Recording information: Bickershaw, England (1972-1980); Knebworth (1972-1980); Leicester, England (1972-1980); London, England (1972-1980); Manchester, England (1972-1980); Portsmouth, England (1972-1980).
Photographers: Dick Whitbread; Dick Whitbread.
A boon for collectors, Live 'n' Rare is a sumptuous two-CD set that is true to its title, rounding up various live performances recorded between 1972 and 1980. All 26 of the tracks are drawn from British gigs, including Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band's headlining appearances at the Bickershaw and Knebworth festivals in 1972 and 1975, respectively. Falling between those two red-letter dates are tracks recorded at shows in Leicester in 1973 and London the following year, with the bulk, however, drawn from a concert in Manchester in 1980. Needless to say, then, this set features various lineups of the Magic Band, although the album gives no information on them, or anything else for that matter. Regardless, the hardcore Heartheads can reel off such details in their sleep, and that's precisely who this set is aimed at. Although the recording quality is patchy and the sound often weedy, it's still mostly adequate enough to keep fans happy, although some may be a bit disgruntled by the hissing issuing throughout the Knebworth recordings. Bouncing back and forth through the years, careening from "Bass Solo," which indeed is exactly that, to the brief but pretty picked guitar solo that is "Flavor Bud Living" and the skittering "My Human Gets Me Blues," there are enough eccentric numbers here to keep fans fascinated. For those just digging into the Beefheart world, however, this is no place to start, nor is it a good investment for the casual fan familiar with little beyond Trout Mask Replica. But for the full-on Beefeater, it's a delectable dish to be much enjoyed. ~ Jo-Ann Greene