Ice Cream for Crow

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Ice Cream for Crow
Studio album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
Released September 1982
Recorded May–June, 1982 at Warner Brothers Studios, North Hollywood, California
Genre Blues rock, experimental rock, spoken word, alternative rock, new wave
Length 37:29
Label Epic, Virgin
Producer Don Van Vliet
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band chronology
Doc at the Radar Station
(1980)
Ice Cream for Crow
(1982)
The Legendary A&M Sessions
(1984)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau A−[2]

Ice Cream for Crow is the twelfth and final studio album by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, released in September 1982. It is the last Don Van Vliet recorded before abruptly retiring from music to devote himself to a career as a painter. It spent two weeks in the UK album charts, reaching number 90,[3] but failed to make the Billboard Top 200.

Production[edit]

While Ice Cream for Crow was being produced, Herb Cohen had settled his lawsuit with Frank Zappa over the latter withholding the master tapes to Captain Beefheart's unreleased Bat Chain Puller album.[4] Don Van Vliet proposed that half of the tracks from Bat Chain Puller be included on Ice Cream for Crow, but Zappa refused Vliet's request, leading Vliet to compose mostly new material for the album (the one exception is the acapella track "81 Poop Hatch", which Vliet included from his own copy of the Bat Chain Puller tape).[4]

"Skeleton Makes Good" was written in one evening. According to Vliet's biographer Mike Barnes, "the most original and vital tracks [on the album] are the newer ones." Thus, Ice Cream for Crow, while rooted in past musical ideas, points toward a new musical direction for Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Indeed, Barnes writes that the album "feels like an hors-d'oeuvre for a main course that never came."[5]

Release and promotion[edit]

The album cover features a painting by Van Vliet himself, as well as a portrait photo of him by Anton Corbijn. A music video was made to promote the title track, directed by Van Vliet and Ken Schreiber, with cinematography by Daniel Pearl, which was rejected by MTV for being "too weird". However, the video was included in the Letterman broadcast on NBC-TV, and was accepted into the Museum of Modern Art, where it has been used in several of their programs related to music.[6][7] Van Vliet explained in a 1982 interview on Late Night with David Letterman that the album's title represented the contrast between the black of a crow and the white of vanilla ice cream.[8]

Reception[edit]

"Ice Cream for Crow", the album's title track.

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Disc jockey John Peel, in his narration to the BBC documentary The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart, called Ice Cream for Crow one of Captain Beefheart's best albums.[9]

Ned Raggett of Allmusic would positively call the album "a last entertaining blast of wigginess from one of the few truly independent artists in late 20th century pop music, with humor, skill, and style all still intact", with the Magic Band "turning out more choppy rhythms, unexpected guitar lines, and outré arrangements, Captain Beefheart lets everything run wild as always, with successful results". Raggett says that Beefheart's "entertainingly outrageous" spoken word performances, are successfully cohered with the Magic Band's "insanely great arrangement".[1] Robert Christgau would give the album an A–, saying that "Ornette or no Ornette, the Captain's sprung delta atonality still provides surprising and irreducible satisfactions, but his poetry repeats itself more than his ideas warrant. Any surrealist ecologist who preaches the same sermon every time out is sure to provoke hostile questions from us concrete-jungle types".[2]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Don Van Vliet. 

No. Title Length
1. "Ice Cream for Crow"   4:35
2. "The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O"   2:25
3. "Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian"   4:20
4. "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat"   3:13
5. "Evening Bell"   2:00
6. "Cardboard Cutout Sundown"   2:38
7. "The Past Sure Is Tense"   3:21
8. "Ink Mathematics"   1:40
9. "The Witch Doctor Life"   2:38
10. "'81 Poop Hatch"   2:39
11. "The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole"   5:42
12. "Skeleton Makes Good"   2:18

Personnel[edit]

(The descriptions "steel-appendage guitar" and "glass-finger guitar" were Beefheartian coinages for slide guitar, respectively using a metal tube or a glass 'bottleneck' on the fret finger. Similarly, "shake bouquet" is his name for the maracas.)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Ice Cream for Crow at by Captain Beefheart at Allmusic
  2. ^ a b http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Captain+Beefheart+and+the+Magic+Band
  3. ^ Rice, Tim; Rice, Jonathan; Gambaccini, Paul (1990). Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness World Records and Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-398-8. 
  4. ^ a b Miles, Barry (September 2005). Zappa. ISBN 9780802142153. 
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike. Captain Beefheart: The Biography. London: Quartet Books, 2000.
  6. ^ Music Video: The Industry and Its Fringes, Museum of Modern Art, September 6–30, 1985
  7. ^ Looking at Music,, Museum of Modern Art, August 13, 2008-January 5, 2009
  8. ^ Don Van Vliet , IMDB - David Letterman "Episode dated 11 November 1982 (1982) TV episode (as Captain Beefheart) .... Himself"
  9. ^ Elaine Shepard (Producer), Declan Smith (Film research) (1997). The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart (Documentary). BBC.