The adventurous five disc GROW FINS boxset by the legendary bizarre avant garde psychedelic-era artist Captain Beefheart is indeed a very impressive package. Besides tons of rarities including rare unheard demos and alternate versions of songs and live recordings, there is an awesome 112 page booklet included in this package, all of which will only set you back the better portion of $100.
Each disc has a strange vacuum cleaner graphic on it, for no particular good reason other than to be bizarre. But every little detail of this package, especially including the songs, all set an overall impression of weirdness for this outrageous one of a kind act.
Discs three and four of this set includes the TROUT MASK REPLICA house sessions. This album has a strange story behind it. As much as the Captain Beefheart songs might sound like musical anarchy, the members of the band were virtual hostages living and practicing all in one house for a good month to make every song as tight as possible. Frank Zappa who produced this macabre masterpiece of an album was even forced to bail out a couple members of the Captain Beefheart group out of jail after they were arrested for stealing food from a store because they had no money and were very hungry. In the case of this band, they were literally starving artists.
However, as much as this boxset highlights the TROUTMASK REPLICA era recordings, it still manages to act as a great anthology of the development of this odd musical act. Disc one for example displays a pretty good understanding of R&B, while later recordings on the other discs display a steady move into more avant garde musical stylings. It is little wonder that Frank Zappa was so impressed with this band. Even Matt Groening, the founder of THE SIMPSONS has become a fan over the years. He once considered TROUT MASK REPLICA to be one of the "worst things" that he ever heard. Now the album is one of his favorites.
It is difficult to believe, but Captain Beefheart did manage to have several singles out during their career. I know that this is very hard to believe for such a noncommercial band. The band even recorded their own peculiar version of a Bo Didley standard, "Diddy, Wah Diddy" as their very first single ever. However, Captain Beefheart was all about albums, and not singles, and not much real radio airplay either. Reputation mostly carried this band along.
I can't honestly say that GROW FINS will grow on you as much if you aren't a fan. But it's a pretty great package of rare Captain Beefheart material. And I'm certain fans of this group will love this great Cd package.