on 6 June 2008
I first heard this when it was released, in the UK, on Sunset Records, a budget label who also released the Bonzo Dog Band albums etc. This was one of the albums that nearly everybody I knew at the time had in their collection. In the late 1970s when Punk and second hand record shops arrived in Dundee this was one of the albums that people couldn't give away. In that era peopel were casting off their previous music collections and getting rid of anything Prog Rock or Hippy, this album falling into the latter category.
I deeply resented being told that I shouldn't like all the stuff I liked before so I clung on my own judgement and still consider this as a classic, not just of Beefheart's career but I would put it in my top 10 1960s albums, and there is a lot of competition there.
There are a couple of things to clear up here, the first is the opening track Ah Feel Like Ahcid (unfortunately Amazon does not have the mechanism for customers to feedback with absent or incirrect track titles). Many assumed that this was an LSD reference but Beefheart insists that it was just a phonetic spelling of the phrase in the song "I feel like I said...", however, even if this is the case I am sure that the record company, if not Beefheart himself, were trying to exploit this ambiguity.
The second big bone of contention is the post production phasing etc, Beefheart came out publicly and denounced this say that the record company had destroyed his album, he later did a similar thing with Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams. In these later albums I am inclined to take his objections as face value but in this case I think he is being rather disingenuous. Beefheart embraced the production of Strictly Personal prior too and immediately after it's release. It was only after disappointing sales that he started to complain about the post production treatments. Personally I do not understand the objections people have to this, I love this album. I do however, secretly, welcome this controversy because it lead to the demand for the release of the Mirror Man Sessions album that is now hugely expanded on it's current CD release.
Beefheart genius in his early work was his subversion of traditional music forms, here with the opener Ah Feel Like Ahcid and Gimme Dat Harp Boy put Beefheart up there with the cream of blues vocalists, his voice is just wonderful. The artist is often not best placed to judge the merit of his own work and I really don't mind people contradicting themselves about the value of their work.
His dig a the then leader of the British Invasion, Beatle Bones and Smokin' Stones sounds as edgy now as it did then, apparently John Lennon took exception, however it is a rather cool dig; if someone is going to have a go at you in song then you would want it to sound as cool as this.
Don't let anyone put you off this is a true classic album. There was a "Greatest Albums of All Time" programme on television some years back, one of the many similar polls around the millennium. John Peel took part in the programme and when asked about which Beefheart albums he thought everyone should listen to he said "All of them, everyday." John was confident enough just to say what he thought and never tried to be cool with the result that he was paradoxically never cool and totally cool all the time. Beefheart has gone in and out of fashion amongst the arbiters of cool but for me he will always be a legend, buy this album and turn on to a genius.
on 8 December 2011
In 1968 I was 14 and attitude-dancing. There was nothing quite like swanning around the school playground with a copy tucked under your arm of an album no-one had heard of - or at least anyone who didn't listen to John Peel of a Saturday afternoon.
And 'Strictly Personal' was the real deal; the second album by the most subterranean of all the underground artists of the time; the record sleeve you waved triumphantly at the bloke from the fifth form trying haplessly to pull the same stunt with 'In Search of the Lost Chord'. If you were into Beefheart, you were in the loop.
Hearing for the first time 'Beatle Bones 'n' Smokin' Stones' shook me rigid. I'd encountered nothing like those spidery backward guitars, that massive, blockbusting percussion, the phasing, the wierd sucking noises that seemed to waft in from a dental surgery in a madhouse, Don Van Vliet's voice roaring up from an abyss into which you ventured on pain of terminal psychic damage.
But it was also invigorating, shot through with a searching, edgy and deeply satisfying spirit of electronic adventure which, warped enough to frighten horses, children and parents, was unavailable from the sugary confections of the pop charts or even from (otherwise fine) contemporary artists like Cream, Floyd, Family and Fairport. Two or three tracks from Peel and I was hooked, badly needing to investigate this extraordinary, terrifying music.
Finding the sleeve in my local record shop, the initial shock was confirmed as soon as I saw the inner photo. Here they were, five extraterrestrials, monochrome emissaries from the outer circle of Hell, sorcerous manifestations of a very bad dream indeed. It was, and remains, among the most nightmarish images I've seen; the perfect visual crystallisation of the record's aural malificence.
Despite Van Vliet's oft-quoted unhappiness with Bob Krasnow's production (for a while the Cap'n was none too pleased with his old sparring partner Frank Zappa's desk duties for 'Trout Mask Replica', either) the album delivered on every count. The music might've shone "like diamonds in the mud" (as Van Vliet put it) but as a trippy period-piece from the back-end of psychedelia, or as an endlessly fascinating and inventive excursion into musical realms never visited by anyone before and only rarely since, to these ears SP remains a masterpiece.
Like Sun Ra - that other visionary/genius/loony with the Saturnian public image and the exciting headgear - Van Vliet proved disappointingly human, as we discovered the following year when he visited Britain to promote 'Trout Mask Replica'. And what we all thought might fry our synapses if we closed the curtains and listened under the influence of anything stronger than a packet of acid drops turned out to be laced with strange, surreal humour.
Although the Captain has passed on, perhaps reincarnated as either a Pemon shaman or Steve Ellis from the Love Affair - the latter surely the more Beefheartian concept - various old colleagues are keeping alive the flame and making sublime music as The Magic Band. Far from the ghostly alchemists of the SP sleeve or the lysergic pantomime dames of TMR, they too are all too human: portly, affable and jolly, more friendly Father Christmases than baleful Baron Samedis.
When you're 14 and attitude-dancing, your only reference-points a bizarre sleeve photo and the heaviest and most exhilarating music you've ever heard, it's easy to get swallowed whole by the daft hyperbole. Beefheart's persona would today be considered a carefully stage-managed 'brand'. In 1968 it felt genuinely otherworldly, truly 'alternative'.
It still does.
on 19 April 2011
This mans music is absolutely mind blowingly wonderful. There is no-one like him and his wonderful band members (even although there have been many members, especially John French (what a drummer).
His music is the most beautiful music I have heard and will ever hear. This album is one of if not the best example of his music and scrumptious voice.
If you believe your a lover of music (real music) this mans music has to be added to your collection or your collection will never be complete.
So so sad to hear he passed away in 2010 without hardly a mention from our biased Television. Quick enough to tell you about Michael Jackson's death but not the one and only Captain Beefheart - what a disgrace.
You are gone Don Van Vliet but will never be forgotten, not by this female anyway. My kids will be brought up on your music and NEVER Biebers or Robbie williams and the likes who produce absolute trash.
BUY THIS PLEASE AND SPREAD GREAT GREAT MUSIC.
on 26 November 2010
There is so much dross around. Virtually all popular music ambles around middle c, 4/4 rythm and "I love and I am in the dark" type lyrics. Completely peurile stuff. Yep, a lot of the stuff that youth produce is "wallpaper" or Cultural Babyfood.
If we were to use visual analogies with music, then "Strictly Personal" is the "David" of youth music. It stands solid and uncompromising in your living room - "cheese in the corner with a mile long beard", so there you go.
I was always under the impression this was the definitive Beefheart Album, but I heard that Don Van Vliet freaked when it was over-produced with the then state of the art gizmos "what the hell, what the heck". This album is brilliant from beginning to end, it has the personality and solidity of dirty granite.
The guitar playing is completely gutsy and rootsy. "Ah feel like Ahcid" has such a satisfying guitar sound. I can't help feeling that this is where Keith Richards thought "Oh, yes!" and so shaped his future guitar playing. The lyrics are pure, simple and banal "flash chicken legs".
"Safe as Milk". Rock music. You could just imagine this being played live booming out over the speakers. "Gracious Ladies bi-lines hanging on to vine". This track makes the band into a juggernaut, just laying waste to anything that stands in its way.
"Trust us". Psychedelia abounds in this. I can Don Van Vliets point here; but then the production makes the sound what it is. Rythmically, it just chops and changes and you wonder what the hell is going on, but then the final passage splendidly completes things.
"Mirror Man". Like the opening guitar riff. Van Vliet ladling voice over the music "mirrrrrrroooooooooor...mirrrrrroooor..." Guitars, bass and drums turn into huge percussive heart over which Van Vliet gives an indistinguishable of harp and vocals. I really like the final gasp of harp at the end of the track.
This is only half of the story, play on...
After a few footstep-like drum taps, the mighty Captain Beefheart howls the opening lines of the weirdest blues this side of Blind Willie Johnson or Son House, which is appropriate since Ah Feel Like Ahcid is based on Son House's Death Letter - which believe me you should hear too. You think Beefheart is scary...?
This second LP by Don van Vliet and one of his many Magic Bands is very different from his relatively 'approachable' debut Safe As Milk - whose title is the name of track 2 on this album! It's much more grittily bluesy, with the Captain finding his voice, if I can call it that. Me, I reckon Don found his voice at the bottom of a deep dark well or a heaving swamp - probably wrenched it from the beast lurking there. (Live, his voice was all but overwhelming, as were the Magic Band, in whatever incarnation.)
This remastered edition comes with a twelve-page booklet, including original photos and a superb text by Mark Paytress, who outlines the album's far from easy release, the tracks having been tampered with by producer Bob Krasnow. It's a moot point as to whether he did Beefheart and the record a disservice or not. After all, this is the version I've always known and loved, phasing or no phasing. One thing that wasn't necessary at all was to put psychedelic phasing onto THAT voice, which needs no help to make its presence felt.
It's a short and sweet album at forty minutes (though I've found it flies by in what seems like less) and there are admittedly parts of it are either dirge-like or a mite repetitive. You need to be in the mood to listen to it, quite loud if possible.
Gimme Dat Harp Boy is a blast, as is the last minute or so of Trust Us, and Mirror Man has some very tasty, down-and-dirty playing from both the band and Don's manic mouth organ, not to mention the one moment the phasing works with Don's voice, when he's intoning "Oh Mirror Man, Oh mirror me".
At the end of the closer Kandy Korn is a great moment, when Beefheart, sounding expansive and exultant, comes full circle with cathartic words taken from Ah Feel Like Ahcid:
I ain't blue no more
It's like heaven I said
on 3 July 2012
Had this album on vinyl once but don't have a vinyl set up anymore so i bought this one, "Safe As Milk" and "Spotlight Kid" together. I now have them on my MP3 player and it's dead good to be able to hear all these tracks on my headphones and in the car which is usually the only time I get to play my own music. The artistry of the "Magic Band" is amazing and the Captain himself providing the inspiration and direction for the blues based, sonic backdrop that is unique. It is so refreshing to hear instruments played so well and in a fashion that does not need layers of effects to make it sound good.
on 23 May 2011
I'm a converted Captain Beefheart fan having been a fan of bands such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Allman Brothers Band, I hadn't really heard any Beefheart songs.
This all changed when I received an old LP of 'Safe As Milk'. I was a converted fan.
I now have Strictly Personal and despite some reviews describing it as 'overproduced' and poorly mixed I am absolutely enthralled by this CD.
The songs, the wild crazy vocals and bluesy guitar are simply stunning.The mixing, phase effects and stereo effects are very well done and remind me of the early Grateful Dead LPs.
This CD 'got me'after the first play and I have not looked back since.
on 13 October 2013
With an even smaller budget and less time to make an album, The Magic Band struggled to make an album, never mind what they wanted to do.
Vliet wished to make a double album, entitled 'It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper' and would've incorporated many of the songs from here, and songs from Mirror Man.
Not only did this fling the bucket as of the company refusing to distribute a certain album like that, a producer of the album mixed it with no consent from the band members.
As such, the sound is pretty bad. But what are the songs like?
Overall, great. Whilst the very bluesy elements taken such as Ah Feel Like Achid (sounding like something Robert Johnson would've done), and Kandy Korn may not appeal to fans of the debut as much, the album does have variety.
My favourite being Beatle Bones 'n Smokin' Stones, which is a great psychedelic root tune that also lets just say diminished the love Lennon gave to the band. Trust Us is also a very good song, as well as the catchy Gimmie Dat Harp Boy. The rest are also pretty good too.
A good album to own, but some may want to just simply by The Mirror Man Sessions, which includes different takes of the songs on here (some being better than the original, such as Trust Us.)
on 6 September 2015
1968 – Totemic album after totemic album: Music in a Doll’s House, Mr Fantasy, Strange Days, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, After Bathing At Baxters, Beggar’s Banquet, A Saucerful of Secrets, The White Album, and....Strictly Personal.
I, like many others, discovered Captain Beefheart via John Peel. Early live sessions including Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do, Yellow Brick Road, Electricity. Later he played three tracks from Strictly Personal; Beatle Bones ‘N’ Smokin’ Stones, Safe As Milk and Kandy Korn. I had never heard anything like this before. One of those moments when time seems to stand still and the world disappears as all your attention is focused on the astonishing sounds coming from the radio. I bought the LP (and still have the original vinyl) and was even more enthralled – Trust Us, Son of Mirror Man - Mere Man, Gimme Dat Harp Boy. Each track on side one seguing into the next on waves of phasing, then the ultimate psychedelic trip. I loved it and still do. It captured the zeitgeist perfectly. Critics have slammed Bob Krasnow for over producing the record, but for me it is perfect. The alternate takes of these tracks subsequently released without the effects sound bland to me in comparison with the originals. One of my all time favourite albums.
on 15 March 2014
The dear old captain at his most weird and wonderful but absolutely brilliant, if you don't have this in your library your missing out on an era gone by RIP.