Personnel: Captain Beefheart (vocals, harmonica, bells); Ed Marimba (piano, harpsichord, marimba, drums); Ted Cactus, Rhys Clark (drums).
Liner Note Author: Don Van Vliet.
Photographer: Ed Thrasher.
Arranger: Don Van Vliet.
On The Spotlight Kid, Captain Beefheart took over full production duties. Rather than returning to the artistic aggro of Trout Mask/Decals days, Spotlight takes things lower and looser, with a lot of typical Beefheart fun crawling around in weird, strange ways. Consider the ominous opening cut "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" -- it isn't just the title and Beefheart's breathy growl, but Rockette Morton's purring bass, Zoot Horn Rollo's snarling guitar, Ed Marimba's brisk fade on the cymbals again and again, and more. The overall atmosphere is definitely relaxed and fun, maybe one step up from a jam. Marimba's vibes and other percussion work -- including, of course, the marimba itself -- stand out quite a bit here as a result, perhaps, brought out from behind the drums and the more straightforward work on Clear Spot. Consider "When It Blows Its Stacks," with its unexpected breaks into more playful parts, or "Alice in Blunderland"'s admittedly more aimless approach, but vibing along well nonetheless. Sometimes things do sound maybe just a little too blasé, but Beefheart at his worst still has something more than most groups at their best. Spotlight does have one stone-cold Beefheart classic -- "Grow Fins," an understated number with fine harmonica and a brilliant lyric about getting so tired of his woman that the best option is to take to the sea and fall in love with a mermaid. Another song, though, does have an all-time great title -- "There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evenin' Stage." Definite fun touch -- the cover photo of Beefheart looking great in a classic Nudie suit, outlined in yellow light to boot. ~ Ned Raggett