to buy. And that sound in the distance is the Buddha salesman pleading, "You gotta trust us!"

Don Van Vliet and his cohorts kicked off a monumental long-playing career with Safe As Milk, originally released in 1967 on Buddah. It’s still an astounding LP, which ought to shock only those who’ve never heard this classic connection of electric Delta hoodoo and rock experimentation. Singular showstoppers like "Electricity" and "Zig Zag Wanderer" reveal the Magic Band as peers of other lionized left-field ’60s legends such as the Silver Apples and the Red Crayola – each taking rock one step beyond in their own way. Mirror Man, recorded not long after Safe, showcases four lo-o-ong electric blues jams that transcend into otherworldly psychedelic trance-outs. Soon the Magic Band would surpass this initial era of brilliance with Trout Mask Replica, that pinnacle of outsider art-sound.

Liner notes spell out some unknown Beefheart lore – Don in jail in April ’68? The Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman on theremin on "Electricity"!? – but you’ll have to do extra research to get the full story. And most of the bonus tracks have been regurgitated a couple of times before, on the One Way reissue of Safe As Milk and a nifty lil’ collection called I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain’t Weird. Still, besides sprucing up the sound, the vault explorers did a bit of extra unearthing. The extended blues mutation "Korn Ring Finger," from the Mirror Man era, makes its way onto the end of the Safe As Milk disc – though Grow Fins has this same bonus of a bonus track – please don’t call the lawyers!

Sure ’nuff, if you don’t have this stuff, then yes you do need this big ba-boom. Abba Zaba Zoom!