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Music Review: Captain Beyond – “Live In Texas – October 6, 1973″

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A3Captain Beyond was a band that flirted with commercial success and widespread popularity in the early 1970s but constant personnel changes, plus break-ups and reunions, left them a legacy of critical acclaim rather than lasting fame.

They were an under-the-radar supergroup. Lead singer Rod Evans was the original vocalist for Deep Purple. Drummer Bobby Caldwell played with the Johnny Winter Group, while lead guitarist Larry Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman had been members of Iron Butterfly.

Their sound was close to early British progressive rock even though they were an American band. They usually had a keyboardist as a member of the group but when they performed in Texas, October 6, 1973, they had not replaced departed original keyboardist Lewie Gold. This meant that their sound was more basic and sparse than much of their recorded material.

There is good news and bad news regarding Live In Texas – October 6, 1973.

The bad news is the sound quality. The concert was available as a fan club release, plus it was extensively bootlegged for a while. This new release sounds like a bootleg and that may well have been its origins. I don’t know if it could have been cleaned up any better but the sound fades in and out in places and is overall uneven. This is unfortunately especially true on Reinhardt’s lead guitar.

On the positive side there is little live concert material available from this often forgotten, but very creative, band. That fact alone makes it worth a listen as it presents their energy and style well.

The foundation of the show is taken from their self-titled debut album. The precise and delicate “Dancing Madly Backwards (on a Sea of Air),” the searing guitar solo of “Mesmerization Eclipse,” plus “Armworth” and “Myopic Void” are all glimpses into the mind, heart, and soul of a band that was an important part of the early 1970s music scene. Not many groups can cover a Jimi Hendrix song well but their encore of “Stone Free” is one of the better renditions of his material.

It all ended in 1974, when Rod Evans just walked away. He would surface briefly in a fake Deep Purple band, get sued by members of the real Deep Purple, and disappear from music history. Reinhardt and Caldwell, with Dorman upon occasion, would reunite several times. With Reinhardt and Dorman both passing away in 2012, the career of Captain Beyond is complete.

Caldwell seems to be the main protagonist in the release of this album and his included essay about the band is a good read. Sometimes the audio quality in the early 1970s was not very good when a band played live and worse when recorded haphazardly. If you can get past the sound issue, Live In Texas – October 6, 1973 is a wonderful journey back in time into the mind and music of Captain Beyond.

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