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01. Upon The My-O-My 2:43
02. Sugar Bowl 2:13
03. New Electric Ride 3:02
04. Magic Be 2:56
05. Happy Love Song 3:54
06. Full Moon, Hot Sun 2:19
07. I Got Love On My Mind 3:08
08. This Is The Day 4:51
09. Lazy Music 2:52
10. Peaches 3:21
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harmonica
Alex St. Clair – guitar
Zoot Horn Rollo (Bill Harkleroad) – guitar, glass finger guitar
Rockette Morton (Mark Boston) – bass
Art Tripp – drums, percussion
Mark Marcellino – keyboards
Andy DiMartino – acoustic guitar
Del Simmons – tenor sax, flute
George Starostin's Reviews:
Since its release and up to the present day, legions of Beefheart fans throughout the world have been mercilessly declaring war on this album (and even more on its follow-up, Blue Jeans & Moonbeams). Most of them simply pretend that it never existed, shunning the very fact of its availability, hating it with a passion the likes of which I have very rarely met - okay, maybe rabid Tull fans hate Under Wraps with more or less the same force, but that's about the only analogy I can think of. Even official and half-official Beefheart sites turn it down, and I've been hard pressed to find a complete set of lyrics for it anywhere on the Web.
It's easy to see why, of course. The Captain had certainly been going in a more 'accessible' direction since Trout Mask Replica; if not for the bizarro lyrics, in fact, and the controversial singing, that last pair of records could have been greeted by just about anybody. However, Unconditionally Guaranteed further takes yet another giant step in the direction of 'mainstreaming' Beefheart's image: it is basically a rather simple album of love songs, with mostly inoffensive, 'normal' melodies, heavily borrowing on pop and only occasionally moving away into more intricate spheres. Not only that, it features Beefheart at his least compelling since, well, ever: his voice is in surprisingly bad form (he mostly just howls like a dying dog throughout), probably due to "outer substances" abuse, and the songs are produced in a negligent and unassuming way. Nothing dangerous or ominous here, just a hoarse guy barking his way through a set of ungrappling melodies. No wonder the Cap'n got slammed so hard in his face for releasing this; the self-indulgent 'warning' on the front cover, with quotes like 'could be harmful to closed minds' and 'not responsible for other levels of consciousness obtained through audio-reception' almost seems like a self-parody - sure, it came at least five years late, since this kind of "sticker" would have been most appropriate for Trout Mask Replica. On the other hand, the remark about 'all songs having been hand made and custom finished especially with You, the individual, in mind' does hint somewhat more successfully at the current state of things.
That said, I certainly don't hate the album, even if I'm not willing to defend it at all costs from the bazooka-armed fans. In fact, I don't see anything particularly disgusting in having Beefheart "mainstreaming" his approach. As we all know (or should know), the difference between 'mainstream' and 'alternative' (or whatever it is called) is really far less obvious and concise than some people prefer to make it, and it is very easy to draw a straight, gradual line between TMR, Spotlight Kid and this one; it'd be hard for me to tell where exactly the 'mainstream' mark sets in. Not to mention that we should cut the crap anyway: Unconditionally Guaranteed certainly isnot mainstream, simply because I can't imagine any housewife listening to this stuff. First of all, there's the problem of Beefheart's voice - it is really hard to tolerate in general and particularly on here. Second, while the melodies are indeed more accessible, they are still miles away from the candy pop of the Carpenters or whoever: mostly guitar-based, often rather rough on the ears, with jazzy and avantgarde overtones. Third, not all of the songs are here are all that sentimental - 'Upon The My-O-My' and 'Peaches', for instance, the ones that bookmark the album, certainly aren't.
My main problem with most of the stuff here is as follows: I never really cared that much for Beefheart's sentimentality in any form. I have nothing against avantgarde as long as it is intriguing and imaginative, but putting the avantgarde mark on sentimental songs is something way too kinky. It's one thing to make a parody of a love song destined to make people laugh; but turns out that stuff like 'I Got Love On My Mind' or 'Happy Love Song' pretends to be serious stuff - as were all those soulful 'ballads' on Safe As Milk, for instance. Forgive me, but when a guy who sounds like he's dying of laryngitis takes up a forceful soulful beat and begins howling out stuff like 'make me feel all ri-i-i-i-i-...AWWW- AWW-ight...', I can't take this as anything else but a perversion and a violation of basic human laws. It really doesn't work for me, and shouldn't work for anybody else. The only song on here where Beefheart sounds normal in this respect is 'This Is The Day', and you can immediately feel the difference: I count this as one of the album's best numbers, with a deep, intoxicating groove based on beautiful guitar arpeggios and moody organ playing, and for once, Beefheart's vocals really sound majestic and moving. Maybe he took an extra anti-cough pill that day.
Still, speaking from a pure melodical point of view, I can't find any true problems with the melodies on here, apart from the fact that none of them grab me all that much - the hooks lie in the vocal section more than in the instrumental one, as is usual with Beefheart, which is naturally the source of all trouble. I mean, with better vocals both the jazzy, relaxed, pleasant 'Lazy Music' and the plaintive 'Magic Bee' could have been real highlights; as such, they're just tolerable and relatively enjoyable. My absolute favourite, though, is the closing number - the excellent 'Peaches', with its stinging guitar riff and main stomping rhythm, it has far more energy than most of the other numbers on here, and the chorus is dazzlingly catchy. Featuring good ol' Captain in our favourite "naughty" mood.
Ah well, you can't stay a weirdo all of your life: you gotta understand, such things wear down on you. Ol' Frank Zappa somehow managed to stand that and never 'lose touch' for even a minute - Mr Van Vliet did not. It's up to the graceful listener to decide whether it was a sign of weakness or a sign of true human nature shining through. Probably both.