1 October 1978
Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is the tenth studio album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Released in 1978, the album was produced by Captain Beefheart and Pete Johnson and released by Warner Bros. Records.
Shiny Beast emerged from the production difficulties surrounding Bat Chain Puller, an album Captain Beefheart recorded for DiscReet and Virgin Records in 1976. DiscReet cofounders Herb Cohen and Frank Zappa feuded over the production of the album, because Cohen funded the production with Zappa's royalty checks.
Captain Beefheart recorded a new album, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), due to Zappa withholding the master tapes of the original Bat Chain Puller album. Shiny Beast was praised by music critics.
After recording Bongo Fury with Frank Zappa, Don Van Vliet formed a new Magic Band and began recording a new album, Bat Chain Puller, for DiscReet and Virgin Records. Herb Cohen, DiscReet's cofounder and Zappa's business manager, paid for the album's production costs with Zappa's royalty checks, leading Zappa to end his business partnership with Cohen. Cohen and Zappa each demanded to be paid an advance by Virgin, leading Zappa to withhold the master tapes, for which Cohen sued him.
Due to the lawsuit, Van Vliet rerecorded four Bat Chain Puller tracks for Warner Bros: "The Floppy Boot Stomp", "Bat Chain Puller", "Harry Irene" and "Owed T'Alex". The Bat Chain Puller outtake "Candle Mambo" was also rerecorded for the album, as were older unused songs "Ice Rose" (a Strictly Personal outtake formerly known as "Big Black Baby Shoes") and "Suction Prints" (a Clear Spot outtake known as "Pompadour Swamp", no relation to the later song of that name). Four new songs completed the album, these being "You Know You're A Man", "When I See Mommy I Feel Like A Mummy", "Love Lies" and "Tropical Hot Dog Night", the latter being based on a riff of the Bat Chain Puller song "Odd Jobs", which was otherwise not rerecorded. The album was completed with "Apes-Ma", which is the same recording on both versions, due to being sourced from Van Vliet's own home recording. The result was released as Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). Versions of "Run Paint Run Run" and "The Witch Doctor Life" were attempted during the sessions but not used (they have been bootlegged). They would be finished for Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow respectively.
The music of Shiny Beast featured a mix of different music styles, similar to Safe as Milk, incorporating elements of pop, spoken word and experimental music.The song "Bat Chain Puller" was based upon the rhythm of Van Vliet's windshield wipers.
The album received favorable reviews. Robert Christgau declared Shiny Beast to be better than all Van Vliet's previous albums, writing, "Without any loss of angularity or thickness, the new compositions achieve a flow worthy of Weill or Monk or Robert Johnson, and his lyrics aren't as willful as they used to be."
A contemporary reviewer, AllMusic's Ned Raggett, also praised the album, writing "Shiny Beast turned out to be manna from heaven for those feeling Beefheart had lost his way on his two Mercury albums". Trouser Press called it "one of his best".
In the Spin Alternative Record Guide (1995), the album was ranked 73 on the book's list of the "Top 100 Alternative Albums"
All tracks written by Don Van Vliet except "Owed t' Alex", written by Don Van Vliet and Herb Bermann.
No. Title Length
1. "The Floppy Boot Stomp" 3:51
2. "Tropical Hot Dog Night" 4:49
3. "Ice Rose" 3:38
4. "Harry Irene" 3:43
5. "You Know You're a Man" 3:14
6. "Bat Chain Puller" 5:27
No. Title Length
7. "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy" 5:04
8. "Owed t' Alex" 4:07
9. "Candle Mambo" 3:24
10. "Love Lies" 5:03
11. "Suction Prints" 4:25
12. "Apes-Ma" 0:40
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) – vocals, harmonica, soprano sax, whistling
Bruce Lambourne Fowler – trombone, air bass
Jeff Moris Tepper – slide guitar, guitar, spell guitar
Eric Drew Feldman – synthesizer, Rhodes piano, grand piano, bass
Robert Arthur Williams – drums, percussion
Richard Redus – slide guitar, bottleneck guitar, guitar, accordion, fretless bass
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