Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot

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  • This outstanding pressing of Clear Spot boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the better copies of Clear Spot to hit the site in recent years – no question about it, this is his Masterpiece!
  • Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is one of Beefheart’s most accessible albums and, IMHO, his best
  • 4 stars: “The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.”

Two outstanding sides for this masterpiece of bent rock. It’s not easy to find great sound for this album — that’s why you so seldom see it up on our site. There are a whole lot of problematic pressings out there, but when you find one that really gets it right the sound is nothing short of SUPERB.

This vintage Reprise pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Clear Spot have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in1972
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Ted Is The Man

The producer, Ted Templeman (Doobie Brothers, James Taylor), brought his mainstream talents to bear on this music, and when the Captain’s free-form tendencies smashed into Templeman’s conservatism the result was this musical supernova — out there, but not too far out there. (Play Trout Mask Replica sometime if you miss that feeling from your old hippie days of being on acid. With that music drugs are entirely superfluous.) I don’t know how many audiophiles like Captain Beefheart, but if you’re ever going to try, this is the place to start.

I’ve been listening to this album for 40+ years, all of my adult life. I still have my original copy in the clear plastic sleeve even. It never grows old and it never grows tired. I also have the CD in the car and return to it regularly.

I’ll be disappointed if few of you are willing to give this one a chance, but probably not too surprised. Great stereo equipment offers the listener a window on the wonderful world of music. Why do so many audiophiles keep that window open just a crack?

What We’re Listening For on Clear Spot

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Donn Landee in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Engineering Excellence

Credit Donn Landee (and Ted Templeman as well) with the big, lively, full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies of Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot. In my humble opinion, this is Landee’s engineering Masterpiece.

The man has recorded or assisted on many of our favorite albums here at Better Records. Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; all of the good Van Halens of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and too many others to list.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Low Yo Yo Stuff 
Nowadays a Woman’s Gotta Hit a Man 
Too Much Time 
Circumstances 
My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains 
Sun Zoom Spark

Side Two

Clear Spot 
Crazy Little Thing 
Long Neck Bottles 
Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles 
Big Eyed Beans from Venus 
Golden Birdies

AMG 4 Star Rave Review

Producer Ted Templeman was a bit of a surprising choice given his firmly mainstream production credits, with the Doobie Brothers already under his belt and Van Halen lurking in the near future.

As it turned out, such a combination led to a better-working fusion than might be expected, making one wonder why in the world Clear Spot wasn’t more of a commercial success than it was. The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.

Fans of the fully all-out side of Beefheart might find the end result not fully up to snuff as a result, but those less concerned with pushing back all borders all the time will enjoy his unexpected blend of everything tempered with a new accessibility.